Throughout our lives we become learners and teachers at various times, and, sometimes, we are learners and teachers at the same time. Many of the greatest discoveries of all time are made by people who carefully observe the world and teach themselves how to learn from it.
Above all else, Traveling Classroom is about getting out in the world and investigating places and people and ideas that are interesting to us. Regardless of how the Traveling Classroom project is presented within a particular classroom or at home, it should be used to spark interest and stimulate further inquiry. To this end, teachers are encouraged to review Learning Resources and their own source materials, and then incorporate the following basic elements:
The Traveling Classroom project brings Internet participants in contact with an ongoing adventure as it is happening. To introduce interactive learning to the classroom, the Traveling Classroom project emphasizes inquiry and exploration. Inquiry-based learning engages students in formulating and exploring challenging questions, which helps them develop critical thinking skills. For example, the project teacher will present information and images in the Trip Reports which will correspond to classroom activities that will stimulate student exploration of the subject matter and lead to feedback and questions over the Internet.
As I am investigating ancient sites, traveling from place to place, and meeting people, students will be able to participate in these activities through the Internet. This interaction can be complimented by classroom activities with the teacher or by activities conducted by “outside experts.”
In my own classroom, for example, I have used parents who are seasoned sailors to conduct a mini-course in nautical charts and map reading. This coincided with my sailing adventures in the Aegean. Using coordinates from the Global Positioning System (GPS) aboard our sailboat, together with compass bearings and other information provided over the Internet, students used charts to determine my location on the planet and my next port of call. These activities emphasized the importance of human interaction, creativity and independent thinking. You can do the same in your classroom.
Information is constantly changing. Some of it is accurate, some is not, and much of it does not make sense until seen in the context of other elements. The Traveling Classroom project combines history, social studies, literature, art, geography and mathematics as well as other disciplines. Central to this approach is helping students draw connections between and among their studies (including print, film and video resources used in the classroom) and the information presented on the Internet.
Encouraging original thinking is a key aspect of the Traveling Classroom project. Independent thought and integration of ideas are key aspects of discovery, scholarship and functionality in the modern world. I am delighted by the frequency with which my students, given the facts and circumstances of a particular historical or cultural event (without any prior knowledge of that event), can synthesize the related bits of data and propose a possible outcome that corresponds almost exactly with recorded history.
The Traveling Classroom project focuses on exercises that encourage learning by doing, rather than relying on the teacher to “impart” knowledge. In this scenario the teacher should play the role of facilitator or moderator as needed, relying on the students to take their ideas as far as they can.
It is hoped that the activities suggested here, combined with the unique character of interaction through the Internet, will stimulate students to go beyond the limits of usual classwork, to become involved in a learning dialog, and to truly take the initiative in their own education.