Video conferencing is a powerful tool to improve the classroom experience for millions of students. Earlier this year, the Digital Journal profiled several schools utilizing the technology. Many school systems across the country are adopting video conferencing technology to allow experts to talk and interact with students. This lets students move from beyond the textbook to speaking with important figures, top experts, and famous personalities who can help kids engage with content.
One educator in Pennsylvania 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.” Students in classrooms around the globe can also use the technology to engage with each other, providing new perspectives and fresh ideas from the global classroom. Schools in Scotland, Germany, Japan, and South Africa all work to offer video conferencing exchanges. Video conferences between partner schools give students from different cultures a chance to discuss common issues and events, including how they can work together to solve global problems.
Another really great use of video conferencing technology has been in virtual field trips. Scholastic Instructor magazine wrote a profile discussing how “ more schools are using video conferencing to lead virtual field trips to traditional venues, such as museums and zoos, as well as to more exotic realms.” Scholastic provided this vivid example “A volcano on the island of Montserrat is about to explode as a hurricane bears down on the small Caribbean nation. A group of fearless sixth graders is on the case, charged with determining what kind of damage may occur, which health measures to follow, and how to carry out evacuation plans. It’s all in a day’s field trip for students in the Mt. Lebanon School District outside Pittsburgh. The middle schoolers’ adventure takes place without anyone leaving the building, using a videoconferencing system and the services of the Challenger Learning Center at Wheeling Jesuit University. 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.”
More than a third of US schools now regularly use video conferencing in the classroom. The growth in the education sector is set to continue as schools look to expand curriculums while controlling costs. Whatever approach schools take to video conferencing, they seem to agree that achievement goes up when virtual field trips are well-integrated, based on educational standards, and tied tightly to the curriculum. “I’ve learned at each video conference that every child is attentive, engaged, and absorbed in what’s happening,” says one educator. “The most challenged learner, with the most severe special educational needs, is not gazing out the window, but participating. So that is definitely helping their learning.”
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