Educators Use Video Conferencing to Foster Cultural Understanding

December 29th, 2015

People around the world are tapping into video conferencing to connect and collaborate. The market for video conferencing services and equipment is thriving and a new report from Research and Markets forecasts that the global market will grow from a recent $3 billion to over $6 billion by 2020. Much of that is likely to come from businesses looking for operational efficiencies and cost reductions.

But some organizations—such as schools and nonprofit organizations—are using video conferencing for more altruistic reasons: to bridge cultural divides.

Video conferencing is doing just that at both Canyons School District, a public school system in Utah, and the Global Nomads Group, a New York-based nonprofit dedicated to fostering dialogue and understanding among the world’s youth.

Canyons elementary students who are studying the Mandarin Chinese language recently held a video conference with peers at Shenyang Wanghulu Primary School in China’s Liaoning Province. The students spoke in English and Mandarin about their respective cultures in their  countries, sharing everything from what they like to do in their spare time to what they eat for lunch at school.

Video is Central

The Global Nomads Group connects teens on all seven continents in the United States, Asia and Africa, and since its founding 14 years ago has reached approximately one million young people.

“Video communications is our core business,” says Chris Plutte, co-founder and executive director the Global Nomads Group, headquartered in New York City. “Without video and high quality bandwidth, we can’t carry out our mission,”  he says.

“We believe every young person should have a meaningful dialog and relationship with peers in other parts of the world. Having the ability to communicate effectively with people from various cultures is an essential 21st century skill that will become a defacto requirement in the workplace, if it isn’t already, Plutte says.

Encouraging and enabling collaboration and communications between people from different cultures will have a lasting impact throughout all parts of society, he adds.

Global Nomads has been using Masergy’s global networking services to hosts its video conferences in the U.S. and parts of the world where bandwidth and application performance issues can be challenging.

Students in Qatar and Florida, for example, collaborated over video conferencing to map the location of mangrove swamps in their countries to understand the essential role these wetlands play purifying the air and water in the environment. The project has helped them understand the impact of water consumption on their communities and the world.

Essential Teaching Tool

It’s estimated there are more than 30,000 public, primary/secondary school classrooms and administrative offices in the U.S. that have been outfitted with video conferencing capabilities, according to Wainhouse Research. Schools began using video conferencing for distance learning and to connect with external educational resources.

The recent report, “We Are Connected: The Power of Video Collaboration in Education,” indicates that video conferencing has evolved beyond that. The technology has downsized, making it more mobile and equipment costs have fallen. Also, Cloud Communications services have drastically lowered the cost of delivering video services. These advances are creating new educational opportunities for schools, cites the Wainhouse report.

Democratizing Collaboration

Masergy’s new Virtual Meeting Room (VMR) lets organizations such as the Canyons School District securely collaborate and communicate from anywhere, on any device: desktop computers, tablets, room-based systems, smartphones, softphones, and video phones. VMR let Canyons students connect and collaborate with students in China.

At a special event kick off event, dignitaries from Utah and China listened in as U.S. students spoke Mandarin to discuss the holidays that they celebrate in Utah, while their Chinese peers spoke in English to present information about festivals such as the spring festival celebrated in China.

Plans are underway to facilitate future teleconferences between Utah students and sister schools abroad, with Canyons serving as a model.

Canyons also uses Masergy’s Cloud Communications solution among teachers and administrators in more than 40 schools.

Jody Gilliam

With 15+ years of experience developing content-focused marketing strategies for technology companies, Jody crafts thought leadership articles and develops research ideas to support Masergy’s marketing initiatives. Her background in journalism serves her well, as she works closely with industry analysts and Masergy’s top leaders to publish engaging content. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English and communications from Southwestern University and her master’s degree in digital marketing from the University of Denver.