Fifth-graders around the world seek clear answer to basic scientific question
NEW YORK, May 17, 2012 – “What is a flame?” asked 11-year-old Alan Alda.
“Oxidation,” his teacher answered. Period.
That answer smoldered in Alda’s brain for decades even as he immortalized himself as Hawkeye Pierce on the Korean War-era comedy M*A*S*H. He recounted the story last week to hundreds of fifth-graders from 10 schools around the world in an interactive, videoconference conducted on the Watchitoo HD videoconferencing, live streaming and collaboration platform.
The World Wide Assembly brought Alda together with students participating as judges in the Flame Challenge, a competition directly inspired by Alda’s frustration with the teacher’s answer six decades ago. Sponsored by the Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, the challenge asks scientists to answer the what-is-a-flame? question “in a way that an 11-year-old would find intelligible and maybe even fun.”
(View recording of the assembly: http://www.centerforcommunicatingscience.org/?page_id=1233)
Students in the Watchitoo videoconference discussed the challenge entries and the principles behind the competition. Each class appeared on the screen with Alda, at one point alongside a streaming contest entry. Meanwhile, viewers from around the world typed questions and comments and automatically posted the link to the assembly to their social networks through the Watchitoo platform.
“It was awe-inspiring to connect with hundreds of fifth-graders around the globe who are deeply curious about a scientific question,” said Valeri Lantz-Gefroh, a journalism lecturer at the Stony Brook University School of Journalism and the organizer of the challenge. “Watchitoo brought everyone together, consolidated the conversation, spread the word and made the occasion momentous. Students took their work seriously and they were clearly more energized than they would have been in a typical classroom setting.”
Watchitoo enables up to 25 individuals or groups to join an interactive online HD video conference and hundreds of thousands to follow the conversation. Unlike other conferencing and streaming software, Watchitoo can be embedded in a customer’s website, blog or Facebook page and customized with their own branding.
More importantly, Watchitoo has given Alda and Stony Brook University a way to take that simple question – the one his teacher could have answered better – around the world. And is that question getting answered. Approximately 6,000 student judges at 191 schools sifted through 535 entries screened by credentialed scientists for accuracy. The best answer will be revealed June 2 in New York during the World Science Festival.
“It’s inspiring to see how students respond when you bring them face to face with new people, communities, content and ways of interacting,” said Watchitoo CEO Rony Zarom. “The world is now their classroom, and their opportunities are expanding exponentially. If only Alan’s teacher could see what he or she started.” For more information visit us at www.Watchitoo.com