Let them link up

Video-conferencing in the classroom

Edited by Tim Arnold

Price: Free, with pound;5 postage and packing. Cheque payable to Devon Curriculum Services, Publications

Great Moor House

Bittern Road

Sowton

Exeter

Devon

EX2 7NL

ISBN 1-85522-826-2

Fitness for purpose *****

Ease of use *****

Features *****

Design ****

Value for money *****

Some technologies burn like wildfire. Ten years ago, few had heard of the internet, mobile phones were rare and texting not even thought of by most people. On the other hand, some technologies smoulder - just like video-conferencing.

Tim Arnold's book Video-conferencing in the Classroom is probably timely, as some people think that video-conferencing lift-off is due soon. This is an ideas book and it is a collection of thoughts that are honest, stimulating and thought provoking.

The real question is why video-conferencing has taken so long to leave the blocks. Probably the comments of Bev Turner, South Molton Community College, go some way to explaining why it is still, for most teachers, a peripheral activity. After describing an English activity she said: "The setting up of the link continues to frustrate all concerned. Even making phone calls is difficult since our breaks do not coincide and we are inevitably driven to contacting each other at home."

Too many of the case studies concern schools that were using video-conferencing for the first time. The best video-conferencing lessons can often be learned from schools where they use it all the time. Too often conferencing is used to do something spectacular. How many schools can contact Nasa?

It is difficult to work out who the book is aimed at. If it is the classroom teacher then some of the technical talk will be daunting. If it is the technical people than I suspect that they will learn little.

There is a prediction that in future every computer will have conferencing capability. When that happens, and it becomes virtually free, video-conferencing will be vitally important.

The best part is the lists: equipment, glossaries and organisations that help with video-conferencing. They are essential for anyone taking the first steps. You can read about links with the Public Records Office, Nasa, teaching science, how to do Eurovision Karaoke, even how to work with early years.

All in all, if you are even thinking about video conferencing you should get a copy of this book because, even with its occasional faults, it is about the best around.

Jack Kenny

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