VHS enters the world of distance learning with HistoryConnects!
Last month the Virginia Historical Society took a giant step into the world of distance learning by conducting its first successful HistoryConnects program! After a long trail marked with a couple of false starts, some technological upgrades, and a fairly steep learning curve, Evan Liddiard and Jennifer Nesossis connected with Mt. Tabor Elementary in New Albany, Indiana, and spent a little more than an hour discussing Pocahontas and the Powhatan Indians. Scott Burch, the teacher from Mt. Tabor, was impressed with our initial outing: “If I hadn’t been told that it was your first broadcast, I would have never been able to tell.” The program consisted of examination of both the John Smith map and some of the John White watercolors, along with discussion of what life was like for the Powhatan Indians at the point of contact through the use of replica artifacts. The program allowed the students to see high definition details of both the primary sources and the artifacts, and that really fueled the spirit of inquiry. The third and fourth grade students were engaged and interested, with more quality questions and observations than time allowed.
HistoryConnects is a new distance learning initiative from the VHS designed to expand the audience for our educational offerings. Using Interactive Video Conferencing equipment, we are able to connect with classrooms not only in Virginia but also throughout the country or the world! We have transformed our traditional outreach programs into a digitally based interaction, with students learning about a variety of subjects, examining primary and secondary sources, and investigating replica artifacts with the guidance of one of the VHS educators. Institutions that have the equipment and that are interested in programming or collaborations subscribe to a free clearinghouse, called the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC), and are able to book programs and send requests. The CILC also handles the collection of demographic data and program evaluations. For the spring 2012 semester, we offer six different programs, and plan on having a catalog of ten to twelve choices for schools for the upcoming academic year. We have nearly forty programs booked this semester, with a fairly even split between Virginia schools and other institutions around the country. We have made connections with schools as far away as California and Canada and as close as Spotsylvania County,Virginia. On May 16, the VHS was selected to be a part of a nationwide program on the contributions of and effects on individual states during the American Civil War. Our program is expected to be seen by more than 5,000 students from across the country!
For more information about the HistoryConnects program, or the VHS outreach education in general, please contact Evan Liddiard at 804-342-9689 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Evan Liddiard is Senior Education Specialist at the Virginia Historical Society.