How do you fit two classrooms’ worth of students into one? In Cazenovia, a grant from the U.S Department of Agriculture has led to the introduction of interactive video conferencing equipment for Burton Street Elementary, Green Street Middle School and Cazenovia High School. Monday Nov. 22 marked the first transmission from the elementary school, as students gathered in the library classroom to peer into the video monitor and communicate with children in the Tully School District.
Lisa Schaffner’s second graders were the first to use this new technology. The broadcast began with each class presenting information about their school. They touched on their class sizes, and physical locations using maps on a computer. The collaborative project was a Thanksgiving-themed practice of deductive reasoning, camouflaged as a fun game of 20 Questions. The activity was titled “The Turkey Disguise Collaboration” and each school had designed a colorful turkey for the other to see. Pupils from both Tully and Cazenovia were remarkably well-behaved throughout the activity, exchanging friendly waves and a few quiet smiles. After each classroom had their turn guessing which turkey was chosen, the students had a chance to discuss a number of books that both they had recently read.
The class-to-class collaborative project was coordinated by BOCES educators and facilitated by the New York State Distance Learning Consortium members. The event ran in numerous schools throughout New York state, as 10 other districts had also received new video conferencing hardware through the grant. Burton Street Librarian Kathy Elliot and Computer Technician Becky Fuller received training from BOCES and knowledgably conducted the conference.
Many were in attendance on both sides of the screen. Cazenovia Superintendent Bob Dubik was present to witness the first transmission, as was Donna Fountain, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
Fountain was filled with excitement after the 40-minute conference.
“There are a lot of possibilities with this equipment, and we are really looking forward to exploring more. I think it is really good for the kids to see what is out beyond us and that other kids are doing the same thing,” she said.
While this technology has been available for years, what really makes this platform so successful is the social networking tool, CAPSpace. Over the Internet, 7,698 educators in 33 different countries are able to make connections and visit each other’s classrooms daily. The curriculum offered through the web has incredible potential. Students now have the opportunity to partake in distance learning; they can sit in on advanced courses not offered at their schools, take field trips to museums across the world, and even explore the universe with NASA scientists.
In the next few months the school will be partaking in “Read Around the Planet,” organized by Two Way Interactive Connections in Education, a division of CAPSpace. Elliot and Fuller are incredibly proud to help make these collaborations possible and are optimistic for future transmissions.
Fuller discussed the simplicity of the seemingly complicated technology.
“We can hook up with anyone as long as we know their IP address, and the time zone difference finds them within the parameters of a normal school day,” she said.
Elliot added: “It is a wonderful teaching tool, and it’s very exciting that we have received this equipment. The possibilities are truly limitless.”
It’s impressive to consider how far technology in the classroom has come. Overhead projectors have been replaced with television screens and VCRs with DVD players. The video conferencing equipment is somewhat portable, and can be easily moved from classroom to classroom. An ethernet cable and an electrical outlet is all that’s required to take the students wherever they wish. While textbooks are still current and widely used, multiple daily hookups will soon allow students to not only look out the window and across the street, but through a window taking them across the planet.
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