Let's start with some easy stuff: Virtual Field Trips. In a recent article in Learning & Leading by Jan Zanetis. "The Beginner's Guide to Interactive Virtual Field Trips" I was enthused that there was plenty of good information to share with teachers. In fact, the article starts out by telling teachers to check around, they can usually find authentic Video Conferencing equipment with H .323 codecs. What a breath of fresh air! So often I hear educators talk about Skype as if it replaces video conferencing and I am disappointed. Skype is an awesome tool for small groups and one-on-one instruction, but, for a virtual field trip experience you need the real thing. I say this regarding Skype however, caveat emptor... since Skype has come under scrutiny for many security issues it is important to be careful and scrupulous when deploying it over an enterprise.
For the budget conscious you should know that there are reputable companies out there that supply refurbished equipment at a fraction of the cost! One such company helped us out our school set up a daily distance learning program for our 5th grade! [Contact Arthur Carp at Quantalytics]
Video conferencing is an engaging medium for the students. With this medium we are inviting larger than life characters into the classroom to interact with students. Real authors, astronauts, and even animals from some zoos! The world of "TV" becomes INTERACTIVE "TV" with video conferencing.
At our school we conduct Hebrew classes for our 5th grade students. The teacher is in Israel. Outside of her window children can hear the birds in Israel as the chirp. "We can listen to birds that are thousands of miles away!" they laugh and enjoy the "slice of life" experiences that come to them everyday directly from Israel. Of course, it helps to have a very engaging Israel teacher on the other side!
CILC posted an article about the people side of VC called, "Teaching from Home: A Human Interest Story". This article features the Hebrew Immersion program at The Moriah School.
CILC is one of the best websites for collaboration through video conferencing. There you can find content providers, academic classes, online collaborations, and professional development programs. Their program is innovative and creative and I am sure you will find tons of information there.
According to Jan in the Learning and Leading article, The Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC) asks teachers to evaluate interactive virtual field trip content providers each year to determine the CILC Pinnacle Award Winners. The 2008–09 winners are:
Adventures in Medicine & Science (AIMS) Program of Saint Louis University http://aims.slu.edu
Center for Puppetry Arts www.puppet.org
Cleveland Institute of Music www.cim.edu/dl/index.php
Cleveland Museum of Natural History www.cmnh.org
George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate www.mountvernon.org/learn/index.cfm
Hank Fincken: A National Theatre Company of One www.hankfincken.com
HealthSpace (now part of Cleveland Museum of Natural History)www.cmnh.org/site/classesandprograms/schoolprograms/healthed.aspx
Life Science Education Center at Marian College www.marian.edu/EcoLab/Education/Pages/default.aspx
Louisville Science Center www.louisvillescience.org
Mote Marine Laboratory www.mote.org
NASA Digital Learning Network (Kennedy Space Center, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Johnson Space Center, and Goddard Space Flight Center) http://dln.nasa.gov/dln/content/catalog
The National WWII Museum www.nationalww2museum.org
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) www.omsi.edu
The Paley Center for Media www.paleycenter.org
Reef HQ Aquarium in Australia www.reefhq.com.au
Virent Broadcasting Company www.virent.net