Thanks to a $498,328 Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative grant from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, dozens of K-6 elementary schools in Southwest Minnesota will receive video technology from Video Guidance (www.videoguidance.com), a strategic video conferencing company. The telecommunications program will connect K-6 students with guest speakers and distance learning classes, and on virtual field trips to Great Lakes Aquarium, Minnesota Zoo, International Wolf Center and Minnesota Historical Society, which are all partners of Video Guidance.
“What makes this initiative unique is that it focuses solely on elementary students, which are usually the ones left out of video conferencing programs that since the 1980s have benefited only middle schools and high schools,” said Josh Sumption, manager of information technology for SW/WC Service Cooperative. “This is an exciting expansion of our videoconferencing capabilities in schools throughout Southwest Minnesota.”
The telecommunications grant allows for a portable Interactive Television (ITV) system to be placed in 36 elementary schools within SW/WC Service Cooperative’s Wide Area Network (WAN), providing advanced educational opportunities for over 9,000 K-6 children.
The systems can be hooked up to projectors, allowing a large, projected display for larger group assemblies or activities that require the use of a larger space such as a gym or auditorium. Each system will also include a document camera that will allow items such as pages of a book, microscopes, graphs and images to be used in conjunction with the video conferencing system. This allows educators and students to broadcast a wide variety of information and video to other sites throughout the region and world.
Video Guidance will provide training and programming assistance to each school to ensure that the equipment will be fully integrated into the educational environment. The new systems are expected to be installed this spring so that educators are trained by the start of the 2013-14 school year.
The SW/WC Service Cooperative is a public agency dedicated to providing high quality innovative educational programs and services. The agency serves over 50,000 students in 18 counties in Southwest and West Central Minnesota.