Saturday, October 2, 2010

Desktop Videoconferencing

If you don't have a school videoconference set-up (Polycom or Tandberg) using h.323, you can use a desktop set-up.  The only drawback is that when a lot of classes webstream, your quality can vary a lot, depending on your bandwidth.  This is also great for home to visit those family and friends who do not live close-by.

Carol Skyring found a free link to download Polycom PVX software for a PC (not mac).  You should read her post for more details.  You can use this with a usb camera to do high quality desktop videoconferencing for five minutes at a time.  I have used this software and it is great - quality and easy to use.  We used it one year to share our student school news with a school in New Jersey.  We saw their school news live and they saw ours live the next day.
Skype is also a great alternative and it's free.  Again, you need a usb camera and can google a search or look through the skype link for webcams.  With these desktop solutions, you can do classroom to classroom (with a data projector or white board (Promethean or SmartBoard).   Skype works with PC or Mac.  We have used skype, a usb webcam, and a laptop (or desktop) computer to easily visit other classrooms.  These projects are easy to set-up and blog or share on a wiki.

There are websites and listservs for locating a connection on specific topics.  Some of these are listed below:
Global Leap - http://www.global-leap.org/index.php
Skype in Schools - http://skypeinschools.pbworks.com/
TWICE - Two Way Interactive Connections in Education - Capspace
CILC - Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration

Currently these web cams do not work with museum visits or h.323.