Creating An Atmosphere Of Accessibility With School Online Meetings
contributed by Catherine Wilson
Running any organization–from a school to business to digital-space startups–isn’t simple in this day and age.
The market for education professional development is wide and extremely competitive. Finding the best resources–within your school or district, or beyond–isn’t as easy as looking down the street. Resources abound, but geography matters. Travel isn’t cheap. The beauty of the demand for better access to these resources is that it has spearheaded a movement to expand communication to new levels.
The internet hasn’t just provided us with information at our fingertips but has also supplied a way to connect and communicate with one another to find the best resources that education has to offer. The use of online meetings has gained popularity since their introduction but only recently have they been fully accepted as a common tool for schools working to lower travel costs and raise their options for connectivity and communication.
In education, they have allowed virtual professional development, PD, school-to-school projects, and more. There are many benefits to a virtual meeting space, however, and many people will overlook the increasing accessibility that these tools offer in the face of the more obvious ones.
Cutting down on travel has some obvious benefits for any school concerned with costs. It’s easy to see how much less expensive it is to pay for an internet connection and a web camera and microphone than regular plane tickets, hotel rooms, and stipends for meals and travel essentials when traveling to an education conference, for example. Cutting down on expenses, for this reason, is admirable and even necessary with the ever-tightening education budgets, but there’s another benefit to utilizing the virtual tools that are available that can sometimes be overlooked.
Accessibility for teachers to interact is a big part of how and why educators–both within and across schools–can collaborate with one another.
Accessibility can mean many different things for districts, but the overarching idea is to make it easier to work together. Online staff meetings offer a way to expand that accessibility from phone calls to clear, visual communication as well as the spoken word. Even personnel outside the district have the same access to you and the same ability to hear your tone and read your body language as educators that work in the same building have. Even more than that, these tools allow students or family members that are disabled have improved access (compared to a phone or email) to IEP meetings, for example.
There’s no way to overstate just how important clear communication is to school or district policy, or potential collaborations between students and organizations outside the classroom. Communication is the driving factor behind the success of most projects; prioritizing academic needs, sharing feedback for learning, and otherwise personalizing learning for a class or individual student can’t be done without clear communication. This is another area that online meetings that offer superior functionality over traditional media.
There have been numerous studies about the efficacy of what visual communication offers to individuals. There are statistics that are often cited, such as how much of communication is or is not visual in nature and often the numbers don’t seem to add up, but face-to-face communication is still the most personal and preferred method in any industry and that is driven by preference. People like to see one another when they speak, and like being about to gauge responses, read body language and understand the seriousness or severity of situations based on the input they receive from these additional cues. While video conferencing alone allows you to accomplish this, the technology is often bulky and expensive, requiring dedicated conference rooms and lacking some of the flexibility that makes the newest online tools so appealing.
The final area that sets online meetings apart from other, paler imitations of its framework is the ability that it offers for participants to collaborate in real-time on information, share data, and pass along details. Schools and districts that offer these tools (Zoom, for example), understand how important file sharing and collaboration are in education today, and often include programs built into their packages for this kind of live information transfer. Being able to offer all participants to a meeting the ability to see, alter, share and update information as it is handled is invaluable to many industries that require fast-paced, cutting edge designs, technology, or brainstorming.
The Bottom Line
When it comes down to it, online meetings offer tools that are superior to the more traditional means of inter and intra-district communications. From education conferences that often require lengthy travel time and expenses, to sharing files instantly across the internet, which would otherwise require either time or proximity to accomplish, tools like the ones offered by Zoom and their peers can create an atmosphere of accessibility and clarity in a world that’s often clouded by a host of other issues and priorities.
Adapted image attribution flicker user vancouverfilmschool