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Cooperating School Districts uses video to bring the world into the classroom and ensure educational equity for
St. Louis students

Martha Bogart and Ruth Litman-Block know that nothing sets a child on the path to success like a solid education, and they've made it their mission to leverage the power of technology to provide robust curriculum and educational equity for the students of St. Louis.

Bogart and Block work for Cooperating School Districts (CSD) of Greater St. Louis, a nonprofit educational consortium providing cooperative purchasing, technology, staff development, legislative, human resource, research and financial services to 51 public school districts in the St. Louis metropolitan area. The work Bogart and Block do through the deployment of interactive video conferencing technology and content enriches the curriculum for 300,000 students, fully one-third of the public school students in the state of Missouri.

Bringing Students Together

Through the deployment and championing of video conferencing in the classroom, Bogart, distance learning coordinator for CSD and Block, CSD's virtual learning center director are changing the way students learn and teachers teach in the 51 public school districts their organization serves. Their programs greatly enrich the curriculum from kindergarten all the way through high school by bringing experts from all over the world into the classroom and connecting students with peer groups that would never be accessible without the help of video conferencing. Through CSD's video communications network, students in rural parts of Missouri are able to take classes at community colleges hundreds of miles away from their homes, helping level the playing field when they enter college. Inner-city kids, for whom travel is not always an option, are able to see the world through video conferencing, learning from experts as far away as Switzerland and visiting cultural institutions all over the United States. With support from a Lucent Technologies Grant of $50,000, CDS recently brought hundreds of high school students together for "Crucial Conversations: A Dialog on Race and Race Relations." They also facilitated a global video conference between high school students in Missouri and high school students in Israel that focused on living under the threat of terror in a democracy. "We're able to facilitate visits to places like the Johnson Space Center and the National Archives and Records Administration through video conferencing," said Bogart. "These "virtual filed trips" give students authentic learning experiences from experts in a variety of fields, the impact of which is higher student achievement."

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No Student Left Behind

In addition to offering students opportunities to interact with peers from all over the world, Block and Bogart use video to enhance educational equity. With their "no student left behind" philosophy, Bogart and Block have been leaders in providing equal educational opportunity to students all over the state of Missouri. For example, a typical class to prepare students for the ACT standardized college entrance exam costs $700 per student, a prohibitive cost for many inner-city and rural families. By leveraging the power of video conferencing to spread the cost among the 51 Cooperating School Districts, Bogart and Block have reduced the cost to just $125 per student, including all materials and practice tests. This gives these students the opportunity for equal preparation to their peers in more affluent areas.

Taking Staff Development to the Next Level

Thanks to the remote nature of video conferencing that allows the maximum number of teachers to participate and share the costs among the districts, Bogart and Block provide teachers with the best in professional development. Through video conferencing, they are able to easily and cost-effectively bring in experts in fields as varied as behavioral psychology and elementary school art. Bogart and Block recently formed an advisory committee made up of representatives from each district in order to continue meeting the needs of their district "customers."

Transparent Technology

In addition to working to provide compelling content at affordable prices and make sure that teachers are trained and feel comfortable using the equipment, Bogart and Block are responsible for the technology behind the network. This includes the deployment of video units, installing software upgrades, facilitating mixed calls and connections between multiple sites and technical support for the districts. CSD uses Polycom's ViewStation and VS4000 group video communications systems, and Polycom ViewStation units are deployed in most of the participating classrooms in the districts. "Our jobs are split into three very important categories—curriculum, technology and marketing or public relations to make sure the full value of the technology is well understood," said Block. "Instilling confidence in the teachers who use the equipment is as important as any of the technical work we do because it allows them to focus on teaching, rather than on technology, and derive the full benefit of these virtual lessons."

Extending the Mission

Moving forward, Bogart and Block are putting a great deal of focus on and energy into outreach to the rural geographies of Missouri, extending to them enhanced curriculum and educational equity. They are also planning to leverage the cost-savings of video over IP by undertaking the transition from a 99 percent ISDN-based network to an IP network. Although it's a big job, both women are looking forward to the challenge and what it will mean in terms of expanding video conferencing options and ultimately providing more service to more students and teachers located all over the state.


Johns Hopkins International Collaborates, Treats Patients Around
the Globe

World-Renowned Medical Institute Uses Voice and Video Conferencing to Provide Access to Specialists, While Saving Time and Money

Johns Hopkins International, an independent LLC within world-renowned Johns Hopkins Medicine, coordinates international patient care, treating up to 3,500 patients per year. Increasingly, Johns Hopkins is facilitating research, education, and patient care through state-of-the-art voice and video conferencing solutions from Polycom, Inc.

In Demand Around the World

In 1999, Johns Hopkins International began re-evaluating its processes for treating international patients and conducting research and clinical trials with teams dispersed throughout the world. That evaluation resulted in the deployment of video conferencing equipment to enable physicians and administrators to exchange information with clients overseas, thereby reducing travel time and costs.

The tragic events of September 11th have added new levels of complexity to the coordination of care for Johns Hopkins International, making interactive video communications even more mission critical. Increased airport security and longer waiting periods for patients hoping to travel to the U.S. for care, has resulted in an even greater need to utilize technology to meet the demands of patients as well as researchers and educators.

Johns Hopkins International deployed an integrated solution from Polycom that provides its doctors with collaborative voice and video capabilities.

"The demands on our physicians and the requests for their knowledge from individuals and organizations around the globe are tremendous," says Alexander Nason, senior manager of Business Development, Johns Hopkins International. "Video conferencing is helping us reach people more efficiently than was previously possible. We can coordinate with medical teams in other countries, provide critical second opinions, consult with hospital management, and offer remote participation in promising clinical trials."

Flexible Choices, Reliable Solutions

The customized Polycom voice and video solution at Johns Hopkins International includes a combination of ViewStation FX and ViewStation MP group video communications systems running over both ISDN and IP networks. Johns Hopkins is currently in the process of installing a gateway to provide greater bandwidth to more locations throughout its campus.

Johns Hopkins International also uses Polycom's SoundStation, the world's best-selling line of conference phones. "Audio technology is often taken for granted," said Nason. "However, there are significant differences in quality between different conference phones. The sound quality of the SoundStation is extremely important when global teams are communicating and working to cut through barriers. In addition, the Polycom technology enables more than one participant to speak at the same time, which simulates a natural, in-person conversation."

Calling the Best for a Second Opinion

"On one specific occasion, a gentleman from the United States was traveling on business in Brazil and suffered a heart attack," says Nason. "The doctors in Brazil recommended surgery at their hospital, advising that travel was medically unsafe for the patient. The patient requested a second opinion from a physician at Johns Hopkins and by way of video conferencing; our physician viewed his echocardiograms and concurred that the patient should have surgery in Brazil. Video conferencing enabled our physician to consult on the case without having to travel, provided the patient and his family with peace of mind, and allowed the Brazilian hospital to continue to take the lead with this patient's care. It really was a win-win situation."

Sharing Knowledge

Johns Hopkins also uses voice and video conferencing to facilitate education. For example, the organization's new Minimally Invasive Surgical Training Center includes three rooms and laboratories with voice and video conferencing capabilities. A Johns Hopkins physician can demonstrate a procedure for a 35-seat auditorium, and to anyone in the world with video conferencing capabilities.

Johns Hopkins International also recently launched the GlobalAccess Lecture Series, a new educational program that leverages video conferencing to provide physicians around the world with the latest medical updates from their colleagues at Hopkins while interacting with them in real time.

The first menu of classes includes more than 200 topics in more than 30 medical specialties. Each 60-minute program includes 45 minutes of lecture and 15 minutes for questions and answers. Johns Hopkins International has already arranged successful GlobalAccess Lectures with physician groups in Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Singapore and various parts of the Middle East. Although most of the topics are covered in English, more than 50 are also available in other languages. The GlobalAccess Lectures program is expanding to include topics in nursing, and hospital management.

Collaboration Delivers

In a short time, Johns Hopkins International has achieved significant cost savings using Polycom's voice and video solutions. It has reduced the need to send medical teams abroad, increased its efficiency in meeting with various groups, and provided a cost-effective, value-added benefit to international health organizations. "Not only does the organization save money on tangible travel costs, physicians spend less time away from their jobs at the hospital," says Nason. "Additionally, with reduced costs and increased productivity, we are growing the revenue generated from international consultations."

Looking ahead, Johns Hopkins International will continue to build its telemedicine program. "This is the future," says Nason. "We are removing barriers to quality care and enabling the world to take advantage of Johns Hopkins' tremendous array of resources."


10 Questions About Video Conferencing

Brought to you by TANDBERG

1. What is video conferencing?

Video conferencing or video meetings provide a means for efficient communication, collaboration and decision-making even when people cannot be physically present in the same location. It has many of the same advantages as a face-to-face meeting including being able to see each other's facial expressions and body language. It also allows people to share files and data, so that it is easy to hold presentations, review documents and make fast decisions.

2. What components are required for a video conference?

The minimum required components at each endpoint of a video conference are a microphone, a camera, a codec, a monitor and a speaker. The camera and microphone capture the image and sound, the codec converts the video and audio into a digital signal, encodes it and sends it out. The codec at the other end decodes the signal and distributes the video and audio to the monitor and speaker. Top quality video conferencing systems can provide additional features which enhance the video meeting and system providers can help tailor-make the system for a particular meeting environment or purpose.

3. What kind of network do I need for a video conference?

You can have a video conference on almost any type of digital network. ISDN is currently the most common network however IP is quickly becoming wide-spread due to its more robust stability and capability.

4. What kind of audio and video quality will I receive?

As a general rule, the higher the bandwidth used to connect the systems, the better the audio and video quality. When you have a video meeting, the quality is just like broadcast TV. The people are easy to see and hear and the picture is sharp.

5. Who can I talk to using video conferencing?

You can use your video conferencing system to collaborate with anyone who has a standards-based video conferencing system or a telephone, including co-workers, employees, customers and suppliers. Visit our Benefits and Applications pages for more information.

6. How long will it take me to learn to use my video conferencing system?

Ease of use is essential to video conferencing. If you can make a call on your mobile telephone, you will be able to set up a call with a video conferencing system.

7. How quickly will my investment in video conferencing equipment pay off?

Many companies are experiencing the value of video conferencing and the quick rate of return they receive due to accelerated decision-making processes, efficient communications, and improved information flow.

8. Is it safe to discuss confidential matters in a video conferencing call?

Using encryption, a feature on some video conferencing systems, the video calls will have a high level of security. The encryption process occurs automatically at the start of a video conference without the caller having to make any adjustments to the system.

9. What is a CODEC?

CODEC is an acronym for Coder/Decoder. This device encodes (for transmission) and decodes (upon receipt) digital video and analogue audio signals so these signals occupy less bandwidth during transmission.

10. Can I connect a PC to the video conferencing system?

You can connect a PC to a video conferencing system in order to share and show files from your PC to the other participants in the video conference. The connection can be made using a cable between the system and the PC or using a wireless software connection. The best way depends on your personal preference and your choice of video conferencing system.

For additional information regarding video conferencing, or to speak to a representative, please contact IVCi at 800-224-7083, or click here to have an IVCi Representative contact you.

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