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Monday, 3 June, 2002, 00:05 GMT 01:05 UK
Video links schools across the world
Pupil at Arbour Vale school during video conference
A lesson from Queen Victoria to the Commonwealth

Children in Arbour Vale School in Slough, Berkshire, are used to travelling the world for lessons.

In a week, they might make trips to Finland, Australia, the USA and Japan.

Of course, instead of using planes, they are touring the globe with video links.

Assistant head teacher Mike Griffith says the school sometimes links to teachers in other countries for topic work.

"We had a link to California when pupils were studying earthquakes, and the children spoke to a teacher living on the San Andreas Fault.

Lesson on Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee
Pupils at Arbour Vale got in on the act for the Golden Jubilee
"She could see our classroom in the link and told the children she couldn't have books on shelves as we had, in case they came down in an earthquake.

"She showed them news clips of when they had earthquakes out there and told them if there was an earthquake, she would have to drink water from the toilet.

"It made it all very real for them. Things like that you can't get from a book."

Recently the children have been linked to Japan, tasting sushi and talking to children there about the World Cup.

Golden Jubilee

And this week Arbour Vale was one of many schools in the UK linking to others in Commonwealth countries such as Canada, New Zealand and South Africa - to share what they were doing as part of their Golden Jubilee.

It develops their confidence, presentation skills and speaking and listening skills

Mike Griffith
Pupils dressed in Victorian costumes for a lesson and linked to the Public Records Office in London.

There they met an actress playing Queen Victoria, who described what had happened during Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1887.

One pupil, Karen said: "We thought it was great talking to Queen Victoria. I showed her my dolls."

Children in the UK also linked to Makkovik in Northern Canada to speak to a remote Inuit community who are using video conferencing to bring the world into their classroom.

They learnt about the lives and culture of Inuit people.

Mike Griffith says video links not only help children to learn about other countries - but also benefit them in other ways.

"It develops their confidence, presentation skills and speaking and listening skills," he says .

"They learn to speak clearly, listen carefully and to present their material to another group."

Free handbook

The school regularly links up to a school in Finland, where the children compare their everyday lives, by showing each other their toys or saying what food they like to eat.

The children obviously enjoy the conferences.

One, John, said: " I liked talking about the pets they have.

"My friend in Finland said he had five cats and two dogs.

"I told him I didn't have any pets at my house. He said I could share one of his cats."

For Asim, it was the language difference that made him smile: "I thought it was funny when they said they used a hop and jump stick instead of a pogo stick," he said.

This week also saw the launch of a handbook for schools about video-conferencing.

Mike Griffith was one of the three authors.

He runs Global Leap, a not-for-profit organisation which promotes video conferencing.

The other handbook authors are advisers from Devon county curriculum services, Tim Arnold and Steve Cayley.


The book is being offered free to UK teachers through Devon council.

Tim Arnold, Devon's adviser for media education, said: "Harnessing the newest technology to support their learning in schools is a challenge to which schools must now rise.

"Video-conferencing offers enormous potential for enriching children's learning in ways that cannot easily be achieved by other means.

"It can radically alter the way children interact with one another and with the world outside the classroom walls. "

But how much does it all cost?

Mike Griffith says prices range from about 700 to 5,000.

The basic tool is a video phone (700) on an ISDN line.

The phone can be plugged into a television screen, as can a camcorder to feed images back to the others in the conference.

See also:

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