YouTube Star Teacher Karen Mensing Opens Up a World of Learning with Her Students

Second Grade Teacher Karen Mensing is a gifted specialist in the Paradise Valley Unified School District. She is a teacher who knows how to get her students to bring what they’ve learned to the dinner table each night by providing her students with hands-on learning opportunities and real world experiences through technology.

 Mensing was named Arizona’s Gifted Teacher of the Year for 2011 by the AZ Association for Gifted & Talented and was recently honored as 2012 Teacher of the Year by the AZ Technology in Education Association. She’s been a member of SENG’s Honor Roll since 2006.

In 2011, she was invited to the Google Teacher Academy where she became a Google Certified Teacher and one of the first 15 “YouTube Star Teachers,” by attending the inaugural YouTube Teacher Studio.

Later that year, Mensing was invited to attend the Google Geo Teachers Institute, & shortly thereafter became a Google Apps For Education Certified Trainer.

We had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Mensing at a recent Hands-on Science Boot Camp in Phoenix and were impressed with her passion for teaching kids and igniting a passion for learning within each of them.

Mensing spent eight years in the radio broadcast industry before becoming a teacher. She is always excited to find new ways to bring broadcasting and communications it into her room.

Her classroom theme last year was movie stars. The class spent the year learning how to make movies and appear in movies. The kids learned all about Twitter and even participated in Twitter chats. One was called #NameThatToy where people tweeted descriptions of toys while students across the United States and Canada tried to guess what they were describing.

The class also took a field trip to the Apple store where they made short movies and learned about technology. Now that’s some hands-on learning we can get behind.

Mensing says her students don’t fall asleep while watching a movie when it engages them and brings conversation into the room. She also uses interactive tools with the movies to get her students physically involved in the activities.

“It s not just a babysitting tool. And it’s not just watching movies. It’s truly engaging my students and bringing them real world experiences,” says Mensing.

Her students not only learn about an educational tool or new technology, they also make videos to explain what they’ve just learned. Her 1st and 2nd grade students defined Webquests, shared their opinions and explained what type of final projects they explored for one classroom video.

Mensing believes we shouldn’t shield kids from being on camera in our digital and video-intense world. Instead, we should teach them the correct way to make a movie using storyboarding and editing. They also need to understand copyrights. Today’s children have the tools at their disposal with camera phones and Flip cameras in most homes. We must teach children how to use the technologies that are out there, how to be responsible with it and what is appropriate and inappropriate versus pulling it away all together. Without an education on these tools, children will easily fall into traps and get into trouble when navigating the Internet and its tools.

We at Steve Spangler Science completely agree with that theory. Children and their parents shouldn’t fear technology, such as YouTube. They should embrace it and learn it. The technology exists and the kids are using it, with or without their parents’ permission and knowledge. They need to be educated about safety, courtesy and the power of the Internet before they stumble upon something they don’t fully understand.

Mensing says she believes YouTube is an underused tool with endless possibilities. And she is bringing it in her classroom and school.

“In my own classroom, I’m really hoping to do a lot with virtual tours and virtual field trips this year. And I really want to use YouTube with that. Giving (students) a glimpse of something they wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to see. Showing them museums, cities, oceans, continents, anything that isn’t possible within the walls of a classroom or even on a traditional field trip,” explains Mensing.

Here’s one way Mensing uses technology in her classroom. Her class watched a movie, wrote their own story, submitted it to a website, and created a video using iMovie. We need more Ms. Mensing’s in our schools!

Check out Ms. Mensing’s channel on YouTube for more educational videos as well as all of her classroom videos. While you are there, visit YouTube EDU – a resource dedicated to education in a global video classroom. Watch quick lessons from teachers, course lectures from universities and inspiring videos. Channels are nominated and approved to appear on YouTube EDU. You will not find ads or inappropriate content for students. For more on YouTube EDU, check out our blog post from last year.

Are you a teacher who embraces new technology like YouTube and uses it in your classroom? Leave us a comment below and share how you use it and how to educate your students.

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