In the past Distance Learning has conjured up thoughts of expensive carts, hard to work equipment and one way content providers. This model has worked exceedingly well in the past and there will always be a place for it. However, with free Internet conferencing software such as Skype and webcams that can be purchased for less than fifty dollars the future of distance learning resides at a micro level. Teachers willing to collaborate with classrooms inside the district, state, country and world will give their students an authentic audience to make the work they do more genuine.
The two biggest obstacles to face in Micro Distance Learning are who and what. To both of these obstacles I would say start small and stick with the familiar. Do you have a fellow teacher friend that would be willing to be a risk taker and collaborate on a common topic? Send them an email with an idea and tell them to download Skype from there you can conference together by talking.
Distance Learning 2.0 Example: Two first grade classes from Houston and Ft. Worth, Texas will be using Skype and a built in extension called Whiteboard to play “pictionary” using terms they have learned in class.
Please leave a comment if you are interested in connecting with a classroom in Texas.
Skype (click to download)
Skype whiteboard extention (click to download)