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Scottish council creates videoconferencing network with Polycom solutions

Dumfries and Galloway Council in Scotland has invested in Polycom videoconferencing solutions in 120 schools throughout the authority. Through the video solutions, the initiative aims to give primary schools in smaller remote areas access to music, language and environmental lessons.

The pilot scheme started in 2005 with Polycom videoconferencing over IDSN equipment providing music lessons to four schools and one centre in Dumfries. In 2009, this model evolved to broadband, and following a further grant in 2011, the council was able to equip another 10 primary schools in the area.

Each school in the network has now been supplied with a Polycom HDX 6000 Series HD RealPresence system and EagleEye director Cameras along with a 42in plasma screen to display the lessons in high definition. The model of having local teaching staff in Dumfries providing lessons to many remote schools over videoconference has reduced the need to travel between schools and cut costs.

Through videoconferencing, the schools have been able to communicate across the globe – piloting language lessons with a school in France, ecology and environmental studies with a school in the Caribbean and music lessons with the Manhattan School of Music in New York.

Alan Cameron, education officer for Dumfries and Galloway, explained: “Through Polycom’s solutions, we’ve seen teachers sharing ideas, we’ve been able to facilitate Continued Personal Development sessions with staff between schools, and have also developed excellent international links. One school has linked up to home economics lessons in Poland and another of our schools has been linking with a school in the Caribbean. It has been very successful, and, looking to the future, it would be fantastic to have all schools kitted out with videoconferencing solutions.

“Teaching via videoconferencing encourages students to become autonomous learners. A child who is in control of his or her environment is more likely to take responsibility for their learning. Empowering children in their education leads to more responsible students who are aware of the need to learn and are more likely to make the effort to engage with the teacher. In addition, the benefits for teachers are significant. Videoconferencing has enabled teachers to meet at the end of the day to go through the curriculum, discuss specific students and help them to develop their own skills.”