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How to Fund Video Conferencing for Your Classroom

By Maria Fico and John Ellrodt

Over the past three years the demand for video conferencing in the classroom has grown significantly. As the bandwidth necessary for quality video calls has become more readily available, an increasing number of schools and central offices are utilizing video conferencing as a convenient and reliable tool to bring administrators, teachers, and students together - anytime and anyplace.

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Classrooms require room-based video conferencing systems for successful collaboration. Small web cams, although inexpensive and readily available for desktop video conferencing, do not serve a classroom of students who want to consult with a subject matter expert, nor a group of teachers or principals who wish to participate in a professional development session. The challenge for schools, however, is finding the funds needed to purchase video conferencing technology.

Digital Age Learning (DAL), a group specializing in the practical integration of collaborative technologies with educational programs, has the solution to this challenge. DAL brings video conferencing into classrooms by seeking, applying for, and securing grant funding. Over the past four years, the members of DAL have secured more than 12 million dollars in public and private grant funds to pursue video conferencing projects in schools.

For example, a teacher at PS 132 in the Bronx wanted to reconnect with students from her old school in St Louis. She designed a pen pal project with another teacher in St. Louis where students in one class in the Bronx could learn about their pen pals in St Louis, and then write a poem about their pen pals based on their new knowledge. Thanks to support from a NYS Title IID Enhancing Education Technology grant, the class is now able to take this project one step further: through video conferencing, they can see and speak with their pen pal in real time, as well as collaborate on topics such as the cultural differences and geographic similarities of their home communities.

Another student at MS 145 began his middle school years struggling to be accepted by his peers. He often stuttered when he spoke, and like many adolescents, he was unmotivated in school and disliked reading and writing. Through a three year Federal DOE Arts in Education Grant, this student spent three full years in a poetry writing and performance program where he was mentored by a real poet from a local arts organization. By expressing his ideas and emotions through writing and performing poetry, the stuttering student gained self-confidence, became a leader in his school, and does not stutter when he performs his poems. After three years of this program that incorporated video conferencing for sharing and competing with other students within and outside of his local community, the student became a finalist in National Poetry Slam competitions and earned a full scholarship to a private high school in Massachusetts.

An IDEAS grant with NASA made it possible for sixth grade students to study the Mars Rover in their earth science class. They created their own Rover, which they programmed to navigate the various types of terrain on Mars. The students could share their work with a real scientist at NASA, and get tips on how to move on their rover design. One of the boys in the class said, "I am the scientist in my family now! Every night at the dinner table I talk to my mom, dad and brother about our Rover and the problems we encounter and need to solve to get it to make its journey through Mars."

A final example is of a grant from the Shinnyo-en Foundation (www.sef.org) which allowed students at Eastview Middle School in White Plains to become Global Ambassadors to the UN. Through video conferencing they were able to work with organizations like the Global Education Motivators, connecting with countries all over the world to study important global issues such as access to clean water and HIV awareness.

As these examples demonstrate, DAL found and secured the necessary funds to make video conferencing in the classroom a reality. DAL accomplished this by utilizing the vast resources of state and federal dollars that are available to schools and school districts.

Most Requests for Proposals (RFP's) are seeking new, innovative ideas to address priority areas in education. Unfortunately, these funds are often left largely unspent due to the lack of knowledge of how to navigate the RFP process, as well as the limited time teachers and administrators have to devote to grant writing. The team at DAL has conducted two-day institutes on the overall grant writing process, as well as provided technical expertise for the design and implementation of projects necessary to writing an award-winning proposal. Their expertise in grant writing has spanned several areas of curriculum including mathematics, science, social studies, library research, literacy, performing arts, and parent/family education.

DAL has recently partnered with IVCi (www.ivci.com), a leading integrator of collaboration solutions for K-12 and higher education, to provide grant writing and consulting services in order to facilitate the procurement of video conferencing systems for its education partners. DAL is pleased to partner with IVCi and looks forward to sharing its grant writing expertise with IVCi clients.

For additional information regarding distance learning, video conferencing or any of IVCi's products and services, please call 1-800-224-7083 ext. 109, or click here to have an IVCi Representative contact you.

All trade names, trademarks, and/or service marks herein are owned by their respective holders.

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