Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Webcams and Videoconferencing...

Are you contemplating webcam use for classroom videoconferences? Is it a viable option?

Recently- a fellow Collaboration Collage listserv colleague requested info regarding webcams in the classroom. Here's my response:

While our district uses full-motion video as well as IP units, we are purchasing more and more iSight (Mac) cameras for many uses- including classroom applications.

Primarily we use webcam technology for teacher-to-teacher use within the district. We have found it immensely powerful for our initial educator mentor program. New teachers have instant access to their mentor and can observe classroom activity at any time.

We also use it for our two enrichment programs to strengthen curriculum alignment at separate locations.

Classroom applications included a collaboration project between a school here in Kenosha WI and a school in the Bahamas. One of our Library Media Specialists taught in the Bahamas and communicated regularly back to her home school and developed a series of cultural exchange connections. While the Bahamian school only had the laptop, iSight and an external microphone- our school projected the video on to a large screen and it really worked great.

I also know that during last year's Read Across America connections- I had several requests for webcam connections which leads me to think webcam use is indeed growing!

Now - the real issue with us was cross-platform webcam compatibility. While our district is primarily Mac, I have found MANY browser based methods to bridge that gap and I'd be THRILLED to share my findings with anyone that needs it. (Maybe WE could then do a collaborative project??? I have 23K students itching to use the technology!) My good friend and NECC co-presenter Scott Merrick (University School- Nashville TN) and I have tested quite a few. Mac and PC CAN play well together!

A request I received this morning from a teacher was "Can we show a video at one school and show it to the connected school via iSight?"
My response was-" let's get a copy of the video to the other school and just show it at the same time. "

Bottom line being- it isn't going to be the ideal situation all of the time- BUT we have ways of making it work. Is it ALWAYS ideal to use webcams? Probably not- HOWEVER- IF it's the only way we can make the connection- it will work- and it will be awesome! Webcam technology gets better everyday as well. There are great resources out there too for classroom-to-classroom connections using webcams.

I welcome any requests, invites, questions and encourage you to contact me if you're interested in any projects! AIM & iChat screename: kusdiva


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