28/09/2012 - Permalink

New technology helping Shropshire children to discover new experiences

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Schoolpupils in Shropshire are making new discoveries thanks to an innovative scheme being developed by the council. 

Video conferencing is being used by all secondary schools in the county, and primary schools are following suit following the project’s success. 

Pupils are now being given the opportunity to learn all about Shropshire’s past, with the council’s museum service trialling a series of video conferencing lessons. 

Worthen Primary School has been the first to do a live session with museum staff as part of a project on castles, with pupils talking to historians and seeing a range of artefacts via a video link-up. 

Headteacher, Jonathan Brough, said being able to use video technology was a great addition to the school’s toolkit: 

“The children responded so positively to the video conference with the museum service, particularly enjoying the chance to handle and discuss artefacts there and then with experts.  The careful looking at the cannon ball was especially memorable, being able to explore whether or not it had been fired and such like. 

“I would say it gave our children an amazing opportunity to interact with historians and to work actively with historical artefacts.  It took away the need for an expensive coach journey and provided an in-depth discussion drawing out all sorts of historical questioning skills. 

“I see video conferencing having particular relevance and value for smaller rural schools – it is a potentially limitless resource to enable our children to make real contact with people from a huge range of contexts.  We could never afford either the time or the finance to transport our children to meet with the people we can contact through video conferencing.  I also see massive value in enhancing our speaking and listening opportunities in school; preparing for a video conference, thinking through questions and answers for a new audience, is thoroughly valuable.” 

Shropshire Museum Service is always looking for new ways to connect with schools across the county and share the fantastic collections cared for on its different sites.  Issues of the rurality of many of Shropshire schools have been addressed by services such as Museum in a Box and Museum in School, that actually take a selection of artefacts or specimens out into the schools, but this new exciting opportunity to interact with students through video conferencing means that the pupils can now ask questions directly of experts within the team. 

And the added facility of the visualiser, which beams an enlarged image of the artefact under discussion onto the schools whiteboard, means they can see a wide range of material that would never be suitable for taking into school. 

Sarah Griffiths, of the museum service, said:

“The session held with Worthen helped the museum service understand exactly what engaged the children and captured their imagination – the gory bits of castle life – so cannon balls, chain mail, armour and bones really got the children talking and asking questions and sometimes outwitting the experts.  Plans are now in place for further pilot sessions with two primary and two secondary schools and a sixth form college, to try out new ideas using different themes and to develop a future service that will be available to young people right across the county and beyond.” 

Shrewsbury Sixth Form College has been utilising video conferencing with museums for a number of years.  They view it as an essential part of students’ education.  Recently the college has been building up links with American museums, such as the Library of Congress and the Virginia Historical Society, to enhance the teaching of the American history module taught at the college.  Video conferencing has brought the world into their classroom. 

Cecilia Motley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for education and skills, said:

“We are delighted that video conferencing is being embraced by so many schools, and it is proving to be a real benefit to pupils.  Using new technology like this can cut down on travel time for schools, but more importantly it gives pupils the opportunity to see and interact with people that just would not be possible any other way.”