The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

June 11, 2013

Technology gives sense of being there

Conference explores use of TelePresence

MANKATO — The Anoka-Hennepin school district, like many others, was running into problems with having to cancel high school classes that only a handful of students signed up for.

Tom Skoglund, district instructional technology facilitator, gave level 5 French as an example. A few students at different high schools would sign up, but it wasn’t cost-effective to end up offering the class.

“Our students were losing out on educational opportunities because we couldn’t afford to support the classes with low enrollment,” said Skogland, speaking to rooms in Mankato, Bloomington, Edina, Grand Rapids, Albert Lea and Madison, Wis.

The technology by which Skogland was able to deliver his message also served as the solution to the district’s problem. And he and various others shared the challenges and opportunities of TelePresence — which connects spaces through life-size and life-like HD video and audio technology — at a conference Monday.

Skogland’s session discussed TelePresence in the K-12 environment and how Anoka-Hennepin has used such technology. In addition to merging classrooms across the district to create a larger student pool for less-popular classes, the district also has brought experts into the classroom, such as authors and math experts. The technology also connects students with other students around the world, assists in delivering information to homebound students and helps staff collaborate across the district.

The purpose of the conference was to share ideas, create partnerships and inspire partner organizations about the possibilities of the technology, said Bryan Schneider, director of technical services in Minnesota State University’s Office of Information and Technology Services.

Sessions including teaching and learning with TelePresence, tools and techniques, and issues and challenges.

MSU purchased the equipment in June 2011, in part with funds from President Richard Davenport’s “Big Ideas” campaign, funding made available for innovative ideas that advance the university’s mission.

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