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Classroom video conferencing connects UWRF globally

November 12, 2009

Video conferencing has made its way into the Organization and Administration of Physical Education class of Health and Human Performance lecturer, James Gostomski.

Every Wednesday, his 19 UW-River Falls students sit in a classroom and video conference with a class of 28 students from the University of Trinidad and Tobago. 

The students meet in room 329 of the Agricultural Science building and are able to see their foreign counterparts via video on two large screens located at the front and back of the room.  The students sit at long tables and have computer screens located in front of them and are able to see the students that way as well. 

The class involves writing lesson and unit plans, curriculum evaluation, assigning students from UWRF with students from the University of Trinidad and Tobago for unit plan collaboration and presentations related to physical education. Students from both universities are physical education majors. 

Gostomski said he taught at the University of Trinidad and Tobago last year and that he contacted a university professor there to come up with this idea of a joint class. 

“We came up with the collaboration of having students work on a joint project and review the physical education curriculum of Trinidad and Tobago, as well as a review of a few United States physical education curriculums,” he said.

Gostomski said that a few of the goals of doing a joint class like this would be the students gaining a global awareness of different physical education curriculums, working collaboratively on lesson plans in sports activities that are specific to that country while meeting students from another country and utilizing video conferencing technology in the subject area of physical education.

Jen Terry is a fifth-year student in the class and said that, overall, it is a great experience.

“The technology is great because it is giving us new ways to communicate with other students,” Terry said. “This is the first time in five years that we have used any sort of technology like this in HHP.”

Lisa Strachan is a student at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. She said that she has mixed feelings about communicating with UWRF students on a weekly basis and collaborating on projects.

“The time change causes some frustration-when you are online and your partner isn’t,” Strachan said. “But it is also really cool because you get to meet this great person who is going through the same stresses as you to achieve the same ends as you, only they are in a completely different land and culture.”

Two students from the class will travel to Trinidad and Tobago in January to teach in a high school. 

Dylan Wakefield-Dagen, a non-traditional senior, and Stefan Berg, a fourth-year, will spend part of J-term teaching U.S. sports at a high school in Trinidad.

Wakefield-Dagen said he sees this as an opportunity that will greatly benefit his ability to teach physical education.

“I am excited to put my teaching skills to the test in an unfamiliar territory,” he said. “I will be teaching lessons that students there have never participated in, as well as teaching lessons that they are very familiar with and I am not.”

Nick Dangeur, TV services coordinator, said that this semester there are 10 ITV or Distance Learning classes. In these classrooms, the teacher has control to pan the room or zoom in on an individual student with the camera. Students are able to speak into a microphone located on the table in front of them when they want to communicate to other students.

Physics professor, Eileen Korenic, has used the Distance Learning classroom every year to connect as many as four high school classes at one time. 
“It’s beneficial for the distance students to get to take a college course and get a jump-start on their college careers,” Korenic said. “We can all see each other and talk to each other in real time.”

Gostomski said there are many advantages to using video conferencing in the classroom. 

“One advantage is that it allows students to share and reflect on their physical education major while gaining new international friendships,” he said.

Rebecca Troop, a senior in the class, agrees that making new connections is one of the benefits of video conferencing.

“I think this is a great way to meet new people,” she said. “I have two group members from Trinidad who I really enjoy talking with about stuff besides class.
I really enjoy learning about their culture.”

Gostomski added that another advantage of video conferencing is that it is a valuable technology tool that brings global awareness to students.

“Students in River Falls are able to compare similar strengths and struggles the students in Trinidad have.”

The course will be evaluated at the end of semester to decide if the collaboration with the University of Trinidad and Tobago will continue.

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