My brother Scott, 2013 Orange County Teacher of the Year, was hanging out at a park in Irvine with his wife and son and happened upon some teams of college students involved in The Solar Decathlon. This is a national competition between university engineering students to see who can design and construct the best state-of-the-art home.
Scott is always concerned about how he can enrich the education of his students, so he initiated a relationship with a student team from Santa Clara University. This partnership resulted in Scott’s class conducting regular Google Hangouts with the students who were working 500 miles away. Scott’s class prepares for the Hangouts by doing research and preparing questions. Members of the SCU team share presentations using the screen share feature and take the kids on virtual field trips through the 2009 house as well as the current construction site.
Scott graciously allowed my class to join in on the hangouts and several other classes from as far away as South America have begun watching the broadcasts. Students get to see the progress and appreciate the vast amount of work that goes into designing and constructing the Radiant House. Students from Scott’s class and my class have also been engaged by the college engineering student team through quiz questions and opinion polls which give the kids input on team decisions. The SCU Google Hangouts have been recorded and archived on YouTube. SCU Solar Decathlon has a Facebook page as well.
This cutting edge pedagogy is attracting the attention of the media as well. The Orange County Register (Irvine World News) and CBS News in the Bay area (see video below) have done stories on the Google Hangouts.