Monday, May 22, 2006

Another great videoconferencing experience

The first year Technology Integration Mentors had a great videoconference on Friday. There were a few technical glitches getting all the sites logged in, and a couple of people had to watch the streaming version online instead of participating live, but we had 6 sites logged in, and 13 participants. We managed to do all this without any budget!

First we heard from Marie Doerner, and teacher of students with disabilities in San Diego, who demonstrated for us how she teaches math to three small pull-out groups at 3 different sites in San Diego via videoconferencing. San Diego is a large district with 6 large adult ed sites. Since it's hard to get enough ABE or High School students together at one site to make a pull-out group for a particular math topic, they have solved it by having Marie teach three sites at once. She also goes to different sites on different days, so the students do have a face-to-face relationship with her as well, which they and she feel is important. They are also teaching some high school subjects via videoconferencing, including government and economics.

After our math lesson, we hooked up with the state park at Ano Nuevo Beach for a visit to the elephant seals on Ano Nuevo island, and a discussion with Interpreter Shawn Brown about how to use videoconferencing to teach a variety of subjects to kids. Shawn was a great host, and answered a lot of our technical questions, plus it was fun to see the elephant seals live via their webcam, and to think about how we could integrate virtual trips to state parks with basic skills instruction for adults. One possibility is to visit various state parks and get to know the park system as part of EL Civics, getting involved in the community.

We did this videoconference last year with the park site at the capitol building, and talked with some legislative staffers. This year the parks department has really developed their videoconferencing program. For schools with no access to equipment, they will even bring equipment to the school in order for the kids to have the interactive experience. Although we are probably several years away from adult schools having much access to videonconferencing equipment, I'm glad our mentors got a chance to see what the possibilities are. I expect to hear about how some of them experiment with this technology at their sites next year.

To learn more about opportunities for free videoconferencing with the California State Parks, go here.

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