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Teaching with TelePresence at Madison Area Technical College

Madison Area Technical College in Wisconsin is a leader in delivering high-quality instruction and services that are responsive, flexible, and accessible. MATC recently deployed a first-of-its-kind system for community colleges which uses Cisco TelePresence to enhance the quality of education for students.

The College’s decision to pursue a more sophisticated communications technology was based on the institution’s competition, not just from other schools, but from factors that affect students’ time and attention span. Today’s youth use increasingly sophisticated technology in their daily lives: iPods, SmartPhones, PDAs, web-based collaboration and social networking technologies, high-definition television, and more. College officials recognized that students have grown accustomed to a high level of quality, as well as variety, in their learning and communication methods and expect it to be matched in every area of their lives, particularly from a technical education.

The College turned to Cisco TelePresence because it offers an innovative solution for distance learning, creating an “in-person” classroom experience over a converged network. TelePresence technologies transmit life-size, high-definition images, and spatial discrete audio to deliver real-time, face-to-face interaction between people at distant sites, using advanced visual, audio, and collaboration technologies. One benefit of the new distant learning platform is that the College is now able to efficiently deliver quality instruction across the wide area network from location to location regardless of the classroom geography. Easy, virtual access to counselors, academic advisors and other student service providers is further enabled, as well as the ability to reduce travel for meetings and internal training of staff and faculty.

View the video to see the system in action.

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School Districts Collaborate with TelePresence

For the 2007-8 and 2008-9  school years , California’s Fresno Unified School District accomplished  historic gains in math achievement for K-6.  The superintendent attributes  the fast pace of success to a unique collaboration with California’s  Long Beach Unified School District, using Cisco TelePresence.

The Fresno Unified and Long Beach  Unified K-12 school districts have much in common, including tight  budgets, high poverty rates among student families, and a strong  commitment to improving student math scores. Fresno  Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson and Long Beach Unified  Superintendent Chris Steinheuser shared ideas when they saw each other  at conferences, but realized that an effective partnership would require  more frequent collaboration. Traveling the 250 miles to each other’s  districts was not an option because of time and budget constraints, and  telephone conversations come up short for strategic discussions.

Sharing Lessons Learned Without Travel

The districts found their solution in  Cisco TelePresence. Each district has a Cisco TelePresence system,  which provides a live, face-to-face experience over the network. A  large, ultra-high-definition display and high-fidelity audio quality  create an experience that rivals in-person interaction. And launching a  Cisco TelePresence session “is as easy as it gets,” says Superintendent  Hanson. “We push a button and Long Beach is on the other side.”

The  Proof is in the Numbers

In spring of 2009, Long Beach Unified sent a group of math  teachers to Fresno. While there, they and their counterparts from Long  Beach joined a Cisco TelePresence session with other Long Beach teachers  to talk about a common assessment framework. “In one day we completed a  project that would have taken months without this technology,”  Steinhauser says, noting that the two districts are “accomplishing more,  faster, and at lower cost.” The results  were swift and impressive. In the 2008-9 school year, 2000 more  elementary school students in the Fresno Unified School District scored  proficient or advanced in mathematics than in the prior year. “That’s  2000 lives, futures, and sets of promises that we now have to hold as  they move through the system,” Hanson says. Long  Beach Unified School District also gained from the collaboration.  “[Cisco TelePresence] takes professional development to a level we  haven’t seen,” Steinhauser says.

Muliplying the Gains

Now Fresno Unified is looking forward  to replicating its math gains in middle school, as the first students  to benefit from the collaboration move up. The district will capitalize  on a winning formula by using Cisco TelePresence to get new ideas for  the curriculum and learning strategies. California’s Garden Grove  Unified and Oakland Unified School Districts are implementing their own  Cisco TelePresence systems and will join the partnership, so that all  four districts can learn from each other’s experiences.

For more info, watch the video of  Superintendent Mike Hanson and Superintendent Chris Steinhauser  discussing collaborating on math achievement with Cisco TelePresence.

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Collaboration and Choice

Technology chartThrough effective use of  technology every student can access learning and demonstrate their  understanding in any way they choose. Text is no longer king; video,  audio, animations, interactive models, diagrams and images all have an  equal place in learning and learners select the medium that best help  them learn and suits their culture and preferred learning styles.  Key to learning, through whatever the medium is collaboration.  Through conversations students make sense of what they have  read, watched or listened to. Conversations take place with peers;  between learners and teachers; and between learners and more  knowledgeable others; and they take place in groups. Again technology is  the key to enabling those conversations to go wider and deeper by  allowing learners to interact with groups anywhere in the world through  the use of social networking and other collaboration tools. Learners can  find people to engage with who have similar interests or opposing  views; with greater expertise or a new interpretation; through different  geographical or cultural lenses. It is through these discussions that  information is turned into knowledge and that knowledge is assimilated  with existing knowledge to result in robust learning that can be applied  in future situations.

The  diagram above sums this up.

 

 

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Addressing a New World of Learning

April 5, 2010 at 11:49 am PST

As a part of my job here at Cisco, I have the opportunity to meet with a range of customers in schools, colleges, and universities across the globe.  They have the wide and vast responsibility of educating students, preparing the workforce of the future, equipping students with different kinds of skills so that they can compete in the 21st century, ensuring that students are safe and secure, and a whole host of other responsibilities that will enable students to be productive and successful members of society.  Most critically, they have to do all this with increasingly constrained, and in developing nations, often non-existent, budgets.

The requirements for education have shifted over time as we have become more globalized, technologically advanced, and demographically different.  On average, people in the US change jobs about ten times before they’re 42.   In China and India, there is a massive demand for higher education.  And teachers are retiring in record numbers as the population of kids under the age of 15 has reached 1.8 billion.

Thomas Friedman has said that students today need to be special, specialized, anchored, or adaptable.  Not everyone can be special, and certain components of traditionally anchored jobs (for example, hairdressers, restaurant workers, and trade workers) can be outsourced.  This leaves jobs for which people need to be specialized or adaptable.   And this is where education is critical: students have to be able to access education that provides them with the specialization required to help them differentiate the value that they provide.  Think, tax planning for customers with major offshore assets, or biological technicians who are creating a biosphere in pace.  Or, education has to be able to provide them with the ability to obtain lifelong learning programs and capabilities to adapt to a broad range of careers and jobs that they will have over their lifetimes.

Existing systems on their own will no longer be able to meet the growing and changing demands for learning.  Educational institutions must necessarily deliver learning differently, and this is where technology can help.  Today, Cisco is partnering with educators to create what we call The Learning Society: a new way of thinking that harnesses the power of technology to help transform learning and allow people to learn anywhere, anytime, on any device.

Not only does Cisco offer a change model that integrates “best-of-the-best” research findings to help students flourish in the 21st century – wherever they are and whatever their culture or socio-economic status, or the economic situation of their country, may be (Education 3.0), but it also details the integration of innovative pedagogy, curriculum, and assessment strategies across whole systems—accommodating learner differences, linking learning to the real world, and setting high, yet realistic, expectations for every student. We encourage you to learn more by joining our Virtual Forum for Education Leaders on April 28th.

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Moving from Education Systems to a Learning Society

Teacher and student on computerIn a good education system, students move through school, graduate, and somewhere between 30 and 50% complete university.  Formal training is complete, education is finished.  People who were once students could relax and enjoy the benefits of the skills and networks they had developed through learning, and any decline in their skills would be offset by gains in experience and compensated for by the new generation of graduates coming through the education pipeline.  This was an education system which was quite effective until the 21st century where we live in a more globalized and interconnected world.

Now, globalisation, accelerating technological change and massive demographic shifts demand a change in education systems: its purpose, where it happens, when it happens, how it happens.  Since new technologies are appearing at such a fast pace, formal education in the first 20 years of life will only form a foundation for future learning.  Lifelong learning will become a necessity, not a nice-to-have.  And as the world shrinks, people in India or china or eastern Europe are competing with those in Indiana for jobs and those in Copenhagen collaborate with those in Cape Town. It is no longer good enough to be second best: everyone needs 21st century skills – not just better skills, but different skills.

To respond to this socio-economic shift, our education systems need to change.  Curricula and pedagogy must focus on building skills for life and instilling a love for learning.  We need to think about new ways of organising learning so that those who are currently excluded by geography, poverty or learning style have a real chance.  Schools, colleges and universities need to open their doors, and become accessible centres of learning throughout life.  And new partners, from the private sector to non-profits, to foundations need to become part of a wider coalition to deliver learning and drive continuous innovation and improvement.

Without these changes, we risk a difficult future: weaker economies, fragmented societies, unhappy people.  Incremental reform is no longer enough – we must jointly take on the task of becoming a learning society.

    Director, Cisco Global Education

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