The TANDBERG team recently returned from the National Middle School Association’s (NMSA) annual conference in Indianapolis. As usual, the conference was a hall pass for over 8,000 of the nation’s middle school decision makers to advance themselves professionally and discuss best practices in teaching America’s students during what is considered one of the most important and transformative parts of their young lives.
For this year’s show, TANDBERG had the privilege and honor to do more than just exhibit our products and discuss the money-saving and education-advancing implementations of video teleconferencing (VTC) in education. TANDBERG got to do some hands-on learning by delivering presenters, content and virtual field trips via video in the 21st Century Classroom, a state-of-the art classroom exhibit that the NMSA constructed with the assistance of TANDBERG and other vendors. The first event delivered via TANDBERG VTC solutions was an interactive tour of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef during the opening reception.
If the Great Barrier Reef wasn’t interesting enough, we spent some significant time discussing the issues facing educators with faculty and staff from America’s middle schools. One of the recurring themes we heard was an almost-universal perception that middle schools are often lacking visibility in the public eye. Literally, “stuck in the middle” between the excitement and newness of elementary school and the ambition and drive of high school, middle schools are often not first priority for new technologies, funding and other resources.
This slight to middle schools, perceived or not, is concerning considering how important those years are to the education and development of students. Luckily, there are programs helping schools with some of these challenges. In a recent Federal Computer Week article, Doug Beizer discussed the grant from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) designed to bring VTC technologies to rural areas for distance learning and telehealth applications.
The $34.9 million in grants has been earmarked for 111 projects in 35 states, and has potential to make a significant impact on schools struggling for the resources and technologies they need to educate their students.
VTC solutions enable middle schools to share resources, including teachers, with other schools. This is exceptionally helpful for schools looking to begin or continue teaching fine arts, languages and other subjects where teachers may not be in the budget or available due to geographic location.
VTC solutions also open the door for previously unheard-of educational experiences for students. Through VTC, experts can join classes via video to discuss specific current events, trends or subjects. Students can adventure on virtual fieldtrips to places like rainforests and the Great Barrier Reef – trips that would have been logistically and financially unfeasible without video.
So for all of those middle schools out there, we feel your pain. But help just might be on the way, via video.