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Telepresence Fosters Real Learning Through Virtual Exposure to Science

June 24, 2011
at 9:44 am PST

Have you ever explored one of the first rockets to launch into space? You haven’t? Then what are you waiting for? Go to the New York Hall of Science!

Oh, you don’t live in New York. No problem, the museum will come to you through one of its Telepresence virtual tours.

With Cisco TelePresence, the Hall of Science takes remote visitors all around its museum floor. People in places like Sacramento, California; Seattle, Washington; St. Joseph, Michigan; Ontario, Canada; and Mexico City, Mexico have gone to the Hall of Science to dissect cows’ eyes, learn about the phases of matter, and study the science of sports—and they haven’t set foot on an airplane.

Telepresence came to the Hall of Science in 2006. Since then, teachers have used the virtual visits program to supplement their classroom lessons and give their students as close to hands-on science experience as they can. Telepresence brings the museum’s instructors and experts right into the classroom, where students can ask questions and see up-close the process of experiments. It’s arguably a better view than the students might have had at the actual museum, gathered around a small table and fighting for a spot at the front!

The connection telepresence provides between schools and museums and other experiences provides an invaluable enhancement to students’ learning. At least, Google thinks so. The Internet giant recently announced $12 million in grants to science museums, the Hall of Science among the list of recipients. The museums will use the money to enhance their exhibits and curricula, and to improve outreach with the community outside their walls. The Hall of Science has set a precedent with its use of telepresence, and we hope the other recipients will consider directing some grant money towards implementing the technology.

We can, and would love to, bring science experts into all the classrooms around the world! How much more exciting would that make science class? After all, we need to encourage and develop the telepresence innovators of tomorrow.

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