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Manitoba brings video conferencing to rural, northern classrooms


October 7, 2008
By Alyssa Dalton

Rural and northern students in Manitoba will have the opportunity to interact with experts and other students from around the world with new investments in video conferencing for classrooms, said Peter Bjornson, education, citizenship and youth minister.

Using
video conferencing links, students have talked to astronauts as their
shuttles drift through space and others have ventured on virtual tours
of centres of world-class centres of knowledge such as the Smithsonian
Institute.




“This
video conferencing capability has made a significant difference to
students and teachers alike,” said Jack Sullivan, superintendent of
Mountain View School Division. “Students have access to additional
courses. This technology also enables teachers to participate in
professional development sessions close to home because time
constraints and travel costs are no longer a factor.”




Students
in Dauphin, The Pas and Flin Flon used the equipment to continue their
French immersion education beyond Grade 8. This pilot project was so
successful that Mountain View School Division plans to expand its
capabilities to include all six high schools in the division. The
additional $65,000-investment to expand video conferencing will also
see enhanced course delivery, and professional development and
consultative support opportunities for Manitoba teachers, school
division staff and administrators.




The
technology can link schools with high-definition, interactive video and
sound. Some of the current uses include helping deaf or hard-of-hearing
students study with teachers using American Sign Language (ASL),
providing training for educational assistants and giving school teams
access to specialists who can provide consultative support for student
services.




Technology
such as video conferencing will increase the opportunities for rural
and northern school educators to participate in the development of
support materials and to access professional learning opportunities.
The technology will also be used by school divisions to access
consultant support from the department to assist in planning for
students with special needs.