Technology classroom brings animals to life

Megan Whinnery

The fourth grade students in Theresa Boyle’s class at Crestwood Primary School visited the Akron Zoological Park without having to leave their classroom.

Boyle’s students are attending class for six weeks in the AT&T Classroom located on the ground floor of Moulton Hall. Boyle and the classroom staff have teamed up with the Akron Zoological Park to teach students about animal adaptations through distance learning.

The classroom is part of the Research Center for Educational Technology. The classroom is comprised of two rooms: A classroom and an adjacent observation room for researchers and teacher education student volunteers. The classroom becomes home for the students and teacher for a six-week unit of study of their choice. Each year eight kindergarten through 12 grade teachers bring nearly 200 students to the classroom.

“It’s a matter (for us) to provide students, teachers and researchers with opportunities made possible by technology,” said Dale Cook, Research Center for Educational Technology director. “It is the primary reason we’re here.”

The highlight of the program was the live animals students saw Friday when the Zoomobile visited the AT&T Classroom Friday.

“We’ve had some unbelievable opportunities with the animals,” said Rodyon Chlysta, technology assistant for the Research Center for Educational Technology. “The kids get squeamish, especially when they see a spider or a snake.”

Students in Boyle’s class gasped when they saw a frogmouth bird open its mouth during a live conference with the zoo. Simply holding up a photo of the bird might not have produced the same effect.

“I think it is a great opportunity for pre-service teachers to see how technology is being used in the classroom,” Cook said. “The technology makes distance barriers easier to overcome.”

Because the students in Boyle’s class are studying how animals adapt to their environment, they will also dissect owl pellets to figure out what the owls have eaten, said Patricia Mazzer, instructional specialist for the Research Center for Educational Technology.

“They are going to be detectives,” Mazzer said. “After they dissect the pellets, they will sort and assemble the mice bones on a paper outline of a mouse and we will use an animation program to create a video of the bones being assembled one-by-one.”

The animation technology that will be used to create the video is just one of many types of technology available for students and teachers to use in the classroom. Handheld computers, laptops, digital audio recorders, digital microscopes and video editing equipment are just a few of the types of technology available.

Contact academic computing reporter Megan Whinnery at [email protected].