Banyan Global Learning – a longtime purveyor of video teleconferencing based distance learning education – had a bit of a game changer today. Our classrooms became mobile as we introduced to our curriculum 4G Video Teleconferencing Virtual Field Trips (4G Field Trips for short). The following report is from Teacher Seth:
We usually use a Cisco H.323 video teleconferencing system to perform our distance learning classes. But we can also connect to the local teacher’s iPad through Skype or FaceTime. Although the images are fuzzier and there’s just a single input, this approach works in a pinch and, most importantly, it can free us from the tethers of our desks.
Until recently, though, we needed to be within range of wifi in order to use Skype or FaceTime from a mobile device. Then, AT&T’s 4G service became fast enough to accommodate mobile video teleconferencing.
Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Street is a little plaza with restaurants and shops in Little Tokyo. Today we ran out there for the last ten minutes of class and connected to Taiwan using the iPhone. As the initial shock of it actually working wore off I realized that I had to show something more interesting than the plaza’s space shuttle statue, so, naturally, I took them window shopping. Luckily, there are stores there dedicated to both Hello Kitty and to anime figurines, meaning there was something for everyone in our happy Asian classroom.
For ten minutes, our Taiwanese students walked the streets of LA. Most exciting were the random interactions we had with storekeepers and patrons who happened to witness our little experiment. The interactions rarely went beyond a spirited wave and hello, but that didn’t stop them from blowing the minds of all involved.
Most classrooms already have the basic requirements to conduct their own 4G Field Trip: an internet-enabled device connected to a projector and screen. Now you just need a target location and an interested party with a smartphone. With such low barriers to entry, what’s stopping teachers from doing this every day?
What will be your next 4G Field Trip?
In the following days we did three more 4G Video Teleconferencing Virtual Field Trips:
1) Los Feliz Village – a tour of street art in a shopping district near Griffith Park (see pix above).
2) Staples Center – Taiwan was basketball-crazed even before Linsanity (Lin’s family is from Taiwan). They also love winners and thus the Lakers, so when Lin’s Houston team was in town for the last game of the season they just had to take a 4G Field Trip to Staples Center. We interviewed fans outside the game.
3) Olvera Street – a traditional Mexican marketplace near our office. Rather than just a cultural adventure, this trip supplemented our 8th grade mini-unit on diversity in America. With close ties to our curriculum, this trip represents our new direction for the 4G Field Trips.