Contact: Dan Sherman
518.477.8771
dsherman@questar.org

Videoconferencing Technology Keeps Teacher Connected

SCHAGHTICOKE, New York (June 6, 2002) Its 8:30 a.m. and Questar III automotive teacher Butch Volpp is sitting in his kitchen watching television. His morning class is about to begin at the Rensselaer Educational Center in Troy yet Volpp is resting comfortably at his home in Schaghticoke, recovering from hip surgery earlier in the week. As his class files in from school districts across Rensselaer County, it is apparent that the teacher is in control of his classroom. With remote in hand, Volpp is quickly taking attendance, troubleshooting projects, and surveying his shop for tools. Thanks to videoconferencing technology based on the RADVision H.323 protocol, Volpp and his 35 auto body/chassis repair students are interacting on a daily basis during his absence from class.

A cooperative effort by Questar III, Adirondack Area Network (AAN) and Verizon has empowered Volpp with this unique opportunity to stay connected to his classes before and after his surgery. Fearing that he would be unable to finish the year after his doctor ordered him to take care of his health, officials at Questar III started brainstorming ideas two months ago on how to give him the means to continue communicating with his students.

A seven-year veteran of Questar III, Volpp was determined to finish out the year, but realized that prolonging surgery could jeopardize his health. Three years ago when he had his right hip replaced, he was able to postpone surgery until after the school year. This time he could not. Now thanks to videoconferencing, he will not only finish the year from home, but should be fully recovered for the start of classes in the fall.

Videoconferencing technologies allow people at two or more locations to see and hear each other in real time. Placing a video call is a lot like placing a telephone call. After you connect, you see the other person in live color video and high quality sound. The visual connection and interaction among participants enhances understanding, heightens motivation, improves communication, increases depth of learning and helps participants feel connected to each other. Currently, there are fifteen sites within the Questar III service area that have videoconferencing facilities. Questar III uses videoconferencing to offer high school and college level courses, professional development, and virtual field trips.

Videoconferencing also has the power to transform career and technical education. With the help of an aide in the classroom, Volpp is the center of attention throughout his classroom and auto shop despite being 45 minutes away. Strategically placed television monitors and digital cameras allow students to see their teacher and what he sees from his end. Volpp can easily switch and control the motion of 3 cameras, panning 180 degrees left to right and 90 degrees up and down with the touch of a button. Volpp can even zoom in up to 30 times magnification. Students joke that he can see when they are using the wrong sandpaper or when one of his tools has been misplaced. The communication has been fantastic, explains Volpp. It is as good or better than actually being there.

While educational and medical facilities have been utilizing videoconferencing in recent years, this cooperative effort has been a first of sorts. This is the first time I have seen this application used in a high school career and technical setting, states David Bonner, President and CEO of the Adirondack Area Network (AAN). It is such a valuable educational tool that Butch might like to use this application even if he wasn't recuperating from surgery.

Having put off his surgery for as long as possible, Volpp nearly missed the opportunity to finish out the 2001-02 school year. Now, thanks to the power of videoconferencing he will also be there on June 11 to see his students graduate from the Rensselaer Educational Center during the centers awards ceremony that evening.

About the Adirondack Area Network (AAN)

The non-profit Adirondack Area Network (AAN) was originally created to provide advanced telecommunications services such as distance learning, telemedicine, Internet connectivity and videoconferencing to geographically remote areas in the Adirondack Region of Upstate New York. It has since grown to provide solutions to a consortium of educational institutions, health care providers, and other community organizations in New York State and beyond. Funding for the initial phase of the network was obtained through the New York State Advanced Telecommunications Project.

About Questar III

Questar III, a Board of Cooperative Educational Services, is an educational service agency providing instructional and support services to 23 public school districts in Rensselaer, Columbia and Greene counties.

Questar III offers elementary, secondary and adult students choices and opportunities in education. Whether they are interested in exploring vocational and career opportunities, seeking alternatives to the traditional classroom setting, or in need of support of physical or emotional disabilities, Questar III offers programs and services designed to help all students succeed.

Questar IIIs administrative offices are located at 10 Empire State Boulevard in Castleton, New York. The organization currently employs more than 500 people. For more information on Questar III's programs and services, contact the Public Information Office at (518) 477-8771 or visit their website at www.questar.org.