Collaborate to Educate: Video Conferences in the Classroom
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Many of today’s educators grew up copying notes from a blackboard, trying to read the teacher’s handwriting amidst the swirls of chalk and faint eraser marks leftover from the previous lesson. Younger teachers remember when overhead projectors were installed from the classroom ceilings and PowerPoint presentations lit up projector screens with the shining light of progress.

Blackboards and projectors still have their place in the classroom, but advances in technology continue to add depth to the learning landscape. In particular, digital whiteboards allow teachers to go beyond writing notes and equations for students to copy. When used to its full potential, an interactive whiteboard can provide seemingly endless opportunities to make the day’s lesson plans a little more interesting.

This kind of technology isn’t just limited to select schools anymore. An international education survey from Cambridge International found that in 2018, 33 percent of classrooms utilized digital whiteboards. That figure rose to 59 percent of classrooms when looking at the United States alone. And with the increasing use of tablets and smartphones alongside more traditional education tools, teachers can create a world that some students might not even be able to imagine.

Explore Your Options

A field trip is a great hands-on option for learning. Who doesn’t love piling onto the school bus, brown bag lunch in hand, ready to take off for an adventure? But field trips aren’t always financially or logistically possible to organize. In these situations, virtual tours and video conferences are excellent alternatives. In some ways, a virtual field trip is even better, because you have access to locations and experts from literally anywhere.

Jo-Ann Fox, an instructional coach in California, connected her students with coastal park rangers for an in-depth lesson on protecting marine life. Taking a group of students to just one state park would be a challenge, let alone trying to visit several parks. But taking a different approach to interactive learning and using video conferencing gave the project added meaning.

Students and faculty at Arizona State University use video conferencing software (specifically Zoom) to expand and enhance their online learning initiatives, whether the students are on campus or participating from another location. Other universities have found value in this kind of learning experience as well.

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K-12 teachers benefit from higher education adopting this kind of tech. Classroom teachers can invite professors from local or out-of-state colleges to give guest lectures, giving their students a different way to view a topic. With an interactive whiteboard like the Vibe board, students can take notes during the lecture or pull up web resources that the speaker mentions in the presentation.

People say, “It’s a big world out there.” But beyond reading about other cultures in a world history class or glancing at news headlines on social media, it’s crucial to actually demonstrate to students other ways that they can contribute to that big world. Teachers have the power to present something greater and give their students alternative ways to study the world around them.

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