In the days of the little red schoolhouse, lessons were limited by the breadth of knowledge imparted by the schoolteacher with the help of a few precious schoolbooks. In today’s high tech world, video conferencing for schools has created unlimited learning potential for students in traditional schools, universities, and for those who are home schooled.

With video conferencing for schools, students and teachers can take virtual field trips, communicate with field experts, and collaborate with students in other schools to share projects and ideas. Similar to a face-to-face meeting, video conferencing in the twenty-first century provides clear images, sound and the ability to connect with people and experiences around the world. 

Global Outreach for Students

Several weeks after a devastating earthquake hit Haiti, high school students from New Orleans were given the opportunity to join a live meeting with students from the New American School in Port-au-Prince. The students shared frightening experiences, messages of hope, and a few good laughs as they bonded over a video conference set up by the Global Nomads Group.

Founded in 1998, the Global Nomads Group utilizes interactive educational tools to enable students to learn about and discuss global issues. All programs are linked to school curricula, and are accompanied by lesson plans and training for teachers. Topics include social and global studies, geography, world history, science, economics and politics. In the decade plus since their founding, Global Nomads has connected one million students in more than 40 countries and won awards from Goldman Sachs Foundation and the U.S. Distance Learning Association.

Chris Flutte, co-founder of the Global Nomads Group, set up the New Orleans-Haiti meeting to give the students a chance to connect with others who had similar experiences of loss during the natural disasters they experienced, and to build empathy and sensitivity. The success of the meeting was apparent by the closing comment of one of the New Orleans students, “We’ll still be thinking about y’all years from now.”

Video lectureManaging the Cost of Video Conferencing for Schools

Many schools are enhancing the video conferencing experience by adding whiteboards and laptops to classrooms to create a more interactive, hands-on lesson while conferencing. The cost of new equipment and maintaining video conferencing systems can be quite high, but federal funding and savings realized in other areas help to defray the cost of video conferencing in schools.

London’s Engayne Primary has saved the equivalent of thousands of dollars each year since they implemented video conferencing in their school by reducing the need for travel, hotel rooms, and substitute teaching for missed classroom time. They estimated a savings of 2,700 miles annually, as well as sixty-six hours of teaching time for staff members by utilizing video conferencing for board and mentor meetings.

Since 1997, more than $17 billion in e-rate funds have been distributed by the U.S. government for telecommunication services in schools and libraries. IVCi, a leading integrator of collaboration solutions, is one of several companies approved for E-rate funding. IVCi’s IntelliNet and similar conferencing solutions providers offer schools video conferencing systems, equipment, services and support.

Several videoconferencing companies offer assistance with locating grants to help fund video conferencing for schools. At Cisco, Tandberg’s grant services team will help to procure funding and grant-writing resources, and secure stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In the Crown Point community in Indiana, a top rated school system, teachers from various schools in the district come together in virtual meetings set up by AT&T Connect to collaborate on curriculum issues, hear speakers and meet with colleagues at other locations. According to surveys circulated among the Crown Point staff, the only thing teachers missed in these meetings were the donuts – but cutting calories while cutting costs can only be a good thing.

Taking Video Conferencing to a Higher Level

At Duke University, the Fuqua School of Business was the first to use Cisco Telepresence in higher education. They installed a videoconferencing system in one of their lecture halls to bring worldwide experts to the classroom without the challenge of scheduling conflicts and the high cost and carbon footprint of frequent travels.

In Canada, the Wilfred Laurier University received funding for a video conferencing program that will connect their students with those studying at Ghana’s Ashesi University. Lise Pedersen, manager of programs and services at Laurier, said the opportunity will strengthen ties with Africa and fit with an academic plan of global citizenship, social justice, and enabling students to gain a broader, more diverse perspective.

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Photo: BierDoctor/Flickr