It is up to educators to inspire their students to become environmental leaders and help restore and protect the world’s oceans, said Philippe Cousteau, chief ocean correspondent for Animal Planet, at the opening general session of the Florida Education Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando.
Cousteau, son of Philippe Cousteau Sr. and grandson of Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau, spoke to educators from 49 states and 17 countries Jan. 22, explaining how education has gotten him to where he is today.
"For three generations, education has been the driving force behind the work of my family," he said. "I am a product of good teaching."
It was the spirit of conservation and care for the environment taught by his grandfather that inspired him to work to inform people about the problems in the water.
"Oceans are critical to all life on this planet, and they are in peril," Cousteau said.
He said the lessons he was taught by his grandfather and others in his life led him to found EarthEcho International, a nonprofit environmental education and conservation organization, with his sister.
Over the past year, Cousteau filmed a series of seven one-hour installments of an ocean documentary program. While he enjoyed the exploration of different oceans around the world, he said he was most impressed by his ability to use technology to further his work–and to share it with students from around the world.
"I could take videos on my cell phone and upload them to [the internet]. Or I could respond to questions from students on my eMail, and they could get the answers right away," he said.
Cousteau said he is also exploring ways to use documentary filmmaking in classrooms. He produced, co-directed, and wrote a documentary on the Everglades in which five high school students were invited to help during their summer vacation. He said they all planned to finish high school, but none saw the point in going to college.
"When I saw them [later that fall at the documentary premiere], their lives were changed. I could see what the power of teaching could do," he said. "All five of them had decided to go on to university."
An FETC advisory board member noted that technology can be both a problem and a solution for teachers.
"How many cell phones and cameras are confiscated instead of used as learning tools?" he asked during the opening session in Orlando.
Ronald Blocker, superintendent of Florida’s Orange County Public Schools, said today’s students crave technology.
"They’ve grown up with it. High school seniors were born in 1991, the same year the World Wide Web launched," he said. "As teachers, it is our duty to speak in a language that students understand."
(Editor’s note: Watch for more live coverage of this year’s FETC at our online FETC Conference Information Center page)