What is the point of education? It is to create the best learning opportunities for as many students across early and secondary education as possible. Unfortunately, not all educational institutions have the ability or resources to offer the enriched programmes that they wish they could offer, and students could be missing out. New research has found that 91% of schools in the UK have had their funding per pupil cut and the impact of this growing crisis is leaving teachers and educators frustrated and feeling hopeless. So, with budgets being squeezed ever tighter, schools, administrators, and teachers need to take as many opportunities to save money in the future, without compromising learning.
The children of today are gearing up to become adult citizens of tomorrow. The growth is parallel to the future of our country, reflected through the quality of the present education system. A school must stimulate curiosity in the young, impressionable minds and equip them with tools to be better human beings every way they can.
One way in which teachers and educators can offer meaningful learning experiences for their pupils, bringing the world into the classroom, without overspending, is through the use of video communications. In our increasingly global society, it’s more important than ever for students to have an appreciation for and understanding of the world around them.
Video communications can enrich a class through the addition of virtual field trips, collaboration exercises with remote classrooms and access to subject-matter experts all around the globe. From visiting world-renowned museums to learning about the stars from astronauts who have seen them from space, the power of HD video in the classroom can facilitate incredible, interactive learning experiences.
One educator based in the US who is devoted to connecting their students to people and places from around the world is digital learning coach Ralph Krauss. He is passionate about connecting students with primary sources of education through the use of innovation and technology – something he calls edutainment. His edutainment learning has brought various experts in a number of fields to students including Grammy and Oscar winners to astronauts, governors, presidential candidates and many others.
In our increasingly global society, it’s more important than ever for students to have an appreciation for and understanding of the world around them.
When he began using video conferencing in the classroom it was primarily for 5th–8th grade (age 10–11). However, he has now branched out offers his edutainment service to nursery and preschool all the way up to through to school leavers and university students.
Ralph explained: “I was a classroom teacher for a variety of grades from kindergarten (nursery) to fifth grade for eleven years. I found that there were certain topics and subjects that just weren’t sticking when I would simply read from a textbook. So, I decided to contact expert guest speakers to physically come in, so that my students could learn from a primary source of information. The distance was an issue, so I decided to connect my students over video conferencing with speakers.”
An example of how Ralph brought these speakers into the classroom, without physically having to pay for them to come in, was when he used video communications to aid a project around the assassination of President Kennedy.
He said: “I accepted a position to work as a digital coach at Pinecrest Academy of Nevada in 2016. This position was essentially a tech specialist position that had me supporting fellow teachers with adopting technology in the classroom. A colleague of mine was teaching his students about the assassination of President Kennedy and I decided to try this idea out with his students. I was able to connect the kids with retired Secret Service agent Clint Hill, who was present during the assassination. From his office in California, he was able to connect with students in Nevada to not only share his story but also answer their questions. This kind of learning takes on a deeper level than simply reading from books – it brings the facts to life.”
Ralph went on to explain how these kinds of practices are not only enriching the learning experience for students but changing the approach of teaching. Statistics show that 65% of us are visual learners and this type of engagement is essential to make learning easier.
Ralph continued: “I believe we have only begun to scratch the surface of what is possible with the use of video conferencing and visual engagement. We as a species are auditory. From the dawn of time, it has been one story handed down from one generation to the next orally and it has transcended cultures everywhere. Textbooks have proven time and time again to not always be the most accurate. What could be more accurate than a leading expert in a particular field?”
But it doesn’t stop there. Video conferencing can be used to engage children and teachers in so many more ways than you can imagine. Children love field trips but unfortunately, due to budget, transportation, and timely preparation issues, these are becoming a rare thing on a school curriculum. By using video conferencing, children could visit a safari park in Africa or see icebergs in the Arctic – all without leaving the classroom.
For teachers, the technology has endless possibilities. Teachers can broadcast administrative updates and school news straight to the classroom over video rather than holding assemblies. Or conduct remote parent-teacher meetings to help minimise scheduling conflicts or host video staff meetings and provide a recorded session for those who are unable to attend the live meeting.
In higher education it allows for face-to-face meetings with professors and lecturers across the world in different times zones; it provides access to online courses and meetings with faculties from different universities. Plus, students are using these tools to connect with other students and experts across continents, to collaborate and work on projects together.
Video communication enables students to take advantage of collaborative and hybrid classrooms. Using it to attend regular, in-class sessions for a particular course shows how technology is now taking distance learning to the next level, allowing innovative educators to plan interactive teaching based on their students’ needs, no matter where they are located.
Thanks to advanced video communications technologies, students based cross border can now work together on the same projects in a collaborative environment, enjoying valuable face-face chats with other students to discuss and share ideas and give feedback. It also lets students continue group projects after campus hours from anywhere. These benefits can be delivered with relatively little investment and since it doesn’t require on-site deployment, it reduces the infrastructure expenses for institutions.
Of course, there is no substitute for seeing a person or a place in the flesh, but video conferencing could be an extremely valuable tool for a teacher and educators to enrich a child’s education. And all you need is wifi.
By Daniel Creigh Head of UK and Ireland Zoom Video Communications