Throughout my years at school and at university I have not had much experience with video conferencing, although I have witnessed a member of family having a video conference for work weekly, which lasts hours, and he says that it is very beneficial due to the fact you are communicating with somebody that you can see which in turn provides a better communication experience, rather than a normal phone call or answering to an email.
The benefits of video conferencing for primary schools are apparent, and these benefits are suggested by Northwood, 2008:
- Giving children easier access to distant people and places
- Elimination of travel costs and subsequent time saving
- Allowing several schools to share the same teacher
- Developing speaking and listening skills
- Developing questioning skills
- Encouraging collaboration between schools (both locally and worldwide)
- Bringing expertise into the classroom
- And of course, it’s fun!
I think there are many ways in which teachers can use video conferencing to enhance children’s learning. For example, having a school link with an educational setting in another country can be an excellent resource for children in both schools as the children can have the opportunity to communicate and ask questions to each other; this can improve and develop speaking, listening and questioning skills. The children are also able to see the surroundings of the schools (if the video conference is taking place on the school ground), which give the children a sense of the school community and learning environment.
The cost of travelling to particular places for educational purposes may be too high for a school’s budget, therefore having access to the video resources and being able to have a video conference with an expertise from a cultural setting is a great, alternative way of gaining that experience. For example, having an expert from a museum provide their time for a video conference to talk about, and show the children artefacts through a video conference is still giving children that experience and knowledge even though they are not at that museum.
However, Jonassen et al. 2008 suggest that video conferencing is still costly as the school have to pay for the resources and the facilities to enable a class to have a video conference. Schools will need access to a webcam, a microphone and speakers to be able to have a video conference but these do not have to be too expensive to purchase, depending on the type of equipment the school wants to buy. Additionally, there are free computer programmes such as Skype which can be used for a video conference so the school do not necessarily have to pay for the programmes in which they use.
The DfES, Evaluation for the DfES Video Conferencing in the Classroom Project (2004) also state some uses and benefits of video conferencing in the classroom. One of them being that groups of children who are learning a Modern Foreign Language (MFL) having a video conference with a native speaker of the language, for example, Italian. An evaluation from a school who done this said that the students benefited from having a face to face interaction with a native speaker which developed their confidence and competence above what they would have usually gained in a traditional MFL lesson.
Overall, I have benefitted greatly from reading and learning about video conferencing in primary schools as it has given me the confidence and knowledge of setting up video conferences with external expertise around the world to provide a better learning experience for children in my class. I will definitely use this as a resource for my classes in the future as I believe it is also an engaging tool to use for children and I think it would work really well.