The Benefits of Video Conferencing for 21st Century Learning

classroom(Ping! Zine Web Tech Magazine) –  As many schools are adopting the framework for 21st Century Learning, doing so at the speed of lightning, it’s essential to have a strategy and to look at the bigger picture. 21st Century Learning focuses on three overarching ideas: life and career skills, learning and innovation skills (using critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity), and information, media and technology skills. All of these are supported by core subjects with 21st Century themes. A lot is expected of you as teachers and students, so how can you walk the talk and leverage technology to ensure that outcome is what you want: students mastering multidimensional abilities?

For starters, your school district or administrative office might consider a video conferencing tool, such as Blue Jeans, which will help support all of the main aspects of the framework. This would help in connecting the teachers and students. Students can ask questions during the one on one virtual session.

Broaden Student Learning Environments

In a single district, video conferencing can help bring students of a similar ability together who may be at neighboring schools or even neighboring districts. The school could use tablets or smartphones to create a virtual classroom that would allow a teacher to differentiate the learning and focus on the needs of students at one particular level. Also, students could work with like-minded peers and not be held back by physical distance – they could create projects and do research that might not be available within the typical confines of their school’s walls. As the tools become available to align teaching practices with the 21st Century Goals, it’s just as important to ensure that the teachers feel comfortable and confident in bringing the technology and the world into their classroom.

Connect Students to Bring Cultural Understanding

Learning NC reports that one school used videoconferencing to connect students from a homogeneous community in Michigan with a classroom in Florida to learn more about Judaism. The students in Michigan compiled some questions for the classroom in Florida. The two groups “met,” and all of their worlds grew a little bit that day. Video conferencing can open up the world and is limited only by your imagination. Students can visit Alaska or Hawaii, talk to an astronaut or pilot, perform a play for their peers, and meet with a classroom from another country. They can also create hangouts, where students with a common interest can meet and discuss certain topics like a book or meet with an expert. Video conferencing can help create a layered educational experience for your classroom, incorporating history, mathematics, science and language skills.

Professional Development For Teachers

One of the tenets of 21st Century professional development is to encourage knowledge sharing among communities of practitioners by using face-to-face, virtual and blended communities. Edweek noted that one district used video conferencing to have high performing teachers’ model classroom lessons via video conferencing, which allowed teachers to observe real time how best practices were put into place and also ask their questions afterward. The videoconferencing removed any artificial modeling that had been used in the past and showed how smart teachers put their learning into practice. It removed the barrier of cost to the district and cut down on the time teachers spent away from the classroom. Similarly, some college degree programs and districts incorporate video conferencing for novice teachers. After an initial face-to-face meeting and setting of goals, a camera is installed in their classroom that can be used for remote observation and provide real life information to the observer to provide customized feedback that is actionable and en pointe. This type of instruction for new teachers is invaluable.

It doesn’t all have to be so serious and boring. Edutopia also recommends using it in a more lighthearted way. Through video conferencing, you can gather a retiring teacher’s students, current and former, as well as parents and colleagues, current and former, who may have moved out of the area, at a very special gathering to say thank you.

21st Century Learning Spaces

Many school districts are strapped with tight budgets that don’t have the funds to rehabilitate older spaces into more contemporary ones that are more fitting for today’s learnings. K-12 schools could take a page from a small liberal arts college in Northfield, MN, Carleton College, which purchased an old middle school and transformed it into the Weitz Center for Creativity, an interdisciplinary space that transforms depending on what is being taught and learned. Unlike yesterday’s learning style, it combines many different disciplines naturally, such as technology and art. It has literal white spaces that can accommodate anything from a performance art piece to video conferencing with a physician doing surgery in Nigeria.

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