Imagine how excited your students would be to come to class if they knew they’d be spending the period collaborating with a group of their peers from France, attending a festival in Brazil, or touring the Smithsonian. While budget cuts have made even nearby field trips a thing of the past in many districts, interactive videoconferencing (IVC) systems can provide students with new experiences and take them to places they would otherwise never be able to go. Schools can also use IVC systems to connect students with subject-area experts from around the world, record and transmit distance-learning courses, and provide teachers with professional development and conference experiences sans travel expenses.
IVC’s primary use is to transmit audio and video signals between two or more sites in real time. The technology runs the gamut from state-of-the-art “telepresence” systems that can connect up to 10 sites with multiple widescreen displays, several highdefinition (HD) cameras that track speakers through pressure mats on the floor, and a touch-screen remote control—a setup that can run anywhere from $25,000 to $350,000—to a simple set-top standard-definition (SD) camera with a single microphone and a codec (a signal decoder that converts analog signals to digital and vice versa).
Here we focus on roomsized base systems priced $9,000–$18,000 that include a codec, camera, microphone(s), and wireless remote. You will also need at least one TV, monitor, or interactive whiteboard to use as a display. For the K–12 setting, other useful add-ons include a document camera to scan and transmit slides or printed documents, a projector, and a DVD player, all of which can be plugged into the systems you see here to share documents or video clips with other collaborators alongside the audiovisual from the main camera. If it’s in the budget, you may want to add individual student cameras for a more student-centered experience. You can permanently mount these systems in a designated classroom or attach them to a mobile cart to move from one classroom to another or from school to school within a district.
For more information about setting up and using IVC systems in the classroom, check out ISTE’s newly released book, Videoconferencing for K–12 Classrooms (Second Edition) by Camille Cole, Kecia Ray, and Jan Zanetis (www.iste.org/vidco2).
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