Ross Anderson was one of the many Natives Vincent Schilling used to illustrate to the fifth-graders at Long Elementary School in St. Louis that Natives have a variety of jobs just like everyone else, including being a professional speed skier, like Anderson, who is Cheyenne/Arapaho.

Using Google+ to Teach Native History and Culture from 900 Miles Away

Vincent Schilling

Using social media in new and innovative ways is fast becoming the norm nowadays, but occasionally teachers like Mrs. Jennifer Albers come along and raise the bar even higher.

Albers, a fifth-grade teacher at Long Elementary School in St. Louis, Missouri reached out to me in my Native American Community on Google+ and asked if I would share Native American culture with her students. I was excited to see a teacher creatively using technology to teach about Native American topics.

“My fifth grade students are currently studying Native American history and Native American culture, Albers said. “What better way to learn about this topic than from an expert... In a Google + Hangout search, I found his profile and contacted him.”

On the scheduled date of October 9, I “called” Albers and her class using my Google+ account. In minutes, I was sharing with her students my lighthearted PowerPoint presentation on Native American stereotypes, after which, the students asked me questions.

The experience was heart-warming, and how awesome that I was able to share my experience from my office in Virginia Beach!

Not only did I use Google+ Hangout, I used Hangouts on Air, in which the hangout is broadcast live and then automatically uploaded to your YouTube Channel. Several months ago, President Barack Obama used it to “hang out” with America.

RELATED: President Barack Obama ‘Hangs Out’ with America on Google+

The best thing about using a Google+ Hangout is that anyone with a computer, webcam and Internet connection can reach anyone else in the world.

“The Hangout went awesome! Mr. Schilling touched on stereotypes, culture, food, traditions, and even Native American language,” Albers said. “He was a wonderful presenter, the students loved him, and most of all, they learned!”

The students were genuinely interested and asked questions. One student stumped me when he asked what powwow meant literally—I had used the term for so long without knowing the original meaning that I had to research it. I discovered one meaning is derived from the Narragansett word powwaw, meaning “spiritual leader.”

“I learned how to speak a few words in Mohawk and that most of the time Mr. Schilling does what we do and sometimes he does Native American stuff,” said one of the students.

“I learned some interesting facts about Mr. Schilling’s tribe,” said another.

“I learned that powwows are open to the public,” said another. “I also learned what the three sisters look like.”

Words really can’t express the appreciation and joy I felt having reached out to students so far away. I hope other teachers will see this and decide to reach out to people anywhere in the world to learn about their beliefs and cultural practices. I am better because of this collaboration.

I hope everyone is lucky enough to have, or have had a teacher like Mrs. Jennifer Albers.

Watch the “hangout” below:

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Charles Gitchell Jr's picture
Charles Gitchell Jr
Submitted by Charles Gitchell Jr on
Sweet I am a Jenner Pomo Indian in Lake County California a Basket Weaver Gardener and Jenner Pomo Research Earth Space for Native Holey Garden in Native Habitat that works like are Mother Earth. need 20 acres of flat land to build the new Native way with Mother earth and food she gives us and Basket Weaving and singing and dancing and the Stars.