When thinking about enhancing the learning experiences of students, traveling outside the classroom has been an interesting possibility. With the financial situation of our schools in mind, field trips that were so important in the past might not be a reality due to the limited funding available. One alternative might be to take advantage of technology in the form of videoconferencing.
Videoconferencing is a simultaneous, two-way, interactive communication with video and audio. It requires anything from basic equipment of a webcam, microphone, and speakers to more advanced systems such as a Polycom. Imagine the excitement of the students as they visit with the author of their current book study. Think of the questions students would generate as they prepare for an interview with someone from England to gain the countries perspective on the American Revolution, or discuss cultural traditions with students from China.
Videoconferencing is a way to make these possibilities come true. It can introduce students to professionals and other classrooms in a way they hadn’t imagined before. It opens up unlimited opportunities to go beyond the classroom walls to connect with experts and develop global awareness. When students formulate questions or interact globally, their minds and imagination are stretched in new and exciting ways. Their interest and motivation often increases and a renewed curiosity of learning can be sparked.
With the variety of free online tools available for communication, videoconferencing may be easier than ever before. One of the many sites that offer free videoconferencing capabilities that take advantage of the webcam, microphone, and speakers is Skype.
So, how do you go about finding these experts and classrooms? There are many resources available to find and assist in the setup of a video conference. If you are interested in partnering with another classroom you might first try posting to the eMINTS discussion list to find other eMINTS classrooms. There are also many sites that provide directories and projects such as the ones listed below:
- Skype for Educators
- Skype in Schools
- Skype other Classrooms
- Skype and Author Network
- Videoconferencing Out on a Lim (Offers a lot of resources for connecting with Skype conferences)
- Videoconferencing Projects
- Global Schools
Even though many video conferences are free, be sure to read all the details carefully to make sure what procedures and possible expenses may be involved with the conference.
If a more sophisticated system is something you are interested in, one system that is worth looking at is a Polycom system. Although many of the directories and conferences associated with a polycom system often has a fee, the Polycom site does offer a list of 391 free video conferences.
For more thoughts and ideas on the use of videoconferencing in the classroom, take a look at Videoconferencing with Elementary School Students and Making Video-Conferencing More Than Just Cool.
Videoconferencing can be an incredible experience for both teachers and students as they travel beyond the classroom walls without leaving the building. Maybe it’s time to give video conferencing a try and let the adventure begin
Terri Brines is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.
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