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Skype Brings Florida Classrooms To The World

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Mosquitos and the health issues they can cause are the topic of a unique seminar this week from the University of Florida. "It's a little different becaue this presentation is meant to be a lot more interactive" said Rachel Atchison, a masters student in entomology and nematology at the University of Florida. She’ll be part of this long distance Science of Mosquitos seminar which will be hosted by Skype in the Classroom. "Generally, when we are talking to scientists, we might have a PowerPoint presentation where we are just (showing) out research and then there's just a couple of minutes for questions at the end. But this is really about connecting to students and allowing them to ask whatever questions they have. So most of it is going to be Q & A."

Skype in the Classroom, which has been around since 2010, allows those students to interact throughout the presentation from anyplace in the world.

"So this Thursday we go live," said Dr. Jamie Loizzo, an Assistant Professor of Agricultural Communication at the University of Florida and is the faculty coordinator of the project. She says this will be their first virtual field trip using Skype. "We are going to go live multiple times through April with Rachael (and other students) to all of these schools around the world. We've tested the equipment! We've used part of March to work directly with Skype and talk to their staff to help us get ready."

Dr. Loizzo says that by using Skype in the Classroom, they will be able to give students a formal presentation about mosquitos while still allowing for interaction.

"We do have an outline for our scientists to be prepared to help us meet our learning objectives. So describing what mosquitos are, what their life cycle is, what their habitat typically is and the illnesses associated with them. So we do have a little bit of content we definitely want to cover and a little bit of a demonstration in the lab. But we do want the students to be able to feel like they chime in and ask the scientists questions as we go through that content. But we, every five to ten minutes of the 45-minute program hope to be calling out to the students (to ask) what kinds of questions do you have for us at this point from what we've shown you."

The goal is to get information out to as many students as possible in as wide an area as possible. Rachel Atchison says using Skype in the Classroom pretty much opened the seminar up to the world.

"Teachers worldwide that are signed up to get Skype in the Classroom notifications were notified about our offering. Then they could say 'we are interested in this and we want to register for it'. So that was really great. Using Skype in the Classroom allowed us to sort of broadcast worldwide through their Skype network. And then, also, we have been doing different outreach here, locally."

And while the presentation is coming out of the University of Florida, mosquitos and mosquito-borne illnesses know no boundaries. Currently, there are classes signed up for this seminar from Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, India, Canada, Egypt, and Pakistan; as well as Pennsylvania, Maine and Duval County, Plant City and Hialeah, Florida. 

Along with Rachel Atchison, the other University of Florida student scientists participating in the event are:

Peyton Beattie, agricultural education and communication Ph.D. student

Kevin Kent, agricultural education and communication Ph.D. student
 
Christine Krebs, agricultural education and communication master’s student
 
Ashley McLeod-Morin, agricultural education and communication Ph.D. student
 
Casey Parker, entomology and nematology Ph.D. student and public health master’s student in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions
 
Teresa Suits, agricultural education and communication master’s student.