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No Bus Needed: Telepresence connects students, cultures

January 3, 2012
at 8:39 am PST

Reading about the Bus funding crisis in California has ignited a number of discussions around how collaboration technologies could be used to soften some of the impact of losing the busing funds. We’ve talked here numerous times about how telepresence is being used to take students on field trips and connect them to new learning experiences, without the necessity of travel.

Field trips are often times students’ favorite memories from school. Who doesn’t love getting to leave the classroom for the day and explore what they’re learning hands-on? Unfortunately, there are a number of things that can prevent a good field trip experience in today’s educational environment – whether it’s the school’s rural location or the ever-decreasing school budgets.

More and more schools, as I’ve written before, are finding ways to take virtual field trips that allow the students to participate in the same in-person experience as they would if they had driven 30 minutes or two hours to a museum.

The Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC), a clearinghouse of organizations and institutions that offer distance classes using Cisco devices, recently  partnered with St. Thomas Aquinas High School (STA) to provide new distance learning opportunities to students – from one-on-one tutoring to virtual field trips.

Only a few months into the program, a 9th grade geography class was lucky enough to be transported to West Africa – through TelePresence of course! The students participated in a long-distance interactive lesson on West African dance taught by Marc Kotz, owner of Born 2 Move Movement Adventure in Wisconsin. With Telepresence, the class was able to discuss the geography and culture of Africa. The group then proceeded to enthusiastically engage in a “harvest dance” demonstrated by Kotz thousands of miles away.

OK, so virtual field trips are a great example, but could telepresence and other collaborative technologies be used in other ways, such as sharing highly qualified teachers across districts, to reduce the need for busing overall?

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