Professors offer lessons via Skype to high school students
Two Elon University professors in the Department of History and Geography shared from campus on Friday their insights about the Civil War with students in a U.S. history class taught by a former North Carolina Teaching Fellow at a high school 90 miles away.
Professors Nancy Midgette and Jim Bissett used the Skype online video service to talk with students in classes led by Jessica Swearengin Sheley ’05 at Mooresville High School in Mooresville, N.C.
Sheley today is an Apple Distinguished Educator and history teacher at a school where all faculty and students are provided Mac laptops through the school system’s innovative one-to-one laptop program. Students can take laptops home to use for research and for creating products to demonstrate what they’ve learned.
Barbara Taylor, an associate professor of computing sciences who taught Sheley when she was at Elon, has previously used Skype in her course, "Technology in Teaching and Learning," to have Mooresville students visit with Elon teacher licensure students. During those virtual visits, Sheley and her high school students described their personal experiences with one-to-one laptop implementation.
When Sheley asked Taylor for assistance finding history professors who could help her pupils understand why it was important for students today to study the Civil War and history in general, Taylor said she was more than happy to return the favor. She worked with Bissett and Midgette to set up Skype for joining Sheley’s classes on Feb. 25 from their Elon offices.
Bissett acted as Sheley’s academic advisor when she was at Elon, and on Friday, he joined her midday class. Bissett later said how interesting it was to interact directly with the students.
“They were really perceptive about the fact that America’s continuing challenges with race are connected to the Civil War,” he said.
After talking at some length about the war, the students explored general questions, which allowed Bissett to help them think about the ways the present is shaped by past events.
Midgette interacted with one of Sheley’s classes on Friday morning and said she thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Students wanted to know why it is important to study the Civil War when it happened nearly 150 years ago, she said, and specifically why the war lasted so long, whether the Confederacy had any foreign alliances, what daily life was like and what people did for entertainment.
“Using Skype is an outstanding way for us to stay in touch with our alums and also to provide a service to the broader community,” Midgette said. “Their last question was whether we would be willing to Skype again on another subject. My answer? Absolutely!”