I’ve had a few conversations with colleagues over the summer about the use of videoconferencing in our respective areas. I’ve noticed that sometimes we judge each other’s use of videoconferencing against our own. Yet some educational service agencies focus more on course delivery or shared classes; others focus primarily on curriculum content from sources such as international and local classrooms, zoos & museums, guest speakers and authors.
Do you think that one educational service agency can effectively support multiple uses of videoconferencing: professional development, meetings, curriculum content, course delivery etc. Is it possible to do all types of VC well & to capacity?
Does it matter if one county (or region or state) uses videoconferencing primarily for one type of videoconferencing? Or should we all be trying to do all of them?
Or is what really matters the needs of the districts we serve? Some need course delivery and others don’t. Some have flexible curriculum and scheduling to access videoconference curriculum content and others have a more rigid curriculum/schedule that doesn’t allow for creative teaching with videoconferencing. What do our districts need?
What do YOU think? Is one use of videoconferencing better than another? Is your state sending a message of prioritizing a type of VC use over another? Is that a good thing? What do you think? Please comment!
Good question Janine – I don’t think one use of videoconferencing is better than another. It’s horses for courses.
However, I think that any use that is interactive is a richer learning experience. Yes – there is a place for an expert to be delivering a one-way ‘lecture’ to a large group. But I hope this wouldn’t be to the same group too often & that it is supported by other means of interaction & dialogue eg an online discussion forum, blog, wiki etc.
I wonder why some places are prioiritising – is it for educational reasons or, as I suspect, financial ones. Is the number of videoconference facilities limited & therefore a ranking process has to take place?
Let’s be creative – there are a whole host of applications for videoconferencing that we haven’t even tried yet. Go forth & go crazy 😉
Interesting pondering…I know that when we submitted our numbers in Texas and I asked about if we should note how many of the “electronic field trips” were ones that we were moderating/coordinating/or delivering content and I was told, “… ESCs don’t get brownie points or have expectations to provide student content.”
So…in TX there is more of a push toward using our videoconferencing equipment and networks for high school classes. We have just implemented the 4 x 4 curriculum in high schools and the small districts are going to need assistance to meet the 4 math/4 science requirements, so I suspect we will be pushed more into the traditional usage of videoconferencing equipment.
In our districts, we are building higher utilization in elementary and middle schools after three sections of JAZZ. I think I will definitely know more after this year and what our numbers show.
We are feeling a bit pulled because we have built up our projects and collaborations so well, but now are getting more administrative directives toward classes and that is not our area of expertise, but if it uses the same equipment, we are expected to be proficient.
You know me…the routine seems boring…I am always looking for a new way to connect younger students and get them hooked into school and into the larger world.
You’ve posed a very thought provoking question. Having been involved in video conferencing for a number of years and trying to get teachers in a very large area to use it in their classrooms I found your question quite relevant at this time as I’m trying to figure out how I can support my customers this year.
To the question about whether one ESC can effectively support multiple uses of video conferencing my response is that it depends on a number of factors:
– Size of the service territory
– Number of schools involved
– How active the IVC customers are
– How large the ESC staff is that supports IVC
ESC’s can certainly support the use of video conferencing but schools and teachers must take ownership of the equipment and process if real tangible results are going to take place in education. Too often I feel like I’m having a conversation with myself when I bring up the uses and benefits of interactive video conferencing. In my area most of the equipment was bought with grant money so schools have no dollars invested in the equipment or in the systems that support it (website, programming information, bridging services, etc.) so its easy to keep the units stored in the closet or off in a corner.
The best anyone person can do to support the use of video conferencing in the classroom is to be there when a teacher, media specialist or customer needs assistance with the equipment or some program information. If you take too much responsibility of its use on your shoulders you are going to burn out.
Thanks for the question I’m still not sure what kind of support or new ideas I’m going to try this school year but your question was a good starting point for my planning.
Jerry R. Steuerwald
Distance Learning Specialist
Wilson Education Center
I agree with the comments made by these distingushed educators but I would like to pose a slightly different question then the one Janine put forth. If not us, then who?
We all obviously believe that video conferencing activiities improve the learning of the students we serve. That being said then we, on the regional level, need to find ways to support all of the various possibilities, including shared classes, virtual fieldrips, professional development and collabortive programming. And we need to work with our teachers and administrators to get them to use video conferencing when it makes sense to do so. In other words we need to find out what our districts need and then support and nurture them in developing the answer to that need.
Once that is done and they see the value it is easier (notice I didn’t say easy) to move them to other activities using video conferencing. This makes for some long hard days for those of us on the regional level. But if we don’t do that, who will? If the answer is nobody, then our students are deprived of some wonderful learning opportunities.
We do need to turn over some of these responsibilities to the district and building level when it is time to do so. We can’t constantly be holding hands. But we need to hold hands long enough for these programs to take hold in the building and then move on to the next hand holding assignment.
Arnie, this is such a timely comment. I have been watching the beginning of classes that we are bridging for our schools and those of us that work with videoconferencing daily are comfortable and accustomed to it and sometimes I forget what it felt like to be nervous, unsure, and afraid of the technology.
I appreciated your comment that we do need to hand hold for long enough to get the programs going and then move to the next “hand holding assignment”…whatever that may be.
Jerry, in my service area, the original videoconferencing equipment was bought with grant money and grand promises 🙂 Most of it just collected dust for 5 years or so. Shane and I started building our program three years ago and would start with a school here and there. We visited schools. I told them stories about student projects that I had read on the Internet. I actually trained my first group of teachers before I had even connected with a content provider! (I confessed to the school last year when I did another training for them!) My long-winded point is that in our network we started small, with old equipment and a passion for creating opportunities for students. We have not gotten a RUS grant or anything like that. We order refurb units and let the districts pay them out over two years. We do a lot for our districts, but we have noticed that during the second year of using vc, the buildings begin to want to be more independent which gives us time to work with our “newbies”.
One thing that I am so thankful for is the network of regional coordinators that I have found to share ideas with. I think many regional coordinators feel like they are “having conversations with themselves”. These are the people who understand those “long, hard days”. Thank goodness for the stories and experiences everyone shares.
Don’t know that this comment has moved the conversation forward, but it sums up where I am right now.