A guest post by Jason Bordujenko, Solutions Engineer, Polycom ANZ:
Last week, and indeed in the first week back from summer break for Chinese schools, I was fortunate enough to visit China alongside colleagues and Polycom customers Dr Myung-Sook Auh from the University of New England (UNE) in Armidale, NSW and Joanne Tate from the Victorian DEECD Virtual Learning Project.
Our agenda was simple, to demonstrate the power of high definition video conferencing for cultural exchanges and development of global thinking among students.
The project was established by UNE under the Asia ConneXions program banner with funding provided by the Australian Government’s Broadband-Enabled Education and Skills Services (BEESS) scheme.
The objectives of the Asia ConneXions program are simple: to link students in schools across Australia with those in Asia, specifically Korea, Japan, China and Indonesia, through high definition (HD) videoconferencing for cultural and language exchanges and development of global thinking among students. The majority of these interactions are already underway and 70 Australian schools have signed up, facilitating regular connections with schools in these other countries.
China, however, has been a difficult country to address, with the adage ‘seeing is believing’ being truly representative of the impact of connecting kids through synchronous exchanges with HD audio and video. So far the only schools that are working with Australian schools in the Mandarin language part of the program are from Hong Kong and not from mainland China. It was our aim to change this with the week-long visit and demonstrate the true power of being able to defy distance.
The delegation visited the Polycom Beijing office for a demonstration of the latest technologies at the Beijing EBC before heading to Wuhan where a presentation to both students of Hong Jing Ling (red tie) Elementary School and other local schools in the area was undertaken using the Polycom RealPresence Group equipment. It was a resounding success with the kids enjoying a dialogue with the aid of a translator to the Asia ConneXions head office in Armidale, NSW. The event was even reported on China’s Education Television network on 4th September, 2014: watch it here.
Wuhan is an exciting city with a forward looking agenda. Planning for the future of the city includes the amalgamation of nine independent city areas into a super city with the vision of being the most advanced municipality in China. The Polycom video solution was certainly at home in such a visionary place!
After Wuhan, the next city on the agenda was Shanghai, however after visiting such a metropolis as Wuhan, the goal was to focus on delivering the same life changing technology-assisted interactions to a more rural school setting.
After venturing over three hours by car out of Shanghai, we arrived at Rudong Juegang Elementary School where an eager bunch of students were ready for a multipoint connection involving both the team at UNE Armidale and Sydney Olympic Park where biodiversity scientists, Phil Straw and Dr Marianne Sheumack answered questions that the students in Rudong had regarding the native waterbirds that shared a migratory path from Australia to China and back again. I don’t think any of the Chinese teaching staff would have imagined this type of live access to international experts would be possible, before participating in the Asia ConneXions program.
Wuhan City is planning to connect Wuhan students with students in Sydney through the Asia ConneXions program utilising HD videoconferencing technologies, as it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Mayor of Sydney in May, 2014. Further school involvement in Beijing and Shanghai are expected to follow with schools and educational administration bodies in these areas gaining access to the relevant Polycom demonstration briefing centres in these localities.
It is hoped that stronger ties between mainland China and Australia will be built through primary and secondary students’ creative engagement with each other. These would not only be for language and cultural exchanges but also science education programs, such as medical, nuclear physics and environmental sciences as well as virtual excursions to a growing number of Australian cultural and educational facilities that are coming online with innovative video conferencing offerings.
Find out more about the Asia ConneXions program on the UNE website.