Friday, April 29, 2011

Learning Homestead Style

Saturday, I picked up my cell phone, pressed 8, then send expecting my little sister to pick up. The 5 year old voice of my niece surprised me at first, but I guess it shouldn’t have because I often get calls from my sister asking me to talk to either my niece or nephew because they won’t give up the other phone and I’m to provide the distraction. I asked Cadence, my niece, what she was doing to which she replied that she was playing a game on mommy’s phone and it rang so she answered it. After a brief conversation about the game and school I got to talk to my sister.

My niece is a digital native, meaning she’s grown up with technology all her life. She can answer the phone, play games and probably take pictures with her mom’s camera phone. My youngest sister is also a digital native so she snaps first day of school pictures with her camera phone, posts them to Facebook and texts them to the family before they even walk through the school doors. Technology is amazing!

Although we don’t use camera phones, Homestead National Monument of America uses technology to spread the homesteading story through its distance learning technology. Homestead uses distance learning or you may know it as video conferencing, to teach free programs to kids from coast to coast, literally. We have connected with schools from California to New York and from Minnesota to Texas and all points in between. We teach the kids about many different aspects of the homesteading story from the American Indian uses to the buffalo to life in a cabin and more.

It’s amazing to talk to kids across Nebraska and the United States. They have such energy and I am always surprised at how much they know and their answers to my questions. But the key to technology (other than having it work), is to tell them how long it would take them to get to Homestead the old fashioned way, on a school bus. This helps them realize how great technology is. Sometimes a school bus ride to Homestead is only a couple hours away, but other times it could take a couple of days. For those schools located far away we may never have had a chance to introduce our park to them. I wonder how many parents have casually asked their child what they did in school today to have them answer, “I went to Nebraska!” I would love to see their faces. I should start asking the kids to take pictures for me.

by Tina Miller
Education Coordinator
Homestead National Monument of America

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