Videoconferencing is the latest distance learning technology to hit K-12 (elementary and secondary) education. Distance learning in all of its forms—including correspondence courses, Internet, e-mail, radio, phone/fax, instructional television, videotape, and videoconferencing—is helping elementary and high schools across the country bring new, relevant, and expert content into classrooms. Students and teachers are able to work and learn with those who they can only connect with through technology. Distance learning allows students to participate in classes located at a far away school, connect to expert college or government researchers, and converse with others who live in a different culture than their own. High stakes government testing and increased teacher accountability are pushing elementary, middle, and high school teachers to engage students by finding new resources and using innovative techniques in the classroom.
Kindergarten To Grade 12 Applications
Teachers in elementary and secondary schools are using videoconferencing in a variety of classroom applications. The most common use of this technology is taking virtual field trips. Staff at outside educational agencies such as museums, zoos, government agencies, and libraries can teach students across the country and the world. Students can benefit from resources at distant institutions that they could not visit on a school bus. Examples of virtual field trips include a Spanish language program from the Cleveland Museum of Art (n.d.), a discussion with a Holocaust survivor at the Museum of Tolerance (Berrien County Intermediate School District, 2000), a bio-terrorism briefing from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (n.d.), a visit to the veterinary clinic at The Wilds (an endangered wildlife research and conservation park in Ohio) (2003), or an author visit from the California Center for the Book (2001).
Other uses of videoconferencing in elementary, middle, and high schools range from community service projects to collaborative partnerships between schools. Some schools use this technology to provide educational opportunities, such as GED classes, local town meetings, and theatre and music performances, to the greater community. Teachers also use the technology to form team teaching partnerships, extend a student teacher/mentor teacher relationship into the student teacher’s first year of teaching, provide tutoring to students at other schools, and offer unique classes such as AP (Advanced Placement), upper level foreign language, and specialty arts courses across an entire county through the expertise of a single teacher. For example, Clermont County, a rural county in southwest Ohio, has used videoconferencing to offer American Sign Language, Japanese, and German across multiple school districts (Geer, 1996).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Distance Learning: A learning situation where teacher and student are separated geographically; communication can be synchronous or asynchronous.
Post-Secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO): Courses offered by colleges and universities that students can take while still in high school that count toward college credits.
Videoconferencing: A synchronous audio-visual connection where two or more geographically separated parties can see and hear each other, which usually involves a TV and/or computer, speakers, microphones, and one or more cameras; a video phone.
K-12: Kindergarten through Grade 12.
Asynchronous Communication: Communication that does not occur in real time (e.g., e-mail, letters, and telegrams).
K-16: Kindergarten through undergraduate degree.
Synchronous Communication: Communication that occurs in real time (e.g., phone calls, videoconferencing, face-to-face and instant messaging).