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article imageSchools using video conferencing to get experts into classrooms

By Tim Sandle     Jul 2, 2014 in Lifestyle
Many schools are increasingly using video conferencing to allow experts and well-known personalities to talk and interact with students.
Gone are the days when all students had to look forward to was an old text book and an occasional visit from a local 'personality'. By utilizing video conferencing, top experts and television presenters can give lectures and talks to students from hundreds or thousands of miles away. This enriches the curriculum as well as highlighting the growing pace of globalization.
Video conferencing is the means of using computers to provide a video-link between two or more people. Instead of just talking to someone by telephone, people are able to see each other as well. Video conferencing also allows graphics to be uploaded, along with maps and videos. Multipoint videoconferencing allows three or more participants to sit in a virtual conference room and communicate as if they were sitting right next to each other. It is a growing medium in both business and in the education sector.
Considering the advantages of the 'global classroom', Michael Soskil, a teacher from Newfoundland, Pennsylvania was interviewed by News NY1. Soskil said: "Children need to have an emotional connection with what they’re learning in order to commit that to long term memory and when you’re learning out of a textbook that emotional connection isn’t there. Using technology in this transformative way allows kids to be inspired and it allows that deep learning to take place."
A leading provider of video conferencing to schools is Blue Jeans Network. The network recommend video conferencing as a means to have guest experts teach and interact with students because: "Studies show that when students see the connection between what they are learning and its real-world use case, their motivation soars, and so does their learning. One of the best, and most popular, ways to make that connection is by introducing subject matter experts into education. Using Blue Jeans, guest lecturers can use video to reach a classroom full of students from across the world, no matter what video platform they're using."
Video conferencing technology also allows school children from around the world to be brought together and to share experiences. For example, Anderson High School, a school in Lerwick, Shetland, Scotland, has been sharing aspects of learning and teaching by video conferencing for several years. This began as a Future Learning and Teaching project involving senior students sharing Advanced Higher courses – Maths with Nara Women’s Secondary School Japan, History and Modern Studies with South Peninsula High School Cape Town South Africa and Higher German with Graf Friedrich Schule Diepholz. One benefit of such an exchange is that students receive different views and fresh ideas from a class of students who are miles away, than they might from someone they've sat next in class for several years.
A third example is with virtual field trips. According to an article from Scholastic Instructor magazine, Pennsylvania's Mt. Lebanon School District was able to offer its middle school students a chance to see a volcano on the Caribbean island of Montserrat. Scholastic Instructor described the video conference:
"In e-Mission: Operation Montserrat, a 'mission commander' at the center interacts live with the students, relaying reports about lava flow and evacuee progress, showing video clips of ash clouds over the island, and sending seismic data and information about hurricane intensity to students’ laptops. They analyze the information, make predictions about risks, and suggest courses of action."
A fourth example is that video conferencing allows students to access courses that they would not ordinarily be able to partake in. Some schools, especially those in rural areas, are not able to offer the types of courses that their students might need.
These examples highlight that video conferencing is a powerful medium and that the classroom of the future is likely to see a greater application of virtual technologies and electronic learning.
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