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Looking at you December 6, 2005

Posted by Michael McVey in Hardware.

Vidconf   As I write this, three professors are in the corner of my lab trying to make a new communications application work. They are using Via3 from Viack, a videoconference package that was approved to address security concerns in Washington DC.

My problem with that tool is that we already have plenty of free software such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger that act as interactive video chat tools. We also have access to Breeze, an excellent way of getting remote students together online so they feel like they are part of a synchronously conducted class. Take a look at a largely defunct blog I set up for them to see Breeze in action: interpreterslab.blogspot.com

In addition to the wide variety of software packages, we also have some substantial videoconferencing tools such as ViaVideo units available to loan. These provide a very good quality image that can even capture sign language well.  We have Sorenson video units that our American Sign Language Interpreters use widely. We also have a very expensive Polycom ViewStation that we roll out for high quality video conferences involving large groups of students interacting with team taught classes all over the world.

I even have a forty dollar QuickCam in my drawer but the last time I saw it working was when I was demonstrating stop motion photography to some high school students and one of them banged the unit on the table. I suppose I should put it in my Museum of Obsolete Technology.

Right in the middle of their test of the equipment I asked a question that picked at a psychic scab of sorts, “Why do you have to see him?” After a few seconds of dead silence, the professors immediately began discussing options such as engaging in an audio conference instead or using the telephone to
enhance the audio quality of the video conference.

One professor leaned in to me and suggested that some of his peers are in love with the technology and are optimistic about its use in the classroom. I
suggested the love was unrequited. Laughter all around, but by then the scab had been peeled completely off.



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