Video-conferencing Research Community Of Practice Research Report - Alberta

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Video-conferencing Research Community of PracticeResearch Report

For further information, contact:Alberta EducationStakeholder Technology Branch10th Floor, 44 Capital Boulevard10044-108 StreetEdmonton, AB T5J 5E6Telephone:(780) 427-9001Or toll-free in Alberta by dialing 310-0000(780) 415-1091Fax:This document is available on the Internet caCopyright 2006 Crown in Right of the Province of Alberta, as represented by theMinister of Education.Permission is hereby given by the copyright holder to use, reproduce, store or transmitthis material for educational purposes and on a non-profit basis. However, Crowncopyright is to be acknowledged. If this material is to be used, reproduced, stored ortransmitted for commercial purposes, arrange first for consent by contacting:Alberta EducationStakeholder Technology BranchTelephone:Fax:(780) 427-9001or toll-free in Alberta by dialing 310-0000(780) 415-1091ALBERTA EDUCATION CATALOGUING IN PUBLICATION DATAAlberta. Alberta Education.Video-conferencing research community of practice: Research report.ISBN 0-7785-4288-21. Videoconferencing. 2. Telecommunication in education. 3. Distanceeducation. I. Title.LB1044.84.A3 2005371.3358

ForewordThis research report is a result of the work done by a research team comprised ofmembers from Athabasca University, University of Lethbridge, and the GalileoEducational Network Association, and has been edited for the target audience. It formspart of a larger project that developed a community of practice in which teachers,students, researchers, and school jurisdictions in the province of Alberta came togetherwith a common sense of purpose to learn how video-conferencing can be used effectivelywithin K-12 education. A hypertext version of this document will be posted onVCAlberta.ca that will allow readers to link directly to the areas that are of most interestto them and to access related videoclips.Alberta Education gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the followingresearchers:Athabasca UniversityCentre for Distance EducationDr. Terry AndersonDr. Liam RourkeRobbie ChernishPaula SmithUniversity of LethbridgeDr. Richard MrazekTrevor WoodsDave HingerGalileo Educational Network AssociationDr. Sharon FriesenBrenda GladstoneJanne EdneyAlberta Education gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the followingparticipating school jurisdictions:Fort Vermilion School DivisionRed Deer Catholic Regional DivisionGrande Yellowhead Regional DivisionEdmonton Public SchoolsPrairie Rose School Division1

Table of ContentsPageSection 1: Executive SummaryContext and PurposeDesign of the StudySummary of FindingsLessons from the Research: Promising Practices and Recommendations33345Section 2: Background Information and Project DescriptionSetting the Alberta ContextResearch LimitationsParticipant CharacteristicsThe Media Shapes the MessageInquiry Mentorship Studies121516171919Section 3: Case StudiesFort Vermilion School DivisionRed Deer Catholic Regional DivisionGrande Yellowhead Regional DivisionEdmonton Public SchoolsPrairie Rose School DivisionCase Study Discussion21213446556970Section 4: Discussion of IssuesVideo-conferencing TechnologyMulti-Point DeliveryInteractionStudent EngagementComparisons to Other Education Delivery Modes73Section 5: Three Applications of Video-conferencingAdministrative and Professional Development ApplicationsCourse EnhancementDistance DeliveryPromising Practices and pendix 1: DefinitionsAppendix 2: Literature ReviewAppendix 3: Video Clips105105106123808385872

Section 1: Executive SummaryContext and PurposeVideo-conferencing technology and other networked-enabled information andcommunications technologies have potential to enhance and improve education practiceand systems in very significant ways. Video-conferencing creates a real time connectionbetween participants located anywhere on the Internet. When operating at its highestcapacity, this connection supports body language interaction, shared display of real timeevents, full motion kinesthetic activity, and quality audio interaction. These mediacharacteristics can enable high levels of immediacy between participants, enhancinglearning and facilitating productive collaborative discussion and decision-making.Video-conferencing is an example of an advanced technology application that has thepotential to link remote sites together and offer new ways for the delivery of learning,professional development, and administrative programs and services. Theimplementation of Alberta SuperNet, the provincial high-speed network, makes videoconferencing a feasible option for K-12 jurisdictions that were previously limited bybandwidth restrictions. Once Alberta SuperNet reaches full connectivity in late 2005, thecapacity to use this technology will be made available to every K-12 school, postsecondary institution, health service and government office in the province.This study took place in 2004-05 during the initial roll out of the Alberta SuperNet.The purpose of the study was to describe early uses of video-conferencing within fiveAlberta school jurisdictions, and to identify issues and promising practices that couldinform future use of video-conferencing technology within K-12 educational contexts.The study supports Alberta Education’s Learning and Technology Framework, which“focuses on providing direction, support and coordination for the effective use oftechnology to support learning delivery, knowledge and skill acquisition, learning systemmanagement, and research and innovation” (Alberta Education, 2005, p. 3).This study was conducted by researchers from Athabasca University, the University ofLethbridge, and the Galileo Educational Network. Alberta Education provided fundingand human resource support for both the research study and the larger researchcommunity of practice.Design of the StudyThe participatory research method used in this study included a variety of activitiesfocused on developing a research community of practice. In collaboration with staff fromAlberta Education, the researchers worked with teachers, administrators, technicians, andsupport personnel from five Alberta school jurisdictions:3

Fort Vermilion School Division No. 52Red Deer Catholic Regional Division No. 39Grande Yellowhead Regional Division No. 35Edmonton Public SchoolsPrairie Rose School Division No. 8Research activities included: Site visits;Interviews with key participants;Constructing and administering surveys;Facilitating focus groups;Participating in online and face-to-face professional development sessions;Mentoring to develop inquiry-based pedagogies;Videotaping instructional events;Constructing and supporting a virtual community website;Producing associated research videos; and,Producing a comprehensive research report.The research team worked with teachers, administrators, technicians and staff fromAlberta Education to create activities and opportunities to share expertise, developsupportive relationships, and educate each other. These activities included face-to-faceevents, development and support of an online portal, online training sessions andmentoring of individual teachers.Summary of FindingsCommon Uses of Video-ConferencingVideo-conferencing activities used by the five jurisdictions in this study can be classifiedinto three major types of innovative applications. Video-conferencing is being used to:1) Enhance and expand administration services and professional developmentactivities for staff;2) Enhance student learning in regular classrooms through the use of collaborationswith other remotely distributed students, community experts, and distributedlearning resources; and,3) Deliver courses by distance education to small and remote schools where fullprogramming options are often reduced because of small class sizes and/orshortage of specialty teachers.4

Researchers found general satisfaction and evidence that video-conferencing addssignificant value to all three activities.Use of video-conferencing technologies for administration and professional developmentprovides a sound rationale for the purchase and support of video-conferencingtechnologies in Alberta schools. Researchers concluded that there were significant costand timesavings associated with administrative and professional development activitiesthat used video-conferencing technology. While work remains to be done on gainingconnectivity outside a single jurisdiction, early results indicate value for ongoingconsultation, provision of routine and special administrative meetings, delivery of formaland informal professional development opportunities, and access to remote resources forprofessional development purposes. Lower costs related to travel expenses andtimesavings associated with extensive and sometimes dangerous winter travel arecompelling reasons to expand the use of this application.Video-conferencing technology was observed to enhance regular classroom delivery byallowing students to engage in learning activities with peers, experts, and othereducational resources outside of their traditional classroom. Students generally enjoyedthese enrichment activities and seemed eager to expand their learning opportunities usingthe technology. The technology also fit with some inquiry-based learning designs andallowed students to interact first hand with experts and remote students with particularskills and interests. These enrichment activities were wide ranging and included linkageswith students in other regions of Canada and internationally. In an era marked bypervasive networking, exposing students, educators, and administrators to the skills theyneed for effective use of these emerging learning and communications technologies notonly enhances their performance and motivation, but also empowers them with lifelonglearning skills and experiences.While video-conferencing technology can play an important role in adding immediacy todistance education delivery, when used alone it does not appear to provide as rich anenvironment as one in which various tools and techniques are blended to create moreengaging and effective learning experiences. The research team concluded that videoconferencing technology alone provided only a relatively limited set of interactions, andthat it should be enhanced with other networked learning tools, both synchronous andasynchronous, to increase educational efficacy. These tools could includewebconferencing, e-mail, blogs, computer-conferencing, use of individualized learningobjects, collaborative work project spaces, web searches and e-portfolios.Lessons from the Research: Promising Practices and RecommendationsThe research team created the following list of practices they saw as representingeffective use of the video-conferencing environment. These should be considered as“emerging promising practices”, since their development in the field is relatively new andsuch practices are expected to evolve as jurisdictions continue to use the technology formultiple applications.5

Promising Practices1. Professional DevelopmentChange in one component of a system forces change in all other related components.Video-conferencing allows – and in some cases mandates – change in practice andpolicy. To ensure that such change works to improve learning and cost effectiveness,staff and students should be given the opportunity and incentive to participate inmaximizing the benefits and minimizing negative repercussions from this change.Education professional development systems must address the unique needs of bothnovice and experienced teachers. Hands-on use of video-conferencing technologywithin and across jurisdictions should be encouraged, so that teachers can increasetheir skills in teaching in video-conferencing environments.2. Student Empowerment through Operation with the TechnologyAllocating responsibility to students to configure, troubleshoot, produce, and operatethe video-conferencing equipment has many advantages, not only for the teachers, butfor all participants. The development of Computing Technology Sciences (CTS)modules or locally developed courses in which video-conferencing operation,direction, and production are learning activities, were observed as a means toempower students and equip them with new networking skills.3. Technical SupportTechnical support is a critical factor in successful video-conferencing activities foradministrative, distance education, and enrichment activities. The best supportobserved included capacity for remote diagnosis of video-conferencing equipment,including capacity to monitor all technology and to re-boot and re-configureequipment remotely. There is opportunity for cost effective sharing of this type oftechnical support through collaboration among school divisions. Best practiceincludes capacity for emergency backup via redundant video equipment or more costeffectively by audio linkage (as supplied through commercial telecom vendors, orthrough existing jurisdiction-owned telecommunications switches).4. Developing New PedagogiesNew tools often create opportunity for changes in practice. Video-conferencing andother networked tools can be very effective in creating constructivist learningscenarios in which students use the tools to create their own solutions to curricularproblems. Students were more engaged in active learning when new instructionaldesigns, such as inquiry-based learning, were employed.5. Enhancing Delivery CapacityIn each of the jurisdictions observed, the demand for video-conferencing classroomshas grown, in some instances beyond the capacity currently available. Somejurisdictions have purchased smaller, desktop video-conferencing units for use inoffices, staff rooms, etc., as a cost effective means to increase video-conferencing6

capacity. Such systems are very functional for individual and small groups of teacherand students and can easily connect to larger systems.6. Mentoring to Support a Pedagogy of InquiryVideo-conferencing technology, along with additional resources such as onlinecommunities, subject specific Web sites, and e-mail, are very successful in creating arobust mentoring environment supporting an evolving pedagogy of inquiry. This issignificant for the development of effective online communities of practice. Addingvideo-conferencing to this mix of enabling technologies holds possibilities tosupplement or replace face-to-face mentoring.7. Enhanced AudioAudio is the most important aspect of any video-conferencing event. Audio quality ateach site varied significantly. Desktop area boundary microphones were successfulfor small groups of students. Ceiling microphones seemed to create problems;however, with too much background noise added to the conference. Lapel ordedicated instructor microphones were most effective for transmitting uninterruptedaudio from the teacher. The best audio solution observed included dedicated deskmounted microphones for one to three students, and wireless lapel microphones forteachers.8. Site Visits by Teachers to Remote ClassroomTeacher visits to remote classrooms have long been used in distance education tosupport the development of quality student-teacher relationships. Such visits in thisstudy were enjoyed by both teachers and students, and helped reduce the sense ofisolation experienced by both. Best practice will likely include teacher visits toremote distance education sites early in the course to help build rapport.9. Face-to-face Lab DaysFace-to-face labs allow learners in the same class to socialize and collaborate. Inaddition to teacher visits to remote sites, there is value in gathering all students in acommon location. These activities can be used to provide access to labs or othertechnology, to learning resources not available locally, or to engage in cooperative orcollaborative activities. Students noted that when these activities did take place, theywere better able and more interested in communicating with other students.Opportunities to meet face-to-face is a strong incentive for student participation in allaspects of the course and program; therefore, face-to-face class meetings are acomponent of quality courses.10. Central CoordinationVideo-conferencing, by definition and actual practice, is not a single, stand-aloneschool activity. Thus, video-conferencing is challenging to support in school systemsthat are becoming more decentralized and focused on school-based decision makingand budget allocation. There are numerous issues related to scheduling, school buscoordination, and professional development for teachers, policy development relatingto incentives for teachers, programming decisions, and equipment purchases that are7

best coordinated or decreed from a centralized office perspective. All schooljurisdictions in this study were able to devote at least part-time division leveladministrative support to their programs and all argued that such support is critical.11. IncentivesDistance education teaching in a video-conferencing context (especially whenmultiple sites are involved) requires more preparation than normal classroomteaching. Some school jurisdictions have developed incentives such as courserelease, equipment allocations, or class aides that encourage teachers to make theextra effort involved. The best incentives are customized to the unique needs ofindividual teachers and systems, and thus will be different in different contexts.12. Secure Connectivity Beyond a Single JurisdictionAdministration, professional development, and enhancement models of videoconferencing all reach maximum effectiveness when connectivity is supported tolocations anywhere in the world. Seamless connectivity that spans secure firewalledsystems, at present, is not possible in most Alberta schools. Further study anddevelopment is needed prior to a standards recommendation from Alberta Educationon an appropriate solution to this problem.13. Continuous Research and EvaluationThis study of early adopters of video-conferencing in five school jurisdictions pointsto the need for ongoing description and evaluation of video-conferencingapplications. The technical and pedagogical context related to video-conferencing ischanging rapidly and requires ongoing effort to insure ensure that schools are able totake advantage of developments and best practices as they evolve.14. Blended Learning for Distance EducationDelivery of complete courses and programs at a distance benefits from an appropriatemixture of synchronous, asynchronous, text, video, and audio delivery to maximizemotivation and learning effectiveness. Increasing media mix, however, usuallyincreases costs. Thus, further research is needed to determine optimal mix of videoconferencing with other synchronous and asynchronous technologies.Research Team RecommendationsRecommendations to Teachers: Investigate and develop instructional designs and learning activities that focus onproviding space and motivation for students to work individually andcollaboratively to create and share their own understandings of learning contentusing video-conferencing and other information and communicationstechnologies. Participate online and whenever possible face-to-face in learning networks toshare ideas of successful teaching and to support each other.8

Increase personal competency with video-conferencing and other digitaltechnologies by exploiting the professional development opportunities and selfstudy provided by the technologies themselves to enhance personal productivityin performing instructional, professional and administrative tasks. Integrate other media use into lessons such that learners are able to acquire theskills of searching, personalizing, and manipulating information from manysources to construct their own knowledge. Develop blended learning opportunities for students and yourselves whereby faceto-face encounters among participants are blended with video-conferencing andonline learning opportunities. Develop activities whereby students learn to use and control the videoconferencing technology to co-create their own learning experiences.Recommendations to District and School level Administrators: Provide central coordination, policy development, and support for distanceeducation enrichment and administrative applications of networked technologies,including video-conferencing. Provide opportunities for formal training and informal networking amongteachers who are using video-conferencing technologies. Ensure that technical support is available, in real time, to teachers who aredependent upon communications technology to support active learning in theirclasses. Develop policies so that teachers who participate in distance educationprogramming are supported in the efforts involved in effectively teaching indistributed contexts. Develop cost effective ways to provide effective supervision and support forstudents in remote video-conferencing classrooms. These will likely includedesigns such as use of teacher aides, on-call support from administrative or otherteaching staff, construction of remote video-conferencing rooms with directobservation by school staff, and other strategies to provide assistance to studentsand the remote teacher in a timely fashion. Maximize the capacity of the SuperNet to transmit documents in any medium andto support document exchange between and among students and teachers. Utilizethe capacity of available technologies to make this task as seamless and easy asdistributing materials in a face-to-face classroom.9

Ensure that accounting procedures are in place to determine the real cost of allinstructional programs, especially those that make use of video-conferencingtechnology.Recommendations to Technicians: To support seamless connection of video-conferencing technology with usersaround the world, actively follow and participate in efforts to create meanswhereby local Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) can connect with other SuperNetVPNs, CA*net, and the commercial Internet. Provide fallback audio-conferencing capacity for teachers to use when videoconferencing connectivity to any single site or across the network iscompromised. To ensure that high quality audio connectivity is available to all videoconferencing participants, focus on the quality of the audio in video-conferencingclassrooms. This will likely include use of wireless microphones by teachers andmultiple, distributed microphones for students. Develop and maintain the capacity to remotely diagnose and maintain videoconferencing equipment, including the capability to completely reboot hardware. Seek opportunities for professional development and training such as thoseoffered by the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) related toSuperNet and video-conferencing operation and support.Recommendations to Alberta Education: Continue support for the emerging video-conferencing focused community ofpractice by:o Continuing the secondment of educator/leaders from the system to provideprovince wide coordination, training and support for the videoconferencing community;o Continuing support and animation of the online community begun onVCAlberta.ca; and,o Continuing support for the development of professional developmentresources available anytime/ anywhere for new and experienced videoconferencing teachers. These should include: Promising practice guidelines Instructional videos related to both pedagogical and technologicaltraining on effective video-conferencing application Community building, support and advice forums Listings of Alberta and global video-conferencing activities andopportunities Technical reviews and announcements of new technologies10

Results and reviews relevant video-conferencing related researchstudies. Continue to support participative research in which professional researchers,teachers, students, and administrators evaluate and innovate collaboratively,thereby developing the most cost and learning effective educational applicationsof video-conferencing technologies. Support the development of media curricula (i.e., CTS units) such that studentsare trained in the design and production skills associated with producing videoconferencing enhanced programming. Provide support for pilot projects using video-conferencing and other networkedtechnologies, and assess their effect on learning, teaching, and institutionalpractice and culture.Recommendations to Students: Learn to use the video-conferencing technologies and offer your knowledge toyour classes and learning community. Imaginatively plan for ways that this environment can be most effectively used toenhance your education. Be assertive in remote video-conferencing classrooms to ensure that no onedisrupts or deprives you of your learning opportunities.11

Section 2: Background Information and Project DescriptionOver the 2004-05 school year, researchers, teachers and administrators from Alberta’ssecondary and post-secondary institutions collaborated to form a research community ofpractice focused on the use of IP-based video-conferencing. It is from within thisresearch community of practice that many of the findings in this report have beendocumented and discussed. To ensure that the school jurisdictions and other stakeholdersprovided the necessary information for validity and accuracy of information, iterativefeedback was used for the development of this report. This approach put researchers in aunique position to communicate with the jurisdictions and other stakeholders onfundamental aspects of research and community building. This study focused on fiveactivities found to be essential for video-conferencing research community building: conducting formative research on the jurisdictions’ use of video-conferencing; mentoring individual teachers on innovative inquiry-based teaching philosophyand practice; stimulating professional development activity in face-to-face meetings, online viaa web portal, and in distributed video-conferencing activity; creating videographies of the project; and, documenting activities and issues in the jurisdictions, and highlighting thoseobserved to be emerging promising practices.A significant contextual factor that influenced this study was the delay in the rollout ofthe Alberta SuperNet. This high-speed network was scheduled to be operational in allparticipating schools before the start of this study. Significant delays in the SuperNet’sconstruction, however, resulted in none of the school jurisdictions in this study receivingfull access to the complete provincial network prior to the end of the project. Three ofthe five jurisdictions were able to function within their division using “early SuperNetislands,” and a fourth used CA*net 4 connectivity installed during a previous trial. Thefifth jurisdiction had high bandwidth connectivity only during the final three months ofthis study. These delays, in varying degrees, inhibited – and in one case precluded –effective participation with the video-conferencing application as planned. Nonetheless,the research project continued and now serves as prospective study of this technologicalintervention, rather than the retrospective study originally planned. Additional researchon Prairie Rose School Divivion’s applications of video-conferencing technology overSuperNet is planned for the 2005-06 school year.The research team engaged by Alberta Education for this evaluation project consisted ofeducational technologists, teachers, researchers, technicians, and multimedia producersfrom Athabasca University, University of Lethbridge (U of L), and Galileo EducationalNetwork Assocation (GENA). The participatory research design used has been referredto as a responsive approach to the case study design. This approach lies somewhere12

between traditional approaches where researchers descend upon a situation and carry outa pre-ordinate investigation versus alternative forms such as action research, which oftenmake onerous demands on the time and energy of practitioners and unrealisticassumptions about their theoretical pursuits. Characteristic of responsive evaluation,participants from each of the five sites were involved in each step of data collection andanalysis. Stakeholders such as teachers, technical support personnel, policy makers, andothers were instrumental in identifying aspects of practice that warrant description. Asactive participants, they also assessed the provisional descriptions, and determined thecriteria upon which this project was evaluated. The descriptive tasks (e.g., developinginstruments, making observations, composing reports), however, were carried out by theresearchers. This participatory approach to research distributes expertise and resourceseffectively by initiating a conversation between personnel at different sites, and betweensite personnel and the researchers.The participatory research design involves developing research questions in consultationwith the participants. At the beginning of the project, researchers developed an initialcontour of the five case studies based on preliminary discussions with variousstakeholders from the five school jurisdictions, a review of evaluation reports from someof these sites, and a review of the goals for this project established by Alberta Education.At all five sites, stakeholders engaged in parallel conversations around the followingdescriptive and evaluative questions: How can the larger setting of the school jurisdiction be characterized as well asthe particular context in which broadband video-conferencing is beingimplemented? What are the guiding purposes and specific goals of your broadband videoconferencing projects? How can progress toward these goals be determined? Which pedagogical models guide your conceptualization of broadband videoconferencing activities? What specific activities is broadband video-conferencing

Common Uses of Video-Conferencing Video-conferencing activities used by the five jurisdictions in this study can be classified into three major types of innovative applications. Video-conferencing is being used to: 1) Enhance and expand administration services and professional development activities for staff;

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