NorKam takes in cross-country lecture
There were no textbooks, no overhead projectors and no chalkboards in Gina Kiem’s family-studies class on Tuesday morning (June 14) at NorKam secondary.
There wasn’t even a smartboard.
Instead, the 28 high-school students in the classroom were treated to a guest lecture from a neuroscientist thousands of kilometres away — all done via webcam.
“Basically, it’s a video-conference session with current researchers from Canada who are coming to give a different learning environment for the students,” Kiem said.
“They’re leading researchers from all across Canada.”
Tuesday’s video-conference — part of a program called Virtual Researcher On Call (VROC), in partnership with NorKam and the University of Ottawa — was a first for Kamloops schools.
Dr. Dave J. Hayes gave a 25-minute lecture, followed by a question-and-answer period.
Hayes is a neuroscientist post-doctoral fellow at the Institute of Mental Health Research at the Royal Ottawa Hospital, University of Ottawa.
He opened his talk — throughout which he was seated at what appeared to be his office desk, wearing a headset microphone and occasionally sipping from a Tim Hortons cup — by noting the unusual nature of the lecture.
“This is a first for you guys and it’s a first for me, too,” he said.
“I’ve give a lot of lectures, but none where the people are 5,000 kilometres away.”
He spoke about physiology and brain functions as they relate to mental health — something Kiem has been teaching to the Family Studies class this semester.
NorKam principal Sheryl Lindquist said her school was eager to make use of the technology.
“It’s an opportunity for researchers that are absolutely up to date and current to have conversations with students at the grassroots,” she said.
“It’s much better that a textbook or even YouTube, because it’s interactive.
“Teachers are starting to use any and all technology they can get their hands on because it’s more up to date than a three-year-old textbook.”
VROC is an Ontario-based education program run by Partners in Research.
It was started in 2006 by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.
It expanded to Quebec and Alberta in 2009 and the rest of Canada last year.
There is no cost for a school district to become a VROC partner, which entitles the partner to two free video-conferencing sessions per year.
Lindquist said NorKam is the only Kamloops school to have so far taken advantage of the program — and she’d like to see it happen more in the future.
“Any of the web technology offerings — kids are web-based individuals this day and age,” she said. “It makes it more believable and real.”
Kiem would also like to see more video-conference lectures.
“I’d love to do it again — I think it would be a great idea,” she said.
“I’m just interested in technology and different ways for children to learn.”