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Videoconferencing in K-12 Education: A Program that Works

November 10, 2013 | Telepresence Options

Videoconferencing Education

Videoconferencing is being used around the world in primary education to connect classrooms to each other and interesting places around the world.� Telepresence Options takes a look at a program that works in Greenville, South Carolina along with some "News You Can Use": A list of the top destinations for videoconferencing field trips.�

When I talk about videoconferencing in K-12 education, I like to share with teachers how I grew up in Wyoming. I tell them how the Oregon Trail was close to our hometown and how important the Transcontinental Railroad was to our state. I highlight all of the wonderful things I was able to experience by growing up in Wyoming. Then I talk about how outside of westward expansion, it was hard to comprehend some of the other historical locations in the United States. I discuss how exciting it must be to live in New York and take a field trip to Ellis Island, or to live in Washington, D.C. and visit the Capitol Building. Modern transportation lets teachers take students to all those places and many more, but most traditional field trips are too often and too expensive. That's why videoconferencing is the great equalizer in education. Students and teachers can take a "virtual" field trip and learn about abstract concepts from experts in the field. Best of all, they can get "back" in time for lunch.�

Videoconferencing Education

Behind the Scenes:

Greenville County Schools in upstate South Carolina has been a pioneer in videoconferencing since 2002. The school system purchased Tandberg equipment and infrastructure to connect the Roper Mountain Science Center with schools across the district. Soon every fourth grade student was participating in a videoconference lesson about telescopes with astronomers at Roper Mountain. The astronomy connection helped the district save instructional time and money on transportation. Given the district has over 71,000 students, these savings were critical.

Videoconferencing Education

The district followed up with school-to-school collaborative projects in an effort to aid high school students completing foreign language requirements. In 2008, we began to schedule regular virtual field trips to enhance and enrich the curriculum. What started out as 56 connection requests in the 2008-2009 school year has exploded to over 1,700 connection requests for 2013-2014.

Greenville County students have been fortunate to learn about content from subject experts in Europe, the Middle East, Middle and South America, Australia and across the United States. The district has since added a Virtual Science Lab that provides hands-on science instruction to students at four schools.

Greenville County Schools - By the Numbers

Total Number of Students


Total Number of Schools


Total Number of Video-Equipped Classrooms


Total Number of Portable Endpoints


Total Connection Requests for the 2013-2014 School Year


Total Number of States Visited since 2008


Total Number of Countries Visited since 2008


Average Number of Connections During the 2012-2013 School Year


Total Number of Schools that Participated in 2012-2013


Total Number of Requests for the 2012-2013 School Year


Videoconferencing has let our students ask questions directly to experts, making the answers more engaging than a book or other research. Some of our high school physics students learned about the work being done with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. Many of our elementary students participated in a dive program with the Reef HQ Aquarium in Australia. Students studying World War II have learned about personal experiences from the men and women who served. All of these connections have brought enriching and curricular-enhancing opportunities to the lives of our students. These connections are real and primary sources that are impacting the quality of education our students are receiving.

It's truly an exciting time for teachers and students who are currently involved in, or who want to be involved in, educational videoconferencing. The cost of HD endpoints has decreased, making them more obtainable through programs like E-rate for schools that prefer a traditional room system. Skype has increased its educational presence with Skype in the Classroom and companies like Field Trip Zoo, BlueJeans, Pexip, and Vidyo are bringing high-quality calls through non-traditional systems. These are just a few of the most interesting developments in the world of educational videoconferencing. The future looks better and better with each new development.


A Dozen Videoconferencing Field Trip Destinations

1. Alaska SeaLife Center, Seward, Alaska

Alaska truly is the "final frontier," and what better way for your students to learn about this unique ecosystem. Visit the CILC, to schedule programs with the Alaska SeaLife Center.

2. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

All the Virtual Field Trips for Amon Carter are scheduled through Connect2Texes, Nancy Strickland, the education curator, is wonderful to work with and the ability to virtually "visit" the museum on their portable videoconferencing cart takes the connection to a new level.

3. Center for Puppetry Arts, Atlanta, Georgia

Students have the opportunity to create puppets as they learn about various content with the education team at the Center for Puppetry Arts. The CILC,, is the best way to schedule these connections.

4. Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio

With two HD studios, green screen technology and thousands of images at their fingertips, the Cleveland Museum of Art visually stimulates students through their videoconference connections. Programs can be scheduled through the CILC,

5. History Live, St. Paul, Minnesota

Considered a "diamond in the rough," History Live has extremely interactive programs that keep students engaged throughout the connection. Connection requests can be scheduled through the CILC,

6. Lower East Side Tenement Museum, New York, New York

The Tenement Museum provides a unique opportunity for students who want to learn more about how an immigrant was able to survive once they arrived on the streets of New York City in the early 20th Century. Students interact with an actor portraying a fellow immigrant who helps them find their way in the New World. All requests are handled through the CILC,

7. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Who doesn't love space? Connecting up with aeronautic experts at various NASA sites around the United States lets your students learn from the best. All NASA programs are scheduled through the NASA Digital Learning Network,

8. The National Park Service

National Parks are America's Treasures and through videoconference students can connect up with Park Rangers to learn about Glacier Bay in Alaska, Ellis Island in New York, or the Cold War in South Dakota. There are numerous connection options available and each Park Service site schedules differently, check out for more information.

9. Pacific Historic Parks, Honolulu, Hawaii

With three different programs that all focus on the Attack on Pearl Harbor, "a date which will live in infamy," the Pacific Historic Parks are the foremost authority on December 7, 1941. Find scheduling information at

10. Reef HQ Aquarium, Townsville, Queensland Australia

Aquariums are fun to visit in person, but visiting an aquarium on the other side of the world is even better. The Reef HQ Aquarium is unique in that the divers visit two different tanks and are able to communicate directly with the students while under water ... it's a turtle-petting, shark-hugging good time. All requests are scheduled through the CILC,

11. Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlington, Ontario Canada

Karin Davidson-Taylor is a very personable and entertaining presenter whose extensive knowledge of the plant world engages and enriches the lives of students. The CILC is the best way to schedule programs with the Royal Botanical Gardens,

12. The World War II Museum, New Orleans, Louisiana

With a variety of programs that provide hands-on activities to learn about World War II, the World War II Museum is a great place to visit virtually. All programs are scheduled through the CILC at

We are looking to expand our list of videoconferencing field trip destinations and have created a category in our Telepresence and Videoconferencing Catalog.� If your institution would like to get listed or you know of an interesting videoconferencing field trip destination then please e-mail us @ [email protected]

Author's Bio

tim van heuleTim Van Heule is the distance learning coordinator for Greenville County Schools in South Carolina. He earned his undergraduate degree from Clemson University and his Masters degree from George Washington University. He has been the distance learning coordinator for six years and has been instrumental in establishing a robust videoconference culture in Greenville. Aside from working with videoconferencing, he also serves on the administrative team for the Greenville County Virtual School Program. Follow him on Twitter or he can be reached at [email protected].�

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