New world tech brings rich cultural traditions into Massachusetts Middle School


Born to Explore with Richard Wiese

In today's hustle and bustle world, some may think technology is moving too fast or might be taking us away from our traditions. However, a classroom of middle-schoolers in North Attleborough, Massachusetts, will likely have a different opinion. Through the magic of Skype, Jen Murphy's 6th grade class embarked on a journey that took them right into the heart of Native American dance traditions.

This weekend, you can join the class on their adventure with Born to Explore on ABC TV (check your local listings for November 21 & November 22), and starting today you can get a glimpse of the episode and find out how to take your own virtual field trip on our Native American Heritage page.

To kick off the experience, students took on the challenge of locating Born to Explore show host Richard Wiese during a Mystery Skype session that leads them to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian in New York. The students were immediately immersed in the sights and sounds of a Native American dance circle, learning the history of the movements and regalia, and how each element honors an important tradition.

Richard Wiese dances in a Circle of Dance

"This really was such a valuable experience, and provided a memory my students will surely never forget," said Murphy. "The students were in awe of the dancers, and this provided such a rich cultural experience about which they knew very little."

The students had great questions for Wiese and the dancers, using Surface devices and Bing to help research their questions and answers. They also joined in the fun with a dance circle and musical performance of their own. The blending of physical and digital experiences really builds on the way students engage every day.

"As an explorer, it has been fantastic to interact with students in the classroom via Skype and to see their curiosity and wonder in real time," said Wiese. "The excitement, the engagement…this collaborative experience is teaching and learning at its best."

It's that collaboration and engagement that creates magic in the classroom, especially when it builds on students' interests within and outside the school day.

"Technology is in almost every corner of students' lives," said Murphy. "Incorporating technology into daily lessons provides a natural hook to engage all learners and meet their diverse needs. It isn't a secret that these students will most likely be working in the technology fields so it is imperative as an educator to prepare them for their future careers."

Lynn Wiegel, North Attleborough Public School's Director of Technology, has seen how technology in the classroom has transformed learning in her schools. "With the addition of technology tools, I've seen many teachers expand the way they present their lessons to students. They use technology to help them differentiate their lessons, and connect and collaborate with the world in ways they would otherwise not be able to."

 classroom of middle-schoolers in North Attleborough, Massachusetts

The Born to Explore experience has helped Jen Murphy consider taking a few more risks in her classroom, and she encourages her colleagues to do the same.

"We should embrace technology to explore the world and enrich our classroom experiences," said Murphy. "We ask the kids to come out of their comfort zone daily when we challenge them to learn and take risks with the content we deliver, so we should do the same. By trying something new I was able to transform my classroom into a satellite of the National Museum of the American Indian and awakened my students to beautiful culture."

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