The Alaska SeaLife Center has another plaque to add to the trophy case.
The center, located in Seward, was one of 33 recipients of the Pinnacle Award from the Indiana-based Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC). The center was recognized for their top-notch content provided to the CILC used by educators around the world. This is the second time the center has received the award.
“It means that we are definitely recognized as a premiere content provider for science programs in Alaska,” said Laurie Stuart-Morrow, the center’s education manager.
The SeaLife Center has been teaching classes via video conference since 2005, Stuart-Morrow said. If a teacher wants their class to participate, there are pre- and post-class materials they can use in conjunction with the live instruction coming from Seward.
“It’s our educators,” she said. “We deliver the one-hour lesson, the responsibility lies with us.”
The award has been given out since 2007, said CILC Director of Content Services Julia Shildmyer-Heighway.
“About four years ago we thought, ‘Well we really need to recognize the folks that do exemplary work,’” Shildmyer-Heighway said.
The award is determined by data collected from evaluations completed by teachers throughout the school year. The evaluations consist of 7 questions, the scoring is based on a scale of “strongly disagree” (worth 0 points) to “strongly agree” (worth 3 points).
“To get the Pinnacle you have to have at least a 2.85 or higher as an average of all your evaluations,” Shildmyer-Heighway said. “To get the Pinnacle you have to have almost a perfect score on every evaluation, so that really says a lot.”
Basically, it was the data that determined the center as a recipient, she said.
“It wasn’t that CILC selected the SeaLife Center.” Shildmyer-Heighway said. “It was that their work was rated so exemplary by teachers around the world that the data selected them to be the recipient.”
What sets the center apart, Stuart-Morrow said, is the fact they have the ability to present hands-on lessons through the use of their mobile video conference unit.
“We can teach from the front of a number of different habitats,” she said. “If we’re teaching about intertidal animals, we’re right there at the touch tank with the camera, it zooms into the water as we touch the animals, interact with them while we talk to the kids about their adaptations.”
Shildmyer-Heighway acknowledged the mobile unit as great way to be able to educate others in different countries around the world, and show them something they may not have the opportunity to see otherwise.
“It is wonderful if you can move around in that immersive space,” she said. “Instead of being in a classroom presenting.”
“To actually be able to see the animals in realistic habitats is something students and even adults might not be able to do.
The CILC acts as a hub, much like Ebay or Amazon, Shildmyer-Heighway said. Content providers from around the world can offer their services through the website and educators can search for the material, like a database.
Stuart-Morrow believes this is a step in the right direction for distance learning, especially in a place like Alaska.
“Naturally Alaska has this fantastic distance learning capacity, the way that everyone is spread out we have distance learning equipment all over the schools,” she said. “We have the potential to be really important in finding new ways to utilize distance learning.”
In addition to the Alaska SeaLife Center, Kigluait Educational Adventures in Talkeetna also received the Pinnacle Award.
Logan Tuttle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.