Bringing the Ocean to Inland Audiences

Bringing the Ocean to Inland Audiences

 CIRES scientist Ola Persson explains the concept of expanding and contracting gases
CIRES scientist Ola Persson explains the concept of expanding and
contracting gases

How do you provide professional development in ocean and climate sciences to rural teachers in Colorado? Using the theme Exploring Connections between the Global Oceans and the Inland Southwest, the COSEE- West Colorado Collaborative connected teachers from Steamboat Springs (a ski resort) and Grand Junction (an agricultural area on the Western Slope) with professional development events in Boulder using televideoconferencing (TVC).

During two Saturday half-day workshops hosted at the University of Colorado (CU), rural teachers participated in the warm-up activities linked to scientist lectures and then were able to listen to the scientists and ask them questions in real-time. The rural teachers, who often do not have access to quality professional development programs locally, were glad to have the opportunity to participate in the workshops remotely. As expressed by one of our teachers, “Living in Steamboat makes it difficult to take workshops, especially in the winter. The COSEE videoconference made it easy, I felt like I was there.”

This method of workshop delivery is not for the faint of heart! As novices, we had a few hiccups, but thanks to the patience of our wonderful teachers we worked through the problems. We learned that testing all of the remote sites at the same time is critical. Because the room we used to broadcast the workshop was licensed for only one other connection, we had to bridge through another site to broadcast to multiple sites. We discovered the quality of the TVC is only as good as the weakest link. In the end, CU’s Health Sciences Center provided the bridge. (Medical faculty there frequently use TVC for conferences and meetings).

Teaching in this environment is a bit like a theater-in-the-round with teachers in front of you, as well as on multiple screens. Sometimes a voice comes out of the blue, and you realize you need to attend to the teachers on the projection screens! The facilitators have to be mindful to check in with these teachers throughout the workshop.

Next year, we will expand our reach and directly connect inland teachers and coastal teachers participating through COSEE-West. We tested our link with two Los Angeles teachers that sat in on one of workshops, and we are ready to roll. Details of next year’s workshop will be available in the fall online. The lecture series from the workshops and Summer Institute are also available on this site.

Contributed by Lesley K. Smith