Video Teleconferencing Meets K-12 Challenges Head-On
Ask a teacher what his or her biggest challenge is in the classroom, odds are you’ll hear one of two things, if not both: engaging and motivating students and meeting the individual learning needs of all students. Ask a superintendent his or her most pressing dilemmas, you will almost certainly hear the b-word: “budget.”
“These are the kinds of things that teachers consistently identify as the hardest part of their jobs and as things that are important to them,” says Doug Meyer, a consultant for the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC). The CILC is a not-for-profit organization in Indianapolis that provides consulting and training in video teleconferencing (VTC), integration, problem-based learning projects, school-community partnerships and effective techniques for the delivery and development of quality programs all focused on VTC. Last year, ENA and the CILC partnered to offer districts professional development over VTC with the ability to access CILC’s catalog of nearly 200 providers from around the world of K–12 standards-aligned content.
According to Meyer—and a growing number of educators that are using it—VTC can get right at the heart of both engagement and differentiated instruction. Unfortunately, many educators and administrators mistakenly believe that effectively using VTC is a difficult, time-consuming and pricey proposition. Rather, say he and his colleagues, educators should look further into it and realize it is a small investment that reaps large, long-lasting dividends.
Same strategies, only better results
Learning to use VTC effectively is not difficult, assures Meyer, and well worth the small investment of time. These are the cognitive steps he asks his students—educators learning to use VTC via VTC, naturally—to take (incidentally, these follow the sequence of training sessions he does for CILC):
1. VTC is really nothing new. “As teachers, we’ve done it for years,” says Meyer. “All we’re doing is inviting a guest speaker into the classroom.”
2. Just try it. Chances are you’ll love it. “Our hope and goal after the introductory session is that each and every time a teacher sits down and considers something new in their curriculum, they’ll automatically seek out a resource like CILC to see what’s available in the world of VTC.”
3. Your same strategies, only better results. Meyer says when teachers combine VTC with the strategies they already use every day, the result is active learning, differentiated instruction, and enhanced engagement and motivation. It’s not just 45 minutes with the Smithsonian. It’s 45 minutes of rich content couched within the teacher’s own lesson. “Teachers aren’t giving up their strategy or role in student learning, but piggybacking their teaching with VTC to give the experience more value.”
4. Connecting the multi-disciplinary dots. Let’s say you’re an English teacher, says Meyer, and you’re reading Huckleberry Finn. The novel is chock full of social and historical issues. So now you bring in a sociologist or historian via VTC. Or maybe you discuss the issue with a class studying African American history or social justice. The opportunities for collaboration and problem-based learning are enormous. Once a teacher leads a class down this path, he bets VTC is no longer a “one and done” proposition.
As for the belief that VTC is inherently expensive, ENA is prepared to change minds on that. Just this year ENA has rolled out its own ENA Video Connect VTC solution, which makes use of the computer equipment customers already own, utilizing the network they use daily, while giving them quite powerful conferencing and collaboration features in the bargain. To learn more about ENA Video Connect, click here.
Demand for VTC is on a steep rise
Monica Cougan, CILC’s director of Business Development and also a former teacher, says she has seen more interest in VTC in the past 18 months than she has seen in all of her 12 years with the center. To explain it, she points to variety of factors: a growing awareness of these technologies brought about by the media and students themselves; an economy that has cut budgets and forced schools to look for more cost-effective instructional and operational strategies; and finally, a mounting crisis in education that is compelling districts to look for new ways to reach their students and give them the skills they need for success.
“I think we’ve gotten to a tipping point where parents and students are saying we need something different in our schools, we need a different approach,” says Cougan. “Technology is leading the way … We’re getting closer and closer to students being in control of their own learning. Where they are not sitting and getting but driving their own learning, solving problems and preparing for work and life. VTC is one of those avenues that’s allowing students to do that.”
To learn more about VTC and its ability to foster problem-based, student-driven, multi-disciplinary learning, read the entire article.