Clovis classes visit the world

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Renie Smith’s senior English class learned to dance like peasants in the middle ages during a virtual field trip to the Sheffield Museum of Rural Life in Canada.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Clovis students can now tour the world from their classrooms.

Clovis Municipal Schools are using a $1.4 million federal grant to update computer networks for 10 campuses. One of the results — the ability to take virtual field trips.

Renie Smith’s English class at Clovis High School recently took a virtual field trip to the Sheffield Museum of Rural Life in Canada.

Smith said the trip fit into her classes’ study of the Middle Ages.

A docent portraying himself as a Medieval peasant talked via Web cam to the students about how peasants lived. The students were also able to ask the docent questions.

“This gives our students the opportunity to experience places or experts that they wouldn’t normally,” Smith said. “We can go anywhere.”

Ten campuses in the district now have this teleconferencing capability. Butch Hamer, information technology director for the district, said the application process for the federal grant took about two years.

Hamer said thousands of virtual field trips are available and range from scientific experiments at the bottom of the ocean to NASA projects.

“Most kids will never go to the places they can see through video conferencing,” he said.

Hamer said virtual field trips are available for every subject. Smith said she intends to use them as much as possible.

“It’s interactive and visual,” Smith said, “And the docent (in Canada) had us get up and dance and that helps kinetic learners.”

During the trip to Canada, three other campuses were logged into the video conference. They weren’t able to interact with the docent, but they were able to listen to him.

Hamer said video conferencing can also be used by administrators to virtually attend meetings and to host virtual classes.

“This opens up so many possibilities,” Hamer said. “If we want to teach Japanese but don’t have a Japanese teacher here we can set up a videoconference for that class. It’s one thing to hear on a phone call, but when you can see and hear, it helps the students be interested.”

Campuses receiving video conferencing include Clovis High School, Freshman Academy, the central office, James Bickley, Ranchvale, Lockwood, Cameo, La Casita and Parkview elementaries and the Arts Academy at Bella Vista.