Thursday, March 13, 2008

Do You IVC (Interactive Videoconference)?

Videoconferencing is a great tool for bringing experts in almost any field into classrooms. Fiction authors can field questions about the writing or publishing process, researchers can demonstrate and discuss their work, and university faculty can bring the depth of their expertise to the elementary, middle or high school classroom. On Education World, Lorrie Jackson interviews an expert on the use of videoconferencing in education who points out the many benefits of videoconferencing in the classroom and offers tips for teachers using it for the first or twentieth time.

That expert, Jan Zanetis, is the former director of the Virtual School @ Vanderbilt University and co-wrote Videoconferencing for K-12 Classrooms: A Program Development Guide, published in 2004. For Zanetis, videoconferencing must be interactive and she uses the term Interactive Videoconferencing (IVC). Zanetis says that the "power of IVC is that students are able to question and dialogue with people and resources that would otherwise be unavailable due to distance and time." Students must also be prepared for the specific IVC session which may involve research and/or problem-solving proper videoconferencing etiquette. These preparatory activities not only motivate and involve students but teach many skills that are best learned in a project-based manner.

The Virtual School @ Vanderbilt creates videoconferencing programs for K-12 classrooms across the country using Vanderbilt faculty and staff, and sometimes community members, as presenters. Teachers can search a catalog of programs and specific videoconferencing sessions. (Schools are charged a per-videoconference fee.) These sessions can be powerful learning tools, and not just in regards to content or facts. Zanetis mentions a specific example from the "Witnesses and Voices of the Holocaust" videoconferencing series:
One of the most touching videoconferences we had was when we first ran our Holocaust Survivors series. Mira Kimmelman, a sweet and gentle woman in her late eighties, spoke with students in six schools about her experience in Auschwitz. Although Mira's story lasted almost an hour, those elementary and middle school students sat still and did not make a sound. Following her talk, the students took turns asking her questions about Nazis, the war, her family…
The Virtual School also offers Career Conversations, videoconferences with professionals who discuss their fields, career choices, paths and challenges. The Black History Month series includes a session with Rhythm and Roots, Vanderbilt's student dance and drama troupe. The full catalog can be accessed at the homepage.

Zanetis says teachers don't need computers to do IVC. A television, videoconferencing camera and a connection -- either through telephone line or an IP -- are all a teacher needs to get started. Planning is even more important; teachers need time to find content and IVC participants, email addresses, schedules, and alternative plans in case something goes wrong at the last minute or midway through an IVC session. She also adds that IVC should be "just another teaching tool in your repertoire. Do not build your lesson with IVC in mind, use it as the 'spice' in an existing lesson, a way to make something special happen that otherwise wouldn't."

It is helpful to look at how other teachers have been or are using IVC in their lesson plans. Education World is one site that has regular features about teaching with technology and specific lesson plans or summaries of IVC in the classroom.

SOURCE: "Videoconferencing Deserves a Second Look" 02/08/08
photo courtesy of Kai Hendry, used under this Creative Commons license

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