Video-conferencing equipment and websites
These are entry-level products designed for individual use. Both work in the same way as a webcam but provide better pictures and sound. WebOffice enables a user to set up meetings online, while ViaVideo is a simple video-conferencing item. They run on internet protocol (IP) networks, rather than an ISDN connection.
Polycom ViewStation, ViewStation FX pound;2,500-pound;11,684
The ViewStation is a set-top box, containing a camera that can pan, tilt and zoom. ViewStations are suitable for groups of up to 10 people. They will both run on an IP or ISDN connection.
Polycom iPower 600, iPower 900
The iPower 900 unit is a complete package that includes a specially adapted computer. These products enable a user to conduct presentations, collaborate on documents and access databases.
This set-top box has all the functionality of a more expensive Tandberg solution. It can create a conference link over any type of network.
Comes with two large TV monitors on a flashy stand. As it has a large angle view camera, it is suitable for use with a full class of children. It can connect to other systems over any type of network.
Sony Contact 1600
This set-top box is Sony's key product for schools. Teachers can save pictures, documents, presentations and diagrams to show during a conference, or can save them when shown by other participants in a conference for editing later on a computer. It connects over ISDN or IP.
Sony Contact 6000
Monitor-based productThis step up from the Sony 1600 has all the easy-to-use functionality of the cheaper model, but comes with a monitor and a pretty silver stand.
Over an ISDN connection - which is necessary to hold a class video conference - a UK national call would cost about pound;10 to pound;15 an hour. A call to the US costs about pound;80 an hour and to the Far East about pound;200 an hour.
This area of Becta's website contains information for teachers on how to get started once video-conferencing equipment is installed. It provides case studies and examples and shows how to use tele-conferencing to teach children who are not able to attend school.
The site lists schools all over the world available as video-conferencing partners. It shows how teachers can make the most of their equipment and partner and lists monthly video-conferencing events. Mike Griffith, creator of the Global Leap network, says: "Teachers can go to the site and find themselves a partner and get on with it, or they can get advice from Global Leap or our business partners."
Global Leap host partners: Royal Armoury, Leeds www.armouries.org.ukleedsindex.html
Students can take part in lessons including the Tudors and the Civil War.
Royal Armoury, The Tower of London www.armouries.org.uktowerindex.html
The Tower runs video conferences called Arming the Knight, the Coronation and Come and See the Lions Being Washed.
Public Record Office www.pro.gov.ukeducationservicevideo.htm
Contains information on video-conferencing for teachers. Lessons held here include Tudor imagery and Henry VIII, the Battle of the Somme and Jack the Ripper, where students can investigate 1880s London and the background to the murders.
National Maritime Museum www.nmm.ac.ukserver.php?navId=005
Introduces children to the history of everything from Vikings and rocket making to portraits and maths.
National Portrait Gallery www.npg.org.ukliveindex.asp
Holds classes on topics such as the Tudors and the Victorians. Later this year the Gallery will also begin hosting conferences on the same subjects for children with special needs, whether at school, in hospital or at home.