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A Delicious Experience: Connecting Kids in Rural Ghana with Kids at Hershey’s via Telepresence

I am often asked what it takes to create a successful telepresence experience. Usually, I respond with requirements like: a high-speed network, great lighting, good acoustic space and the right equipment. However, after a trip I took late last year, I’m going to add “stable power” to the list, and here’s why.

In late 2011, my customer The Hershey Company – you may have heard of them – invited me to be involved with a new project they were kicking off with the goal to enrich the education of underprivileged youth in both the U.S. and Ghana. Hershey wanted to create a common, virtual classroom so 80 elementary students could learn together based on a curriculum developed by teachers in both Hershey, Pennsylvania, and Ghana. The obstacle they faced was how to connect the students, which ultimately led to my visit to Ghana.

Throughout the summer of 2012, I worked with the Hershey Telepresence support team to equip a space at the Milton S. Hershey Foundation headquarters with a C90 codec, two Precision HD cameras, an AudioScience Microphone array, a document camera and some displays. The plan was to duplicate this setup at the Assin Fosu school in Ghana. The ever-revealing reality of a “less than ideal” environment for telepresence required scaling back the Ghana design to an SX20 codec, one display, two microphones and a document camera. The endpoints at both locations were then registered to a VCS Expressway to enable firewall traversal and easy connections across the public Internet.

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Cisco Joins Forces with Wharton School on Classroom of the Future

Wharton school picI am proud to be part of a company that is making innovations in education on a daily basis. You may have already heard how universities around the world are using Cisco to transform the classroom, and today’s news is further evidence of this.

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is working with Cisco to provide collaboration solutions that will bridge faculty and students in Philadelphia and San Francisco to deliver the classroom of the future. As one of the country’s most esteemed colleges, the Wharton School is using Cisco’s collaboration technologies, including Cisco TelePresence, to bridge the classrooms across the United States. In the future, they hope to extend these benefits to Wharton’s classrooms around the globe, including Asia, Europe and South America.

Most of Wharton’s star-studded professors are based in Pennsylvania and frequently travel to the San Francisco satellite campus that caters to Silicon Valley executives aiming for an MBA.  Read More »

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Attending High School, Virtually, Online

By Jason Kohn, Contributing Columnist

A while back, I asked what the future of higher education might look like with the advent of distance learning. Even in just the last couple years, online education in higher-ed has grown enormously. A recent study by the Sloan Consortium reported that more than 6 million U.S. students (nearly a third of all students in college) took at least one online course in 2006, an increase of more than half a million students over the previous year.

It’s not surprising that forward-looking institutions of higher learning have been quick to embrace the potential of online coursework. What I never anticipated (although certainly others did) was how quickly online education would take hold in primary and secondary (K through 12) schools as well.

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Reconnecting McDowell Boosts Education in West Virginia School District

June 1, 2012 at 12:30 pm PST

For some, the economic hard times began before the recession hit. McDowell County, an ex-coal mining county in West Virginia, has been in decline since the coal industry began pulling out in the 1960s.

What used to be a town of 120,000 is now barely 22,000 and the county has ranked last in education in the state for most of the past decade. But a new project launched in December is aiming to change all this.

Reconnecting McDowell is a comprehensive, long-term effort to make educational improvement in McDowell County. Under the leadership of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the West Virginia State Board of Education, more than 80 partners from businesses, non-profits, governments and labor have signed a covenant illustrating their commitment to solving McDowell’s hardships by providing services, money, products and/or expertise to schools and students and their families. Read More »

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Universities Adjust to Teaching a Different Kind of College Freshman

February 8, 2012 at 5:14 am PST

There’s a different kind of college freshman on university campuses these days. According to EdWeek’s report on The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2011 survey, today’s freshman bears more of the cost of his or her own education than did past first-year college students, and, as a high school senior, today’s freshman paid more attention to his or her studies than those who came before.

So what does this mean for colleges?

For one, today’s students’ higher academic engagement could translate into demand for more innovative, challenging courses. But with the survey showing more students taking out large student loans as their parents’ unemployment rates remain stagnant, universities cannot raise tuition price tags to hire more faculty to develop new classes. President Obama said as much in his January 24 State of the Union address, mandating that schools use tools like “better technology” to improve their course offerings without raising costs. Read More »

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