Using Videoconferencing in Education isn’t just bolting an LCD to a wall

I’ve been involved in a lot of video conferencing deployments within education. Whether it is a desktop solution like Microsoft Lync or a room based system from Polycom, the value of the solution is not the technology. The key is how people use the technology and in education, ensuring the educators have developed the skills to take advantage of the technology is the key. The result needs to be that teachers use the technology to deliver learning outcomes, not use it as a big TV!

 

Teachers lead busy, stressful lives. Having worked in education (OK a University but the same rules apply), I witnessed a group of people who spent long hours making sure that their students had a great learning experience. The last thing that they wanted was some new “fandangled” bit of technology that they would learn supposedly to drive better education but which in reality didn’t aid learning.

 

New technologies such as video conferencing bring new ways for teachers to work with students and encourage the development of strategies more consistent with the emerging technology. Although the use of video conferencing is fairly new to the classroom there are numerous ways which creative educators have already found to use this new medium. Video conferencing is an interactive medium which lets students and teachers have a visual connection to those they are working with whether they are down the hall, across the street or on the other side of the globe.

 

There are many ways that video conferencing might be used in a classroom:

Collaboration

Project work or research collaborations among classes allow those in different locations to share a visual connection even when a face-to-face visit may not be feasible. Groups from locations around the world can now work together, adding a dimension beyond a text based or e-mail project.

Informal chats

Showing projects, sharing books read or reading original written pieces can be the basis for rich communication and the formation of relationships between learners or between learners and those mentoring them.

News

Video conferencing can be used to show current events as they happen. Eclipses, cyber events and celebrations such as those which take place during National Science Foundation’s Science and Technology Week, and NASA space flights have been broadcast for others to view.

Planning

Planning projects or future events with those in distant locations has been successfully done using video conferences. Teachers and students can meet to plan their work, a conference, lesson or to touch base on progress towards a goal. Meeting to plan workshops for teachers or to plan with a business partner or university student teacher can all be done via this medium as well. Teachers can form a teaching team with remote teachers and plan lessons or even mentor another teacher during the planning process.

Visiting Experts

Scientists, politicians or those with special expertise have been able to visit with students in their classrooms without ever leaving their office. Video conferencing can give students access to people they might not otherwise have been able to interact with. Distance is no longer a factor in being able to hold a meeting, conduct a panel discussion, meet with an author or receive feedback on a science project from an expert.

Visitors

Costumed guests representing a specific historical or literary figure have been able to interact with students and role-play their character through a presentation and question-answer session. Using videoconferencing in this way adds another level of interaction to an activity which in the past has been successfully conducted through e-mail.

Training

Students and teachers have been able to learn to use new software or techniques during video conferences. Even learning to navigate the Internet or create a web page can be done during a video conferencing training session. Businesses have been able to offer job orientations and training to future employees as part of career preparation activities.

Virtual Field Trips

Aquariums, zoos, museums, libraries, hospitals and other facilities have been able to offer tours or specific programs for students. When distance, cost or time factors are deterrents to students taking a field trip to a location which would enhance their study, virtual field trips can often be arranged.

Team Learning & Teaching

Teaching teams made up of students and teachers can be formed to provide experiences for those on the team. Much can be learned from those living in a different area or possessing content expertise. Presentations from various locations made by the teams can be enhanced with the newer features available in some of the video conferencing packages.

Student Competitions

Spelling Bees, Trivia Challenges or other types of student contests and competitions can be held on-line allowing students to compete with those from other areas. This could even be a culminating team activity to test or review the information collected during collaborative projects.

Working with teachers is rewarding as they embrace learning.  I hope that lots of educators get to work with this unique technology that truly adds great value to teaching and learning.