A grassroots effort to use video collaboration for teaching history and social studies is helping a southern Alaska school district turn high school students into lifelong learners. With video collaboration solutions from Polycom, Inc. (Nasdaq: PLCM), the global leader in open standards-based unified communications (UC), teachers at separate high schools in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District (KPBSD) are enabling students to understand history and cultures from different perspectives, learn collaboratively with classmates from rival schools, and engage face to face with youths and teachers from as far away as the Czech Republic.
With video collaboration solutions from Polycom, teachers at separate high schools in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, Alaska, are enabling students to learn collaboratively with students from around the world. (Photo: Business Wire)
Today, the teachers conduct roughly a third of their classes over video, taking turns leading lessons with students at multiple Alaska schools as well as other schools around the world and even students at home or on the go. All the students participate in the same exercises, projects and discussions, and can share content using Polycom’s smart technology white boards.
Called Classroom Without Walls (CWOW), the program enhances learning by allowing instructors to focus on specific areas of expertise. One of the teachers, Gregory Weissenberg, for instance, grew up in Soviet Russia and can draw from his own experiences to teach about the Russian influence in Alaska. Another teacher, Rob Sparks at Skyview High, usually leads economics classes because that is one of his specialties.
Exposure to new cultures
KPBSD recently engaged students in a workshop with a teacher in the Czech Republic, and other classes have taken virtual field trips to schools in Israel and beyond – all arranged through Polycom’s Videoconference Program Database and CAPspace, a global directory and professional network of more than 11,000 educators from 41 countries who engage in video collaboration projects. “It takes a year to arrange a field trip overseas,” said Greg Zorbas, a teacher at Kenai Central High. “With Polycom, it takes a day.”
In a district the size of West Virginia, some sizable challenges
The sheer size of KPBSD can make collaboration between schools difficult. At more than 25,000 square miles, the district is larger than West Virginia. Driving from one end of the district to another can take three hours. Some schools – separated from others by wilderness or seawater – are accessible only by boat or plane.
Polycom® RealPresence® video solutions have helped collapse those distances for students in the CWOW program. “We all taught together in the same building about 10 or 12 years ago and we’d collaborate together all the time,” said Zorbas. “Over the years, we ended up at different schools. I thought we could use these Polycom systems to collaborate just like we once did in person, so we gave it a try and have been using it ever since.”
Since then, CWOW has proven so successful that the project won a $30,000 technology grant last year from Artifacts for Alaskans by Alaskans, a state competition hosted by the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development. CWOW was recognized for its innovative use of technology to enhance the educational experience of KPBSD students.
Benefits that go beyond meeting academic standards
Polycom-powered CWOW classes meet or exceed established standards in world history, U.S. history, Russian language, Alaska studies, government, and English literature. The program also offers benefits that extend well beyond learning core curriculum, including:
CWOW is such a success that KPBSD is looking to expand the concept to more departments and schools. Already, KPBSD is sharing content with other school districts, inviting students from the Bering Strait and Aleutians East Borough School Districts to attend the CWOW teachers’ class on Vitus Bering, the Danish explorer and namesake of the Bering Strait and Bering Sea.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” said Zorbas, “and I’ve never been more excited about my job.”
Polycom Education Solutions
With their budgets under strain, administrators are using Polycom video solutions to give students more interactive, immersive, and innovative educational experiences with a technology that pays for itself by reducing administrative costs and improving staff productivity. All of the top five universities worldwide, as well as hundreds of schools, colleges, and universities around the world, are using Polycom to improve all facets of education from teaching to course development to administrative meetings to advanced blended learning applications.
To learn more about Polycom education solutions, visit www.polycom.com/solutions/industry/education.
Polycom is the global leader in open standards-based unified communications (UC) solutions for telepresence, video, and voice powered by the Polycom® RealPresence® Platform. The RealPresence Platform interoperates with the broadest range of business, mobile, and social applications and devices. More than 400,000 organizations trust Polycom solutions to collaborate and meet face to face from any location for more productive and effective engagement with colleagues, partners, customers, specialists, and prospects. Polycom, together with its broad partner ecosystem, provides customers with the best total cost of ownership, interoperability, scalability, and security for video collaboration, whether on-premises, hosted, or cloud delivered. Visit www.polycom.com or connect with Polycom on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
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