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Savings in time, money benefits of video learning

July 06, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

In Camden, N.J., there is a caterpillar crawling across a green leaf.

That in itself may not impress many people.

Watching that caterpillar in real time via a fiber optic network from an office in Imperial County, however, is a noteworthy event.

The Imperial County Office of Education demonstrated a variety of applications available on its fiber optic network for local public agency representatives Thursday.

One such application, the ability to video conference with someone not on this network, was demonstrated by a woman named Elaine from the Camden Children's Garden. She explained that individuals such as her all around the world can share information through video conferencing with any Imperial County agency, government office or school district on the network.

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Video conferencing on the network can involve multiple sites. Though Thursday's demonstration took place at ICOE's offices in El Centro, school officials at Calexico, Imperial and Calipatria unified school districts participated through a video conference from their respective cities.

Some of the benefits of this conferencing are savings in both time and money as it eliminates the expense of travel, explained Todd Finnell, director of learning technologies at ICOE.

"Of course, it's not going to be the same (as being there)," Finnell admits.

This particularly comes into play when the network will be used to give students virtual field trips. Though not physically there, students would still reap benefits of experiencing, albeit in a limited way, a place they otherwise would not see.

"This way, kids can get a feel for what it is like," Finnell said.

Students won't be the only ones profiting. If connected to the system, fire departments, for example, could use video conferencing to train firefighters yet still have them on-call at the station in case of an emergency, Finnell explained.

The system allows for desktop video conferencing that can be done right at a person's PC. A small $400 unit can be installed on the computer that would allow the user to video conference, instant message, transfer documents and share applications with other users, Finnell explained.

What's more, the network will even allow users to broadcast on television. Such an application could be used to televise public happenings such as city council meetings.

County Superintendent of Schools John Anderson said the fiber optic network was designed to be efficient, economic and to serve as many people as possible.

"We're excited about this. We think this is the future," Anderson said.

A joint powers authority is forming among the agencies using the network and is open to any interested public agency.

"By working together, we're making some good things happen," Anderson said.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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