This blog written by:
USDLA Board Member
I’ve been fascinated with technology for as long as I can remember. For my 8th grade Science Fair I built a motorized model of the planets that would spin when you correctly answered a series of astronomy questions. When I won first place, I knew some type of electronics foundation was in my career.
My involvement in video solutions started back in 1987 and over the years I’ve seen hundreds of innovative solutions that solve everyday problems using a form of technology. At the recent 2017 United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) national conference I was able to meet Lee Gambol (virtually) and see first-hand another example of thinking out of the box to solve a common problem.
Virtual field trips have always been a favorite application for me when it comes to using video communication technology. It’s such a powerful solution for a real problem: it’s expensive to transport classrooms of students, it takes an incredible amount of coordination, it is not environmentally friendly, and we all know how risky it can be.
While video conferencing technology has dominated this application in the past, Lee found a newer solution from a provider called Georama© that puts a new spin on an older application – allowing free-roaming access into all sorts of behind-the-scenes areas that is difficult to accomplish with traditional video conferencing. This new streaming video service also includes a chat feature for collaboration and records the sessions for later playback, say for students that couldn’t attend the initial live virtual visit. While this technology was initially focused on university campus tours, Lee approached the founder of Georama after a USDLA conference session and asked if he’d be interested in using the museum as a location for virtual tour testing.
Especially attractive in this application is that Georama© is driven through a common website URL and supports unlimited participants per tour. This means entire schools could watch the adventure simultaneously without the need for specialized video conferencing equipment.
The Distance Learning Team at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History have a powerful philosophy behind their program development: “Technology is Just the Tool.” Oddly enough, this is very similar to that of my company, IDSolutions, whose tag line is “It’s only technology until it becomes a solution”. This is so true, especially when it relates to the classroom as I’ve seen piles of expensive technology sit unused at schools just going to waste.
I’ve always believed that the proof of success for any good technology is closely tied to the response of user base. For Lee, the very first test tour invited Lorain County’s Midview North Elementary teachers to connect in with Lee as she interviewed Wildlife Specialist Katie Overholser. The tour quickly generated comments like: “This was a great experience”, “My class really enjoyed it. Thank you for this opportunity!” and “The students loved seeing Lancelot eat!”
This application is very satisfying to me in several ways; for one, it provided the opportunity for students to go where they likely wouldn’t be able to go without the help of Georama’s technology. Another is that Lee connected with Georama© at a USDLA conference, one of the main purposes (networking) that we pride ourselves on. Lastly, the USDLA Award program was an opportunity for Lee to showcase what she did so that she could share it with others and hopefully change the lives for students in other schools.
Learn more about the USDLA and how you too can be a member by visiting www.usdla.org/membership. The association supports all core markets including Enterprise, Government, Telemedicine, Education and others.