A NASA astronaut talks to students about being on the space station Atlantis.­

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Video Conferencing Education

At its most basic level, video conferencing in education connects remote students to teachers. On a more exciting level, it also leads students on virtual tours, brings far-away experts on camera for interviews and allows kids to try out their fledgling foreign language skills on their peers from other countries. While such activities might have been difficult in the past due to travel costs, time constraints and inconvenience, classroom video conferencing can offer a work-around solution. Video conferencing lessons for schools can also ignite an interest and enthusiasm for learning that traditional teaching methods sometimes can't.

For instance, how often did your middle-school science class interact with astronauts at NASA? Yet students from California were able to take a close-up tour of a NASA facility with their school's video conferencing equipment. As part of their science and engineering project about self-sufficient living spaces, the students toured a space station training facility where they got a close look at all the equipment and were able to ask their guides questions [source: AT&T]. Such a field trip would have been impossible without video conferencing because of the distance and time involved.

Even the best students sometimes hit a wall with traditional teaching methods. Sometimes it just helps to put a face with whatever you're learning. After completing a unit on the Sun, Earth and Moon, students in England got to do just that, interviewing a scientist from the London Science Museum. Their excitement about the interview opportunity motivated them to come up with good questions, and they were so pleased with the whole experience that they asked to present to the rest of the school what they had learned [source: Global Leap Study 31].

Students from Monkseaton Language College in England were equally excited when they got the chance to practice their language skills with students from a classroom in France. Learning a language by making flash cards and filling out worksheets is one thing, but speaking it with native speakers is another [source: Global Leap Study 15].

Of course, not all classroom video conferencing experiences are positive. The technology sometimes presents obstacles. If users aren't familiar with how to deal with such issues, the benefits of video conferencing education can be lost. Learn about the technology of video conferencing and some of its downfalls on the next page.