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A new way to teach

October 13, 2009 at 1:40 pm PST

I’ve written extensively about the uses of video teleconferencing (VTC) in education here at the TANDBERG Public Sector blog, and there’s a reason for that. In today’s educational environment, VTC is not only a useful tool, but also an answer to some difficult problems and questions plaguing school districts today.

With 48 out of 50 states currently looking down the barrel of significant budget shortfalls, state and local spending has been cut and expenditures are getting the axe. In many places, those cuts have been in education spending.

VTC has the ability to make education more efficient and cost effective. For many smaller districts, VTC can improve educational opportunities without increasing costs. If a teacher of a particular subject is unavailable locally or would cost too much to transport, they can instead appear via VTC to teach their classes. Also, virtual field trips via VTC enable all of the education without the need for a bus, bus driver and multiple admission costs.

The advantages of embracing VTC in traditional educational environments are numerous and obvious. However, the advantages of VTC are even more pronounced and impressive in some of the more untraditional and innovative installations.

Take this recent article in Technology & Learning Magazine for example. The Kentucky School for the Deaf has a student body of approximately 150 students, which is only 3% of the total population of high school and middle school students in the district. That’s dwarfed by the national average of 10%, which means that the students have less opportunity to interact with other deaf individuals.

In an effort to bring deaf students from different areas together, the school purchased TANDBERG systems with dual screens, one of the speaker and one for the interpreter.

The new system has been used to enable interaction between deaf students in different states. The system has also allowed the school to share resources such as AP teachers with other districts.

There’s more to VTC in educational environments than just cutting costs. VTC is enable a new way of teaching, and TANDBERG is proud to be at the forefront.

Like we've said before — successful meetings are done face-to-face

October 8, 2009 at 9:46 pm PST

Successful Meetings Magazine recently ran a column discussing a study that was done by Harvard and featured in the Harvard Business Journal. The study of 2,300 business leaders in the United States, Europe and Asia found that face-to-face communication is essential to doing business. Of the respondents, 79% claimed that in-person meetings are the most effective way to sell business and 89% said in-person meetings were the most effective way to close deals.

The survey was sponsored by British Airways (which is much like a tobacco study being funded by Phillip Morris) and when presented by Harvard Business Review research editor Angela Herrin, was claimed to have proven that face-to-face wins in every category for interacting with clients, negotiating deals and understanding customers.

Ironically, despite these findings, 60% of the respondents claimed that they use remote meeting technologies very frequently.

This was quickly attributed to the economy and the fact that corporate travel budgets are down across the board. In fact, the article quotes Continental Airlines CEO Larry Kellner who, in defending his position that business travel will rebound, gives an anecdote about a business meeting where attendants shot down video teleconferencing (VTC) after an initial foray into VTC failed three years prior. This was based on so much business being done “in the bar, over dinner, at the golf course” because “that’s where ideas ferment.”

Here at TANDBERG, we feel differently. As a video teleconferencing company, the fact that we’d disagree with the thinking of the old “business travel” guard should surprise no one. Regardless, we see some serious problems with the arguments above.

First off, one of the major and most glaring mistakes being committed here is the presumption that video teleconferencing isn’t “face-to-face” communication. Recent technological advancements in video and telepresence solutions have made the VTC experience so lifelike and realistic that it’s as though you are standing in the same room with other meeting participants. Can you physically shake a person’s hand? No…but you may actually try.

Second, the current decline in business travel is a direct result of slashed travel budgets caused by the ongoing recession, but that doesn’t mean that things are going to go back to the norm when the economy rights itself. The fact is, advanced VTC technologies not only provide a realistic face-to-face experience, but they cost significantly less, are far more productive and spontaneous and cause significantly less damage to the environment.

Why? The initial investment in a VTC solution more than pays for itself when plane tickets, hotel rooms and meals no longer need to be paid for. Travel delays and trips to the airport not only take away valuable business hours, but create a huge delay between idea conception and idea presentation. VTC not only gives people that time back to spend on more productive pursuits, but allows ideas to be shared immediately. The grounding of planes and parking of cars also means a smaller carbon footprint for your company.

At TANDBERG we believe that collaboration is no longer black and white. The concept that a meeting is either in-person or over-the-phone is archaic. There is a new way of working. There is another option. VTC brings the best of both worlds to the table, and keeps you out of the sand traps…now that’s a winning solution.

Video Conferencing Changes Deaf Mother's Life

We mostly hear about how video conferencing and telepresence are changing the way people work, but here  is a great example of how the technology is literally changing people’s lives for the better.

Karen, author of the blog A Deaf Mom Shares Her World, recently posted about why she loves video conferencing. She says:

Personal Video Conferencing

Personal Video Conferencing

My life took a huge change when the Z-150 came into my life.   I was introduced to single-line VCO:  when I make a phone call, I use my voice to talk directly to the hearing person on the other end of the connection.  I don’t need a second phone to do this, I speak directly into the videophone and the person can hear me.  Perched on the screen in front of me is a Zvrs interpreter.

A few weeks ago, for the first time, I called my friend Cassie to talk about plans for our kids.  In the past, we always texted or used email but I decided to give her a call because we wanted to discuss something in detail.  It was the first time that she experienced a VCO call and she was simply blown away.

Read Karen’s full post here.

Who teaches the teachers?

October 6, 2009 at 8:38 pm PST

The ongoing economic crisis has impacted everyone. Businesses are cutting costs left and right to help alleviate falling sales revenues in the private sector, and governments have in no way been immune. Currently 48 of the 50 states are mired in a steep budget shortfall and are trying everything possible to cut back.

With education funding being slashed across the country to help states balance their budgets, there are many things school districts are learning to live without. However, new technologies being applied in interesting and innovative ways are enabling some schools to provide a full education without breaking the bank. Most notable of these is video teleconferencing (VTC).

In fact, a recent article in Teacher Professional Development Sourcebook discusses some of the creative and innovative ways in which schools are utilizing VTC technologies as an inexpensive alternative to traditional teacher training.

Often times when budgets are slashed both in the private sector and in government, professional development budgets are one of the first casualties. However, the expense of travel to and enrolling in classes can be dramatically reduced through the integration of VTC. This ensures that teachers are up-to-date on the most recent teaching techniques and curriculum without having the travel to classes.

Also, new professional development opportunities that previously would have been considered disruptive to classrooms are now available only through VTC. For example, the Teacher Professional Development Sourcebook article references the Duval County School District in Florida which has been able to open up the classrooms of high-performing teachers for others to watch, and then subsequently ask questions, thanks in large part to VTC. The initiative is called Model Classrooms and it could not exist without technologies like those in TANDBERG video teleconferencing solutions.

The savings and benefits of VTC for professional development in the education industry are obvious. Without VTC, teachers would need to take days off, be replaced with substitutes and have to travel. With VTC, training can be accomplished in short sessions after school and the money saved on flights, hotel and subs go back in the bank.

Video teleconferencing ensures that teachers can continue to be taught to teach at a low cost. How much can your school system save with VTC?

Following the Aussie lead on telemedicine

October 2, 2009 at 10:59 am PST

This week there was an interesting story from IDG Australia about telemedicine in that country. It’s growing rapidly, spurred by economics, the need for better medicine in rural areas and direct government support.

We were struck by the language in the story about expanding broadband in Australia to better healthcare. It sounded very similar to how some of the broadband stimulus dollars from the NTIA and USDA RUS will be used in this country:

In a release, The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, said it was a positive early indication that the National Broadband Network (NBN) would benefit video conferencing applications in healthcare.

“The NBN will serve all Australians, no matter where they choose to live and work, and will provide the enabling platform for a whole range of future remote health applications,” Conroy stated.

Australia and the United States are similar in many ways when it comes to expanding broadband and improving the delivery of healthcare. The population is ageing, the countries are large with geographically dispersed populations, and there are particular challenges getting the best care to rural areas.

TANDBERG is a major sponsor of the National Rural Healthcare Association (NRHA) and has supported the improved delivery of rural healthcare for many years. Whatever the funding mechanism, let’s hope that we will continue to accelerate the adoption of video conferencing as quickly as other developed countries.