Back in the first few days of March, my class had the special opportunity to video conference call Verena Roberts, a teacher and technology education researcher based out of Alberta. The day we video conferenced her, she was giving a lecture to those in the community at a university, and we got to join in on this lecture part way through, so that she was both speaking to those in the lecture and to us in BC through the video camera.
This was the second video conference call our class got to participate in, and at first the idea scared me. I felt so vulnerable having the cameras at the front of the room pointing at me, watching my every move (or so I though), and seeing our guest speaker’s profile large on the screens in front of us. I thought that the guest speaker was watching me particularly, and that made me very nervous.
However, I came to realize that the cameras only watched you particularly when you spoke or made a significant noise, which was a little more reassuring, and that the guest speakers saw the whole class, not just me in particular.
I think video conferencing is a great way to connect those who cannot physically be present with a person or class to a person or class. I could see many benefits to using video conferencing in elementary education as well to bring in different experts on different subjects into the classroom virtually. What if I had a connection with an archeologist in Egypt as I was speaking on ancient Egyptian civilizations, and this archeologist could video call my class and show them the dig they’re working on? How cool would that be? (that’s a rhetorical question)
Verena Roberts spoke on “Open & Networked Learning: How to Expand Learning Beyond Classroom Walls”. This is a very important topic because right now, learning is fairly closed. Did you know that governments give grants that are made up of tax-payer dollars to people to write textbooks, and then the information that’s written in textbooks is heavily copyrighted so that it cannot be accessed without buying the $250 textbook they created? Doesn’t that seem wrong and backwards that not all tax-payers who helped fund many textbooks in the first place won’t have access to the information inside of it unless they buy the textbook itself?
Roberts encouraged us to begin an “open educational practice”, which she defines as “an intentional design that expands learning opportunities for all learners”. This could be conference calling across the globe, or even getting parents involved in the learning inside the classroom in tangible ways. However big or small, there are many ways we can tap into the many different wealths of knowledge beyond just we have to unlock through textbooks.