Currently, my class is investigating previous civilizations with the enduring understanding that “Societies change and evolve due to major events and influences of an era.”
With experience, I have come to appreciate the importance of the launch of a unit. I was searching for an interesting way to launch this unit – but didn’t have access to cool artifacts and the timing wasn’t right for a field trip to a museum. I decided I would try and have a video conference session with an archaeologist so my students would have an understanding of how we know what we do about previous societies. I had done a similar session with a geologist for another unit so I thought that it would be a great way to engage the kids in the unit from the onset.
Bring in Twitter! I decided to send out a general broadcast looking for an archaeologist, as well as message a few people who had archaeologist in their description. Within 45 minutes, I had connected with @archaeologist, +Nicolas Laracuente. A few tweets and emails back and forth and we set up a Google Hangout session the next week. The reason we selected Google Hangout for this session was that Nicolas had some great pictures and websites that he wanted to share with my students throughout the session, and it has a screen share feature. I was so lucky to have such an awesome person to collaborate, and it certainly would not have been as successful without a dynamic presenter.
Prior to the chat, I tried to prepare my students in advance for the experience as much as possible. We developed some interesting questions and some basic prior knowledge around what archaeologists do. The morning of the chat the students were so excited! They were all at school on time, and couldn’t wait to get in the classroom and get started. Nicolas did a great job keeping the kids engaged throughout the session and had a lot of great ideas about how the kids could think about archaeology. One of my favourites was that being an archaeologist is like solving a jigsaw puzzle, except some of the pieces are missing, and there are 50 different jigsaw puzzles mixed together. I think that this really helped the kids understand the complexity of the job.
Here is a brief video clip of our chat:
At the end of the session many of my students were able to ask questions. This was a valuable component as it helped to identify the areas they found most interesting, any misconceptions they had, and things that we may want to consider incorporating into our unit.
Throughout the unit, it has been a great frame of reference to continue to come back to as we consider how we know what we do about previous societies. I hope that this is helping them to develop their critical thinking skills and appreciate where the information we have comes from.