Media reports show that joblessness is growing and that spending is down, but, remarkably, the economy should see a rebound in the second half of 2009. Some say that recovery is dependent on jobs, because spending will only go up when jobs are realized.
An interesting side effect of this recession’s unemployment has been the boost in people who are enrolling in teacher training courses. According to a recent Washington Post article, interest in teacher preparation programs geared toward job-changers is rising sharply and applications to a national retraining program based in 20 cities rose 30 percent this year.
This is good news for education, since almost two million teachers are expected to retire from public schools in the next decade. It should also be interesting to see what the effect of pulling teachers from corporate America will have on the system as a whole. They have to learn how to engage distracted and possibly bored students, according to the report, but they could also bring exciting change.
Putting experienced professionals who are used to working in technologically advanced situations could lead to great innovation and put new teaching methods on a fast track. Technologies like interactive blackboards have changed the way children learn and Kindle could be used to save a few pounds in a backpack.
Some classrooms have already revolutionized learning through video conferencing. Classrooms across the United States use it to take children in rural areas on virtual field trips, to unite classrooms and children in different parts of the world to offer exciting cultural insights and to bring experts into classrooms that otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn from them.
A great example is how Cooperating School Districts (CSD) of Greater St. Louis uses video conferencing to save money, share resources and create educational excellence for the 300,000+ students it serves. CSD is as a consortium of 65 school districts in the St. Louis metropolitan area, as well as four outlying counties and St. Louis City. It uses video conferencing technology for electronic field trips, collaborative projects across school districts and bringing authors or experts from cultural institutions into the classroom, as well as staff development and global connections.
With resources at a low not seen since the Great Depression, maximizing technology for education makes increasing sense. Upfront expenditure can create exponential reward, not only by saving a school money and time over years, but also by turning an ordinary classroom into an extraordinary learning environment.
Video conferencing has come a long way since the early 1990s when it was based on proprietary algorithms with PictureTel’s SG3/SG4, VTEL BlueChip, CLI CTX+ as well as several other algorithms and protocols. That was a time of lack of interoperability and a perception that the technology just didn’t work.
Today, we have a comprehensive portfolio of standards for both H.323 and SIP and customers, who enjoy the benefits of vendor choice while still being able to communicate with others. In a recent article in Telephony, the necessity of interoperability was addressed and some vendors are still saying it is not a “must”-- which is exactly the failure which contributed to video conferencing losing steam in the 1990s.
Vendors that have been in this business for years realize the importance of interoperability and only vendors new to the business think that their proprietary way of doing it is better than working with the hundreds of thousands of installed units in the field. This is evident by the failure in connecting to the standards compliant world of H.323 and SIP devices. Some vendors started in the market just a few years ago and told the public there was no need to connect to “legacy” systems since those systems were of poor quality.
The reality is those “legacy” systems are capable of high definition at 1080p and 20kHz CD quality audio as well as many other things that have evolved since the 1990′s. And guess what -- many companies don’t want, or can’t afford, to recreate their entire systems. Industry veterans have built the highest quality products available and have also maintained backwards compatibility to the installed base of H.323 and SIP devices by designing that ability natively into the devices. The new proprietary way of doing things is to do it your way and then sell a gateway that converts the new way to the standard way. Sounds good, but gateways simply do not scale.
In summary, proprietary methods have never stood the test of time in this industry, just as they’ve failed in so many other industries. Soon or later the vendors must converge for the technology to be successful and that convergence will be around worldwide standards. For telepresence to really take off, some of the new players in the industry need to get behind standards based devices. Lack of choice is rarely a good thing.
People who need medical and psychiatric help often have to overcome great obstacles to obtain it. If you live in a place where there is no access to medical services, or with some cultural stigma attached to pursuing psychiatric treatment, the hurdles to wellness are even greater.
For those who have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which includes emotions ranging from fear and sadness, to anxiety, changes in eating habits and nightmares, treatment is imperative if the symptoms last longer than a month, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Along with the more than 12,000 residents who live in Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa, 500 soldiers returned to the area after serving in Iraq. According to a military representative, returning veterans have a high risk of developing depression and self-destructive behavior. And, as former infantry soldiers, many have PTSD and may have experienced traumatic brain injuries.
There is only one social worker and one psychiatrist to help everyone who lives on that side of the island. There is help at the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) clinic on the other side of the island, but it is a long drive that many can’t or won’t make. In addition, mental health issues are often considered weaknesses, and may carry a stigma in any culture.
That’s where “telehealth” through video conferencing is bridging the gap. Now, veterans and their families can visit the Lyndon Baynes Johnson (LBJ) Tropical Medical Center in Pago Pago and use video conferencing to communicate with the VA clinical psychology providers many miles away across the island.
Video conferencing allows for the type of face-to-face communication that is necessary for psychological healthcare. With a secure connection, the patient’s privacy is protected, and the patient gets the doctor’s full attention, communicating as if he or she were in the same room. The doctor benefits from being able to observe critical non-verbal cues which can help with diagnoses.
All Americans, particularly US Veterans of Foreign Wars returning from war, need and deserve support during a mental health crisis. Video conferencing is a great way to help provide that support, particularly for those who cannot easily access their medical benefits.
A survey of 392 CEOs from the Australian manufacturing, services and construction sectors by KPMG and the Australian Industry Group, revealed manufacturers are doing more to reduce their carbon emissions than their counterparts in services or construction. Of manufacturers reducing carbon emissions, 22% are making use of improved IT such as video conferencing.
According to KPMG, a low-carbon economy is no longer an ‘if’ but a ‘when’ and businesses needed to start taking account of their emissions levels. “It’s essential for business to move beyond a simple compliance focus to a comprehensive business strategy that creates value and competitive advantage.”
Video conferencing is the perfect solution with its measurable ROI and carbon offsets. Volkswagen knows this first hand. They cut vehicle repair time by over 50% and reduced costs by 30% by deploying experts via video who didn’t have to travel as much to supervise repairs.
A new report from the Retail Industry Leaders Association, “Real-World Green: The Role of Environmental Savings in Retail,” surveyed “Retail Winners” (those retailers whose sales outperform their competitors’) and found that going green is rapidly creating a strategic advantage in all corners of the enterprise, and has become a major component of the planning for any new IT investment. Specifically, the survey respondents cited the following motivations for adopting green technologies, all of which -- but the last -- can directly be accomplished through video conferencing and telepresence. Just more proof that being green equals green.