"In the case of a medical science class you'll be able to dial into Harvard Medical School, and maybe someone there is giving a lecture on how to perform a certain procedure," he says. "Or it might be that you give a book report and then are able to call up the professor at Stanford who wrote it to talk with him about it."
Mike LaHaye, the director of technology services at Internet 2, says that one of the key challenges for schools will be coordinating times when both their students and educators in other schools will be available to chat. To that end, Internet 2 has created a service directory where teachers can log in to look for scheduled lectures and virtual field trips that they can dial into. Examples from the directory include a video conference for pre-med students to help them virtually explore the immune system and a collaborative project for elementary school children designed to help them learn about U.S. geography.
"In a lot of cases we're giving kids access to resources they wouldn't normally have in a rural district," says LaHaye, who grew up in a rural area. "Being able to go to a museum or to see a performance live would have been a huge addition to my education, but it's not something that was available locally."
Donnelly says that teachers will soon have much more video content to choose from since high-definition videoconferencing technology is becoming more ubiquitous throughout the country. Cisco is selling its at-home telepresence system for $600, and the next generation of Apple iPads is expected to have a front-facing camera that will support high-definition videoconferencing technology. Once more people adopt this technology, Donnelly says, videoconferences in classrooms will become much more of a regular occurrence than what we see today.
"The next generation of the iPad will have a camera built into it so it essentially becomes a video phone," he says. "You're going to see this type of technology explode in school systems."
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