Sunday, September 13, 2009

Jorvik Viking Centre using Skype to teach students

The York Archaeological Trust has launched an innovative project to bring history to life in the classroom.

The Skype Experience initiative uses the latest video conferencing facilities to bring the Vikings of Jorvik and their Roman, Tudor and archaeologists into schools.

The online learning resource will allow students who cannot visit the Jorvik Centre to talk to a virtual Viking or Roman.

The Skype Experiences are 45-minute sessions in which costumed characters engage with pupils and teachers via a live web link against a period backdrop, talking about their lives and showing relevant artefacts.

The lessons are intended to engage pupils in an interactive way, and are recorded to allow teachers to revisit the content.

Rachel Tumman, education manager at York Archaeological Trust, said: "We already provide costumed characters for schools to enhance, extend or replace visits. Skype Experiences take this one step further, making educational resources more widely available in a cost effective way.

"The beauty is that they remove the boundaries of geography and enable any school with a broadband connection and interactive whiteboard to take part. The costumed characters can also show and talk about precious objects that are not generally available for public viewing; and children can interact with the characters - in real time, either by speaking with them on screen or via a chatroom facility."

Seven schools across the UK have taken part in Skype Experiences over the six-month trial, including All Saints Primary School in Montacute.

Teacher Deborah Court said: "The Tudor Skype Experience was extremely professionally executed.

"All of the children's questions were answered informatively, with plenty of detail to engage the class. The children really enjoyed the experience of seeing a 'real life' Tudor, and being able to interact with him first hand was very exciting for them."

York Archaeological Trust now plans to launch Skype Experiences across the UK after receiving positive feedback about the lessons.

Rachel Tumman explained: "The trial has shown that the technology works; and the demand is certainly there. The next stage is to roll it out in primary schools across the UK, and look at how we could link it in with more of the trust's activities such as our live Hungate excavations in York city centre and education institutions."

The York Archaeological Trust run the Jorvik Viking Centre, DIG archaeological adventure and Barley Hall medieval townhouse in York.