Implementing a distance learning program provides your students access to environments outside of their typical school walls and offers learning experiences that goes beyond being routine.
Whether you’re about to launch an experimental program to see if the idea works for you, are wholly dedicated to 100% online learning, or are following a blended model, there are an endless number of possibilities and methods to introduce your students to the online world. Collaborating with students abroad or even as close as one town over can serve to engage your students in a variety of ways and the only thing you need to decide is which tool(s) you want to use to begin and integrate into your daily routines. Califone offers a variety of innovative audio visual solutions to help distance learning programs get off the ground and succeed, ranging from inexpensive plug-in accessories for one-to-one programs to installed whole class audio amplification systems.
How can an audio system be tailored for classroom distance learning? It can by its ability to integrate with teleconferencing systems (and Skype) and at the same time ensure that learners can clearly hear what’s being said without an echo from the speakers. Acoustically, of course you don’t need to use a big system if you’re just getting started where a pair of computer speakers would suffice.
Of course one of the most commonly used and accessible tools for distance learning programs is a reliable set of headphones or headsets (read the series “Learning About Headphones & Headsets” to become more familiar with their specs). One great advantage many rural schools and districts have discovered about distance learning programs is they enable students to take courses which aren’t locally offered. This is what Jemez Valley Public School District, New Mexico has done for their students to listen to instructors from the other side of the country. But if your distance program requires more than just listening, then you’ll need to look instead at headsets (a headphone with a built-in microphone). Traditionally used one-to-one with a computer, headsets with 3.5mm plugs can work in groups up to six students at a time in conjunction with a USB jackbox as Fairfax County Public Schools does to create their student-generated podcasts.
To get your students Skyping with classes from another country, there are available tools to lend visual support. You’ll find there are lots of programs being run using webcams or even document cameras for better overall achievement across a variety of disciplines. Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School (PAVCS) teaches science with a USB Microscope to its distant students while North Carolina Virtual Public School offers Spanish lessons via headsets to record practice lessons that they in turn submit back as recorded files.
Read the next blog in this series about the Diggiditto.