Talk to and write with a well-known author. Visit the zoo and learn about endangered species. Immerse yourself in Mardi Gras tradition with students and teachers who live in New Orleans. Travel to the White House. Or to an ancient Roman villa. Or even to China.
All from the comfort of your classroom or computer lab.
Though this sounds like an ad for a travel agency (or maybe just a teacher’s dream field-trip list), all of this can be accomplished through the power of video conferencing: a tool relatively new to our school, yet incredibly useful in expanding the classroom beyond the confines of its physical walls.
Video conferencing for a more connected classroom
When I think about what it means to be a connected educator, my mind begins to wonder what I can do to better myself as a learner and a teacher by networking with fellow teachers. How can I share in and contribute to the collective knowledge base they have to offer? So I’m stepping out here with my contribution about video conferencing — and I hope you’ll share back. Just leave a comment below!
My urge to share also grows out of my wondering about how the knowledge and relationships I develop as a connected professional can assist me in cultivating connected students — connected learners. We are more knowledgeable, powerful and successful together, as one collaborative community of educators, than we are alone. If we believe this holds true for teachers, why not afford this kind of opportunity for shared learning to our students?
This is where video conferencing comes in. With seemingly endless options for connecting and learning with experts, professionals, and other students and teachers, this internet-dependent tool gives our students the ability to learn from someone other than their teacher (yet another way to ditch the Sage on the Stage routine) and also to show and share what they know with students from other parts of the country and the world.
Through live video experiences, students are able to gain insight into particular areas of study. They can have real-time, face-to-face interactions with those who know the topic best. They practice social skills by being encouraged to interact politely and professionally with those they encounter during a video conference. And they learn how to prepare for a virtual meeting in ways that help them make a good impression and perform as knowledgeable teachers for their audience.
Above all, students come to recognize that they and their friends and young people in their physical community are not the only learners in the world. There are other students out thereâ€”encountering the same material, facing the same challenges, growing up in the same time as they are. They discover that learning can take place in spaces that do not include whiteboards and desks and textbooks and tests. And they see that teachers can be of any ageâ€”from a wide-eyed second grader to an eighty-year-old war veteranâ€” all offering lessons that may very well be more valuable than anything they might find in their science or history book.
So, how do I get going?
With the proper equipment and connectivity (ours is powered by Polycom), students and teachers can take part in video conferencing opportunities found in a variety of places. MAGPI offers several programs that span grade levels and content areas from cookies with Santa to reading story books about sharks to learning about the Civil War. Content-focused programs, academic classes, and classroom collaborations, all able to be filtered by area of study and grade level, are accessible through the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration. Publishers may stage live webinars with popular children’s authors (here’s an example from last May).
Google is an effective way to search for prepared programs or for teachers who are looking for other classrooms with which to collaborate. And Skype is invaluable for connecting with teachers and students from around the world to share and learn together. Several teachers on Twitter will also tweet invitations or requests to connect with classes regarding a particular book, lesson, or unit that is being studied. To find global connection opportunities, try following the #globaled hashtag.
As always, start small
Video conferencing can seem a daunting task, what with the equipment set-up, the possible connectivity issues, and the potential nervousness that may ensue from “meeting” students, teachers, or professionals you have never seen before. But, as with all things technology in the classroom, it is important to start small and work your way toward more complex opportunities.
Contact a teacher in your district or a colleague you know in another state. Arrange for your classes to “meet” during a video conference if only just to introduce themselves and share what they did over Christmas break. Leverage your school and local community to find parents who have video conferencing equipment at work and would be willing to use it to share what they do. Ask local professionals (news anchors, meteorologists, librarians, government officials, clergy, or even educational administrators) who can speak to your class and answer their questions.
Most of all, share your experiences with other teachers, parents, and school administration in an effort to strengthen the connective threads that video conferencing spins to weave an enriched, genuine, wall-less learning environment.
Help me make this post more useful
2nd photo: Langwitches blog
Latest posts by Stephanie Bader (see all)
- Video Conferencing from Your Classroom - September 13, 2012
- Opening the Curtain on Lurking - May 18, 2012
Greetings from another 4th grade teacher! I teach at an independent school in Virginia, and LOVE connecting my students as well. We might have to get our classes working on a project together! 🙂
I think it’s so important for our students to recognize the endless opportunities that connected learning brings. I have used Skype for the most part, but am thrilled to check out the resources you’ve provided here.
A couple of “new” opportunities I just found:
1. Yellowstone National Park Rangers can Skype with Classrooms! Classrooms can Skype with a park ranger in Yellowstone National Park to learn more about geology (geysers, hot springs, volcanos), ecology (wildlife–bears, bison, wolves, elk, etc.; fire), or cultural history (Native American, world’s 1st national park, tourism, etc.). Students can interview a park ranger or try to guess what park the ranger is from.
2. Taylor Swift “Read Every Day” live webcast on Wed. October 24th – http://www.scholastic.com/readeveryday/taylor-swift-live-webcast.htm?eml=Corp/e/20120913///TaylorWebcast//////&ym_MID=1436736&ym_rid=10419916
Hope these are useful to you – Catch up with me on Twitter @pattigrayson and maybe we can get our kids to talk to each other about connected learning. I love that we are making the world smaller every day… 🙂
Thanks for a great post – It’s good to see you here at “Voices”!
I would like to program a videoconferencing session with ur students and mine, I work at a private school in Monterrey, Mexico.
If you agree we can do that whenever you want.
Thanks and hope to hear from you soon.
Ms Betty Valdez
Patti, you know you’re the one who gave me that extra push I needed to get started on Voices 😉
Thank you for your reply. I am excited to hear that you are an avid Skype user; I predominantly use our video conferencing equipment or my tv-computer connection for webcasts, but I would love to take advantage of Skype and the quick, easy connections to offer. Perhaps my first time using it in my classroom could be to connect with you and your 4th graders!
Thank you for sharing the new opportunities you discovered. I will definitely have to share the Yellowstone Park resource with our social studies and science teachers. We are signing up for the Taylor Swift webcast as well. I find Scholastic offers so many great opportunities and they are all simple, yet powerful connections. I appreciate that they archive the webcasts to watch later in the event your schedule does not permit you to participate live. We are signed up for the Scholastic J.K. Rowling Harry Potter Book Club webcast on Thursday, October 11th: http://hpread.scholastic.com/ My students are willing to give up their recess to participate in this one!
I will certainly connect with you on Twitter; I’m @stephpbader. I think it would be a great opportunity for our students to “meet,” for us to connect our learning dots with those around the country and the world!
Posts about video conferencing always catch my eye! I teach in a really neat project in which three classrooms in different communities in one school district connect via video conferencing for an hour or so four days per week. We have three face to face fieldtrips a year, and we also share a collaborative moodle site. There isn’t a lot out there about video conferencing other than the how-to’s (equipment, etc.) so its always interesting to see what others are doing with this game-changing tech in the classroom.
You may want to check out our collaborative blog (looked after by the teachers from the three sites) here – http://elementaryconnectedclassrooms.blogspot.ca/ – if you want to read more.
Errin, thank you so much for reading and replying. I can feel your enthusiasm for connected learning, especially through video conferencing, in your post. I took a look at your site and I am blown away at the interactions your students have and the caliber of work they are doing together. What an inventive idea. I am envious that your students are able to connect to one another so often.
Though our equipment is limited to our computer lab, which sometimes can pose scheduling difficulties, I am encouraged by your project to increase my students’ connections with other students in our diocese. To me, it is so important that they have the opportunity to learn with and from one another.
I am bookmarking your site and would like to keep up to date on the things you are doing with your project. Thank you for sharing with us!
Steph, thanks for a great piece on video conferences. Sadly, my district doesn’t have the tools to make this type of conferencing happen, but I’m trying differently ways to still get my kids connected.
The obvious first choice is Sykpe, but I’m finding myself frustrated with that as well. The only computer that I have access to with Skype is my teacher computer – not allowed to be downloaded on to our student computers. In order to share the audio and video of Skype with my class, my computer needs to stay at my desk due to the approximately 2 inch long cables that connect to our hard-wired projector and audio system (okay, I may be exaggerating just a bit on the length, but it really does seem like 2 inches some days!). I’ve done Mystery Skypes in the past where our partner classes had several different teams of kids doing different jobs so not everybody needed to have access to the computer. But especially when trying to connect with an expert, I want my entire class to be able to interact, but with no other resources I’m stuck with one child at a time walking over, speaking to our friend, and limited interaction with the rest of the group.
I would love to hear more from you and others who are doing video conferencing – did you write a grant to get your equipment and the MAGPI membership? Did it come from the diocese? And for those who have had the same Skype issues as me, I’d love to hear some work around that people figured out.
Thanks again for making me think more about something I would REALLY like to do with my kids!
Becky, thank you for your reply. We are fortunate to have our equipment and I know the expense and connectivity requirements make it difficult for schools out there to use video conferencing itself. Skype is a great option and I always hear excellent things about teachers who use it with their students. I would love to learn more about Mystery Skype and other ways that you have used it in your room. (Perhaps we could do a #4thchat on how we connect our students sometime!)
I am unable to use Skype as frequently as I’d like because the computer in my classroom is not equipped for it. We are capable of using it in the computer lab–and our tech coordinator is incredibly flexible with her schedule so that teachers can utilize what we have–but it is certainly limiting at times.
I am not sure how we acquired our equipment or our MAGPI subscription, but I will find out or ask our tech coordinator to come and comment here to offer more insight on that topic. She knows far more about this than I–fortunately, I just get to reap the benefits of her efforts!
Always enjoy hearing from you and learning from you!
Becky, Stephanie asked me to pass on info to you on how we aquired our video conferencing equipment and membership to MAGPI. Our diocese along with the IU wrote a grant for high speed Internet, all the equipments needed for that, routers, etc, along with video conferencing equipment, and some other great additions for any school in the diocese that wanted to join in the grant. Many of us did take advantage and I know our school is very happy we did! We got an incredible amount of resources through the grant. We do not pay for MAGPI,you should be able to get a log in and access the resources by going to the site.
My wife is a first grade teacher and uses the videoconferencing equipment to cover the social studies standard on communities. She has prepared a PowerPoint template that she shares with other schools around the country to which her first grade class is connecting. Her class use the file to tell about their community and the other school uses it to tell about their community. It’s neat to see the first graders presenting.
Here at the Kentucky Academy of Technology Education (KATE) we have developed several videoconference programs that we present to school around Kentucky. We also support schools in Kentucky who are interested in getting into videoconferencing.
Portions of the equipment is e-rate eligible. So if you are a high free/reduced lunch school you should have your technology director check into it. If you have any questions you can find our contact information of our web site at: http://kate.murraystate.edu.
Ron, thank you for sharing your resources with us. I love the idea of having a template to share with others; that definitely streamlines the process of preparing for the presentation and lets the other teacher know exactly what kind of information you expect them to have ready. I think that is perfect for elementary students as well as for teachers who are just starting with video conferencing as it provides some structure.
I took a look at your web site and cannot wait to explore it more. What great work you are doing. Your resources page is invaluable! Thank you once again for sharing your experiences with video conferencing with us.
Ron–Carrie (see comment below) was interested in the templates your wife uses with her 1st graders. If she is willing to share, could you help her out with a resource or a description of the PP template? Thank you!
I would suggest you check out a few sites, if you haven’t already – CILC – http://www.cilc.org and CAPspace – http://projects.twice.cc
Both of these sites are wonderful resources! Also, you might want to join ISTE and become a member of the special interest group for Interactive Video Conferencing (SIGIVC)! We will be offering some great professional development about videoconferencing throughout the year as well as a book study!
Let me know if there is anything I help with as i coordinate videoconferencing for approximately 20 school districts in the Syracuse, NY region!
Amy, it was great to connect with you on Twitter and thank you for sharing out your resources here for all to take part. We use CILC at our school, but I will certainly add CAPspace to the list and forward that to our Technology Coordinator. I was excited to read all about SIGIVC and have already talked to our Tech. Coordinator about it. It looks like a fantastic way to get connected and you are certainly an invaluable resource for us.
Just wondering where I can find the templates mentioned for preparing your class for conferencing. Would love to try this as all of my students have an iPad this year. Don’t know where to begin with video conferencing.
Carrie, you may want to be in touch with Ron (he commented above) about the templates. He mentioned that his wife uses them with her 1st graders; I have never used a template before, but it sounds like a wonderful idea to give the students (especially the younger ones) and teachers a structure to prepare for a conference.
As far as getting started, Skype may be a good option with the iPad if you have internet access for your students. If your school has a Polycom (or other type) of video conferencing unit, that can be used for video conferencing as well. Searching for opportunities using the resources listed in my post as well as from those who supplied them in the comments based on your grade level and a particular area of study would be a good place to start. Using Google always works great as well.
At a workshop yesterday, I was made aware of a resource for Skyping with authors. The address is skypeanauthor.wetpaint.com. There is an A-Z listing of authors who are willing to Skype (for free!) for 15 minutes. Beyond that, a cost is negotiable with the individual author. I have just started exploring, but that may be a neat, simple place to start.
I would be happy to talk further about it with you and help you get started. And I hope others who are reading these comments will give their advice as well. Maybe our classes could even connect? You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @stephpbader.
For educators interested in this most engaging story, you might be interested in my book: Videoconferencing for K-12 Classrooms, published by the International Society for Technology in Education in 2004 and 2009:
I am hearing more and more about ISTE these days and making more connections with those directly involved with ISTE since writing this post. While it was something I knew about, I have never become a member. However, I can see that there are some great resources to take advantage of, including your book. Thank you for sharing with us. I am certainly considering becoming an ISTE member, especially to take part in the video conferencing connections and opportunities that Amy mentioned above.
SIGIVC is looking at doing a book study of your book this year! Would love to connect with you! Message me on twitter at @AmySpath.
I enjoyed this post. Video is a powerful medium. I have colleagues who are using Adobe Connect for poetry read a louds with a partner school in Iowa and issue discussions between our students and students in Palestine.
I used Adobe Connect to run an on line summer course on US History. I had students in China and Italy as well as closer to home come together on Thursday evenings for class discussion.
When video conferencing tools aren’t available there is always asynchronous discussion. Our students recently posed questions to an author on her Facebook page and she responded to them over the course of the day. Our high schoolers felt this was meaningful, provocative and cool. Our guest author was able to fit us into her schedule without having to travel to us. The other advantages to asynchronous is that you don’t have to deal with time in the same way. In the last example 120 students in 8 classes were able to participate without consuming the author’s day or requiring an in house field trip.
Great article. RHUB (www.rhubcom.com) web-video conferencing appliance has a very interesting feature i.e. Multipoint video conferencing and free audio conferencing, wherein, the system allows up to four webcams to join a video conference and all participants in a meeting can attend an audio conference and get land-line quality. It is free and integrated.
Audio conferencing happens to be a technology that allows communication to happen between two or more persons who may be positioned at locations whose distance may vary from the next living room to another country or continent, and in the space setting, to a space station circulating the earth. The audio conferencing technology makes use of units similar to phones or computing applications.;
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With elementary school students, the assistive technology options may be simpler than ones given to high school students.
Instead of talking to eachother; people are texting instant messages back and forth over a cellular frequency.
The thought of being bored is unthinkable, and often tantrums ensue to protest mom’s request that they put their iphone away for dinner.