Let’s face it — we live in a very visually oriented society. Visual media is a great way to communicate, with a lot of positive applications in the classroom. Videos are attention-getters. One of the major benefits, in fact, is that everybody is familiar with video chat, thanks to smart phones and online media. It has fostered a new movement in education, led by organizations like The Global Classroom Project, to connect schools all around the globe.
New video technology is making the video chat option much more flexible and practical, too. A good mix of graphics, video chat, and interactions can deliver excellent educational values. This allows for far better discussion and communications opportunities.
Here are a few ways that you can use live video effectively in the classroom:
Expert guest speakers
A good selection of guest speakers for live video is another major asset. Experienced speakers are excellent presenters. They can bring a subject to life very easily, and handle questions very effectively.
Expect also to be astonished by the range of guest speakers it is possible to bring into your classroom. It may take a little planning, but if you approach potential guest speakers through parent organizations, like NASA, colleges or community-based organizations like the Museum of Tolerance, you can actually get world-class speakers.
For academic guest speakers, it’s a good idea to refer directly to their current college for help. The colleges will be able to assist directly with your needs, and are very helpful in arranging guest speakers.
Video Tours and Virtual Education
These options are among the very latest, and perhaps the most important of developments in education. Video tours allow classes to go around the world and cover a phenomenal range of subjects.
Next: Keeping in touch with parents and students
The same possible technical issues apply to this type of video conferencing, but this is very much an investment in high-value learning. It is expected that the video tours and virtual education will progressively become part of the higher learning experience in the near future.
These options also include the opportunity to bring in experts from places like the Smithsonian, which has its own free video conference facilities. Major American colleges have similar facilities available.
Parental video chats
One of the hardest things to do as a teacher is to manage parental connections. Many parents do have perfectly legitimate reasons for not being able to attend conferences with teachers. The easy option, and certainly the cheapest and most practical option in many cases, is to introduce video chats with parents.
Again, it’s important to keep an eye on the possible technological issues. If you’re in a school which has older video technology, you may not be able to connect with parents who use Skype or similar video chat technology. A good, all-purpose/all-platforms video chat facility is the easy answer, as long as it can keep up with the bandwidth requirements of a modern video platform.
Video and student safety issues
Student safety is the top priority of any school. Students getting lost on field trips, or getting separated from their group are common problems. Using video links to keep in contact with students is a very simple and very effective option. If you are trying to expose your students to new experiences, a field trip is a great idea, but if you can have the same level of experience by taking a video tour, then you eliminate the risk of a student getting lost, hurting themselves, or doing something that can cause real damage to an artifact. A great example of this is the 5,000 year old rock carving which was destroyed when young visitors tried to ‘improve’ it. This type of problem isn’t guaranteed to occur when you take your class on a field trip, but it’s one that can be avoided with the use of video instead.
A good video connection is also invaluable because it creates a sense of interactivity. You can combine the video with a ‘tour guide’ who can answer questions and give you a close up look into areas of an exhibit or a particular area of interest. When you have a high quality video feed, this can even give you more detail than you would see if you were viewing the same thing in-person.
Connectivity problems and the need for pre-emptive fixes
Predictably, one of the most common problems with live video in the classroom is likely to be technology, rather than people. Good connectivity and reliable streaming are the keys to success. The usual problems are network quality, internet lack of quality, and old software or hardware.
Expect these problems. Video problems are Murphy’s Law at its most reliable. The best way to avoid the problems is to speak to your school’s IT team about software solutions, hardware, and things like server issues which might scramble the video chat.
Schools should also consider that upgrading video software and hardware will also have added benefits throughout the school, beyond occasional video chats. Better streaming alone is a major positive upgrade. This can be easier than ever with new technologies like the one developed at video chat company Agora.io,which is designed to mitigate these connectivity issues, even in areas with poor or unreliable internet connections. If your live streaming video is choppy, and doesn’t work well, it will ruin the experience for your students and waste the time for any guest speakers you may have. Mitigating these issues before they happen makes for a richer and clearer learning experience.