Using Videoconferencing in the Classroom

       New technologies such as videoconferencing bring new ways for teachers to work with students and encourage the development of strategies more consistent with the emerging technology. Although the use of videoconferencing is fairly new to the classroom there are numerous ways which creative educators have already found to use this new medium. Videoconferencing is an interactive communication medium which lets students and teachers have a visual connection to those they are working with whether they are down the hall, across the street or on the other side of the globe. With the introduction of low cost conferencing systems, which permit the use of inexpensive cameras and low cost or free software such as the Cornell version of CU-SeeMe, videoconferencing will be in the hands of even more educators as the Internet becomes more available in the school setting.

       There are many ways that videoconferencing might be used in a classroom. Below are some of ways that it has already been successfully used.

Project work or research collaborations among classes allow those in different locations to share a visual connection even when a face-to-face visit may not be feasible. Groups from locations around the world can now work together, adding a dimension beyond a text based or e-mail project.

Sharing or informal chats
Showing projects, sharing books read or reading original written pieces can be the basis for rich communication and the formation of relationships between learners or between learners and those mentoring them.

Reporting news
Videoconferencing can be used to show current events as they happen. Eclipses, cyberevents and celebrations such as those which take place during National Science Foundation's Science and Technology Week, and NASA space flights have been broadcast for others to view.

Planning projects or future events with those in distant locations has been successfully done using videoconferences. Teachers and students can meet to plan their work, a conference, lesson or to touch base on progress towards a goal. Meeting to plan workshops for teachers or to plan with a business partner or university student teacher can all be done via this medium as well. Teachers can form a teaching team with remote teachers and plan lessons or even mentor another teacher during the planning process.

Guest Experts
Scientists, politicians or those with special expertise have been able to visit with students in their classrooms without ever leaving their office. Videoconferencing can give students access to people they might not otherwise have been able to interact with. Distance is no longer a factor in being able to hold a meeting, conduct a panel discussion, meet with an author or receive feed back on a science project from an expert.

Guest Visitors
Costumed guests representing a specific historical or literary figure have been able to interact with students and role-play their character through a presentation and question-answer session. Using videoconferencing in this way adds another level of interaction to an activity which in the past has been successfully conducted through e-mail.

Students and teachers have been able to learn to use new software or techniques during videoconferences. Even learning to navigate the Internet or create a web page can be done during a videoconferencing training session. Businesses have been able to offer job orientations and training to future employees as part of career preparation activities.

Virtual Field Trips
Aquariums, zoos, museums, libraries, hospitals and other facilities have been able to offer tours or specific programs for students. When distance, cost or time factors are deterrents to students taking a field trip to a location which would enhance their study, virtual field trips can often be arranged.

Team Learning and Teaching
Teaching teams made up of students and teachers can be formedto provide experiences for those on the team. Much can be learned from those living in a different area or possessing content expertise. Presentations from various locations made by the teams can be enhanced with the newer features available in some of the videoconferencing packages.

Student Competitions
Spelling Bees, Geography Bees, Trivia Challenges or other types of student contests and competitions can be held on-line allowing students to compete with those from other areas. This could even be a culminating team activity to test or review the information collected during collaborative projects.

[Introduction] [Planning] [Preparing] [Resources] [Class Use]

1998 Carla Schutte, Technology Specialist at Moton Elementary School November, 1998