"Who is your favorite actor?" asked a Jefferson Middle School seventh-grader to a Russian student via Skype.
"Johnny Depp," said the Russian student.
Ohhs and ahhs from the Jefferson students.
Jefferson Library Media Specialist Julie Livengood, Principal Carm Proctor and students talk with Russian students via Skype.
"We love Johnny Depp too!"
The students' mini Russian-American summit was part of their Information Literacy class with librarian Julie Livengood, resulting from a "teachable moment." Mrs. Livengood has visited Russia and when her laptop goes into "sleep" mode, the screensaver shows photos of her trips. Students often asked questions about the photographs, so in class one day she had them research information about life in current-day Russia and the major points of Russian history and geography. Mrs. Livengood then shared photographs from her travels and spoke about the friend she visits when she travels to that country.
"Being a very enthusiastic group, they became all excited and expressed a desire to talk with my friend, Tamara Shapovalova, who is a teacher of English and was a visiting scholar to Jamestown Schools in 2000," said Mrs. Livengood. " I realized that during our class time, Tamara would be teaching English privately to students in her home. It only took a couple of seconds to realize the opportunity that existed to Skype with Russian students."
Mrs. Livengood's students completed research on Russia, which remains largely unknown to American students. Both teachers had their students prepare questions to ask during the Skype session. It was a wonderful opportunity for Mrs. Shapovalova's students to practice their English skills, and for Mrs. Livengood's students to think more globally about history, daily life, current events, etc. and expose them to a different culture via technology.
"I liked the fact that even though they were thousands of miles away, they were so similar to us. They also had a great sense of humor," said Jefferson seventh-grader Molly Moore. "It was really impressive how well they spoke English and it's a lot more fun to learn about a country when you are talking to someone who actually lives there and tells us about their experiences."
To wrap up the unit, Mrs. Livengood's students prepared a short presentation in Keynote, providing them the opportunity to learn the computer application as well as impart what they learned from the experience.
Information Literacy is the class in which students learn to identify what information is needed, then locate, evaluate and use effectively that information.
"This class gives them the skills to navigate through the deluge of information surrounding them these days and to do so safely," said Mrs. Livengood. "(They are) skills that are becoming increasingly necessary to one's social and economic well-being. What is learned in my class integrates directly into every other class, but also has real-world applications, and it doesn't get more real-world than Skyping with Russia."