Ground breaking project in Uruguay.
Mina Patel, Executive Director, Video Conferencing for Global Learning, shares her experiences
Can HD quality video conferencing (VC) technology connect classrooms around the world and give students opportunities to ‘learn about anything, from anyone, from anywhere’ ? I confidently say : ”yes”
My classroom is no ordinary classroom. As I step into the room the first thing I notice are the flashing green lights on a router that takes a high speed internet connection into the back of a codec that sits on the teacher’s desk. The HD camera and microphone are connected to that codec also and I can see all thirty children sitting at their desks, over 5,000 miles away in Uruguay, on the flat panel screen in front of me. My remote teacher, Maria, shares power point slides and videos with the children. They sing together and play games in teams even though they are thousands of miles apart. She shows them books and news paper articles from London under the visualiser. The children in UY (Uruguay) see this in full HD quality as if Maria is in the classroom with them in UY. Maria asks them to speak and repeat the date I hear the children’s voices copy the English accent as they all repeat the month and day together.
The Ceibal en Ingles project, which is in partnership with the British Council (UY), involves over 1,000 primary school children receiving weekly English lessons, live and direct from language teachers in London-based VCfGL classrooms. It was set up because of the shortage of English Speaking teachers in Uruguay. Its aim was to give children access to English education no matter what their social background. Whilst colleagues have voiced their concern over whether teaching via video conference is as effective as face to face teaching, the data we collected during this project should certainly dispel such fears.
Another issue often arising is that although many blended learning projects have been launched, they fail, more often than not. What are the determining factors that can make such a project successful? In our experience, both teacher training and technical support are important factors for the class teacher and remote teacher
Using the right equipment
One of the difficulties governments around the world face lies in providing access to quality professional development and the teaching of English. So what better way to provide this service than to connect with qualified teachers around the world via video conferencing technology ? Using the right kind of technology is very important when teaching a class of up to 30 children and can prevent failures that can harm the project’s reputation and efficiency. A secure, interoperable high quality solution is key in making remote teaching like this work for any country. Teaching languages requires high quality audio and video connections, with a good broadband connection to enable this. The hardware used by the remote teachers at VCfGL London is unique to remote teaching; it delivers lessons at lower bandwidths as well as higher bandwidths, in full HD quality, into classrooms all over Uruguay and beyond. Video Conferencing for Global learning is in a position to offer access to qualified language teachers from England to support other classroom practitioners around the world.
VCfGL have partnered with the University of East London to train all 300 PGCE and MSc trainee teachers from all subject areas to teach via video conference and receive lessons via VC. The core unit is to be delivered shortly including lesson observations and academic research papers to be written around remote teaching through video conference.
What is the teachers’ reaction?
One might think that teachers would react negatively to blended learning or sharing classes with virtual colleagues from abroad. I feel that the best answer is a teacher’s response recorded on the video below.
How it is structured
The Plan Ceibal project uses a blended learning approach where an online platform is used as a learning management system by class teachers, remote teachers and pupils for lesson plans, homework. This is combined with remote lessons via virtual classroom and face to face lessons. This blending of environments is seamless, coherent and flexible. Below you can read the pattern we followed:
- 1 Remote lesson
- 2 Face to Face ( CPD for teachers )
- Online Platform CREA2
(Homework and assessment are recorded and delivered through CREA2)
- Mentors for Class Teachers
- QA for Remote Teachers
- Technical Support Team
The project’s outcome
After 3 years of the Ceibal Programme with VC , our research data indicated that the number of students who participated in the project and reached the A2 common European framework level in the areas of vocabulary, reading and grammar almost doubled the number of those who followed the traditional face to face approach.
To be specific:
After 3 years of the Ceibal programme with remote lessons via VC
60 % students = A2
After 3 years of the second language programme:
Face to face only
39% students = A2
Why would someone resort to VC?
Reflecting on what made the project work, I can pinpoint some factors that played a key role in its success:
- Shortage of teachers globally.
- High quality and reliability.
- It doesn`t cost as much as people expect. In this case, our company has provided bespoke affordable VC teaching solutions.
- It is not just about languages. Students learn about culture and the world around us. For example, they can learn about England οr the UK from teachers living and working in London which makes it a unique experience.
- Team teaching facilitates CPD.
- New technologies motivate children to get actively involved in the learning process.
Bio : Mina is the founder and Executive Director of Video Conferencing for Global Learning (VCfGL). Mina jointly chairs the UK VC Partnerships Group, where she has worked alongside national advisers from across the UK, to put together broadband guidelines for the Department for Education to support VC technology in schools. Mina’s company aims to deliver thousands of English lessons via video conference to children all over the world directly from London. Mina has recently began working on similar projects with Brazil and Africa.
Adaptive test results 2016 Plan Ceibal: