V is For Video Conferencing

09/03/2009  | 

From pink slips to pay cuts, educators and school systems across the United States are feeling the pinch in a worsening economy.  The economy is forcing school districts nationwide to implement severe cost-saving measures.

However, the choice to use videoconferencing is not just a matter of dollars, but of good academic sense.  Through videoconferencing applications, students are completing the classes they want and need regardless of their geographic limitations. 

With videoconferencing, students are provided a “virtual window” into a remote location a few miles or thousands of miles away.  A teacher can interact with hundreds of students simultaneously across the globe.  Students can see and hear the teacher and the teacher can see and hear the students, all in real time.  The students can also see all of the other students located anywhere in the world that has videoconferencing.

This level of realism makes it seem as if the teacher is right there in the room with the students. Reducing travel and training costs, increasing decision-making and partnership, and bringing remote students together, videoconferencing is an excellent collaborative medium. Videoconferencing brings students and presenters together, forges successful learning experiences, and gives geographically isolated students the same opportunities as their counterparts in larger municipal school classrooms.

What is video conferencing? Videoconferencing is a communication method that connects people that are in different physical locations with video, audio, and computer technology. Videoconferencing creates an environment that allows students to interact face-to-face with other students and presenters without having to be in the same physical location.

There are two types of videoconferences. A point-to-point videoconference takes place between two separate locations. A multi-point videoconference is interaction between three or more different locations. The possibilities of being able to see and talk with others from multiple different geographic locations all together at one time are tremendous.

What curriculum breakthroughs are possible with this technology-rich environment?  How does videoconferencing technology change the ways in which students learn and ways teachers teach?  How can school systems adapt instruction to meet the needs of 21st century learners to prepare them for a global digital environment?

Using a MCU (video bridge), Vanderbilt Virtual School connects with up to eight other sites across the United States or across the globe.  In the Virtual School studio, we use a touch-control panel that allows students to see content displayed from our computer as well as content from VHS and DVD players, and from the document camera.

Vanderbilt Virtual School matches curriculum needs with national educational standards and links K-12 classrooms to resources beyond their four walls via real-time, interactive videoconferencing.  A widely diverse curriculum is offered throughout the school year, and here are a few examples.

Author/Book Talks and Varied Execptionalities (stories of presenters who are living with disabilities) are videoconference series offered by the Virtual School.

Another powerful series provided by Vanderbilt Virtual School is Witnesses and Voices of the Holocaust, presented by eyewitness Holocaust survivors and liberators.  Witnesses and Voices of the Holocaust offers firsthand accounts from survivors of all kinds — those who lived through the war in hiding, in ghettos, in camps, by escaping, or in active resistance to Nazi rule. This videoconference shows how many Holocaust survivors found their way through unimaginable hardship and suffering to forge new lives of purpose and dignity.

The Career Conversations series gives students the opportunity to meet with experienced professionals who are active in their respected fields to discuss various career paths; what it is like to work in their particular careers; and the rewards, the stresses, and the challenges to overcome. Presenters address prerequisites for a specific career; educational requirements; high school courses to take; day-to-day responsibilities; realistic expectations; and growth and financial opportunities.

Storytellingis a series for students in K-4. Once Upon a Time and long, long ago, this series offers the perfect venue to rekindle the tradition of storytelling. Gifted storytellers, using proven storytelling techniques, draw even the most reluctant readers into a tale during the storytelling videoconference series. Storytelling supports listening, vocabulary, prediction, sequencing, and memory skills. It teaches students about the use of language, narrative form, and values, and storytelling sparks creativity.

These are just a sample of the many topics covered through videoconferencing in Vanderbilt Virtual School. There are many more topics and more videoconference series.  Please join us soon at Vanderbilt Virtual School and explore new horizons with videoconferencing.

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