Irish and South African Learners Share Insights into Science
Learners in South Africa and Ireland shared an exciting science lesson via a live video link on 18 May 2006 as part of the “Seeing Science” project. The excitement at this ‘live learning’ was tangible and once the video link had been established, learners on both ends of the connection were waving at each other, smiling and proud to be a part of this historic moment.
“Seeing Science” is this year’s theme of Primary ConneXions, an initiative run by Queen’s University Belfast which aims at bringing science to life in Ireland. This year is the first year that the Primary ConneXions’ project has had schools outside of Northern Ireland contributing to it.
The South African connection was initiated by Brian Bird, founder of an organisation called Chalkbytes which is based on using the internet to help teaching and learning become more fun. Its central feature is sharing and it provides a forum for teachers and students from all over the world to swap lessons, ideas and information. Bird, an ex-South African now living in Ireland, established a link with the Khanya Project after visiting South Africa with colleagues Richard Walker (Queen’s University Belfast) and Peter McAlister (“Sharing Science Across Ireland” project).
Anette van Rooyen, Khanya’s South Cape/ Karoo EMDC co-ordinator, facilitated the video link with The Holy Cross Primary School in George and Percy Mdala Secondary School in Knysna. Both of these schools have access to technology at their schools in their Khanya computer laboratories. The video link was hosted at the Hurteria Building of the Nelson Mandela Metropole University in York Street, George.
For the project, learners had to take photos of their local environment and see what science they could identify in the photographs. Their findings had to be submitted electronically and their work was then shared during the link with 35 other schools in Northern Ireland.
Learners, working in pairs, at Holy Cross Primary produced a PowerPoint presentation on the science they could see in their picture. Learners from Percy Mdlala High based their presentation on photographs they had taken of a steam train at the George museum. After each presentation there was a short discussion between the schools about their findings and questions were asked of the presenting school.
Through this initiative, learners were granted a fantastic learning experience. The opportunity to speak in front of other children in a different part of the world, while initially fairly daunting, has increased the self-confidence of the participants and all the learners learnt to look at things – things that they often take for granted in their everyday lives - from a different point of view, thus broadening their perspective.