SNEADS FERRY | It was back to class Wednesday at Dixon Middle School - and this time the students were the teachers.

Several hundred people attended the Onslow County Schools unConference, a student-led technology showcase during which students from across the district presented information on the ways they use technology to enhance learning in the classroom.

Hunters Creek Middle School sixth graders in Brittany Gamber’s social studies class used Skype as part of their lesson plan and traveled more than 9,000 miles and to four countries learning the cultures of countries such as Brazil, Egypt and Peru and taking a virtual field trip to Greece.

“It is learning but in a different way,” said Amarianna Canteen. “It was really fun but we were learning something new or adding to what we already knew.”

Amarianna was joined by classmates Austin Gamber and Cadence Youngblood in answering questions along with their teacher.

Austin most liked the virtual trip to Greece and learning about the Greek god of medicine and healing.

“It was better than I thought it would be,” Austin said of the Skype lesson.

For Cadence, being able to meet and talk to students in other countries through Skpe helped to make their lessons in geography more real.

“You can use a map to find their location but this way we could talk to them and learn their culture,” she said. 

 

Ross Friebel, the district’s director of digital learning and teaching, said the conference wasn’t about the technology itself but how it is used in the classroom to benefit the learning experience.

“It’s not about the hardware. It’s not about the software. It’s about instruction and showing how it enhances learning,” Friebel said.

Friebel said they call it the “unConference” because it is unique and unusual as a student-led event.

“Students can learn from teachers and teachers can also learn from students,” he said, adding that it makes the event a learning experience for all the participants.

Teachers submitted ideas for projects to present at the conference with their students and it showcased technology uses such as Skype for global learning, creating coding for classroom use; bringing the digital world to visual arts; 3-D printing in science; use of virtual reality for learning; Quizlet digital study tool; and collaboration on research projects using Microsoft Office.

And students from Kindergarten to high school were among the presenters.

Jayla Whitfield, who just finished kindergarten at Swansboro Elementary, excitedly showed participants what she had learned about basic coding as she followed color coding to move a mini robot along its track.

“This is exciting,” she said as she shared with others what she had learned.

Jayla’s presentation was in the Makerspace area of the event. The space for creating, inventing and learning included activities such as 3Doodler, a pen that turns doodles 3-D, and electronic snap circuits.

Down the hall, Camdyn Peck, who just finished 8th grade at Swansboro Middle School, showed how she uses Office Sway, a presentation program that is part of the Microsoft Office products, for her classwork.

“I think it is very user-friendly and easier than Power Point,” she said.

Swansboro High School students Briaunna Rivas and Rachel Walker spent some time in the Makerspace area as they waited to participate in a presentation on Girls Go CyberStart, a challenge that introduces and teaches foundational topics in cybersecurity and was offered at their high school this year.

“It was a fun opportunity for all of us,” Briaunna said.

 

Reporter Jannette Pippin can be reached at 910-382-2557 or Jannette.Pippin@JDNews.com.