As classroom technology becomes more advanced, teachers now have access to videoconferencing equipment that provides the chance to bring unique experiences into the classroom. But to make sure the videoconference is not just an advanced babysitting operation, educators must carefully prepare both the lesson and use of the technology. Here are some steps to take:

1. Choose good content providers. No videoconferenced class can be successful if the person on the other end of the camera is unprepared or wrong for your students. Make sure the content provider is knowledgeable, capable, and accustomed to talking to students of an appropriate age group. Several internet sites, such as http://www.kn.pacbell.com/vidconf, offer lists of organizations that provide videoconferencing. Teachers should contact several providers, communicate their expectations, and come to a mutual understanding about the program that will be offered.

2. Prepare your students. Student preparation is another key to a successful exercise. Make sure the subject of the videoconference is matched by classroom work leading up to the call. Having students prepare questions ahead of time is also helpful, said one videoconference provider, as students seem less anxious about raising questions when they are better prepared.

3. Test the equipment. Once a provider has been found and an outline of the subject matter agreed upon, the teacher must practice using the equipment. Videoconferencing may require manipulating a camera in the classroom—pulling back to show the whole classroom at one point, and zooming in on a student who’s asking a question at another. Teachers should carefully consider the placement of microphones so that students can easily walk to them to ask questions of content providers.

4. Rehearse the event. Conducting an actual test videoconference of even a few minutes is well worth the effort, experts say. With a test call, teachers can be assured that their hardware and software will communicate with the people at the other end of the line, and the call also provides an opportunity to quickly discuss the outline of the presentation.