Cleveland zoo uses videoconferencing technology to teach about animals

Tad Schoffner has some new on-the-job partners that he knows will upstage him: Schoffner, assistant animal care manager at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, uses the zoo’s new mobile and wireless infrastructure to teach students about animals within their habitats via a videoconference link, Computerworld reports. "You can’t always guarantee [the animals] are going to do what you want, but when it works, it works great," says Schoffner. "Even if the timing isn’t just right, it’s still a lot better than standing in a studio." Computerworld named the zoo’s project as the winner in the Media, Arts, & Entertainment category in its annual Honors Program. Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has broadcast educational programs to students through its distance-learning program since 1998, using standard videoconferencing equipment housed in its Adventure Hall studio. The classroom had interesting teaching tools, but the educational staff wanted to create a more interactive experience that more closely resembled a trip to the zoo. To do that, they implemented an enterprise-wide wireless infrastructure and made the videoconferencing equipment mobile. "I taught in a room with four walls. The kids were going from one classroom into another. I wanted them to see more," says Cathy Ryan, an education specialist in the zoo’s conservation education division. "Now we have a lot more teachable moments. We can say, ‘Take a look at that joey — it’s pushing its head out of the pouch,’ and we can zoom in on that for the kids to see."

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