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Intercultural Exchange – Travel With Your Students Without Leaving the Classroom

Arlene Tucker, an art teacher based in Finland and the creator of the Dear You international art exchange program, recently shared her experiences as an IPEVO product user.

"You set up a camera, and that’s it," said Arlene, with respect to starting a foreign exchange class under the Dear You program she created. "It could not be easier." Arlene explained that it's been beneficial for her students to exchange so many ideas, homework and pieces of art with students in foreign countries.

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"The cultural exchange has opened the minds of my little students," said Arlene. "Through simple questions, they begin to understand things many children their age know nothing about, like time zones, different languages, and traditions for specific holidays around the world. My students may be small, but their minds are anything but, if you know what I mean!"

As for Arlene's pioneering program, Dear You is an art exchange project that includes schools from different countries, including Finland, the Czech Republic, Taiwan, United States, and now Vietnam. Skype connects users in different countries through a simple video call, but Arlene discovered two items that really enhance the basic Skype experience for her Dear You community: the Point 2 View USB Document Camera and the X1-N6 Internet Conference Station.

"It all started through letters and the exchange of pieces of art," explained Arlene. "Eventually, the project developed so fast and with so many more schools involved that we needed to add online meetings."

The Point 2 View doc cam, Arlene indicated, has been very helpful for this purpose. Cameras which attach to monitors have no mobility, a situation which just won't cut it when it comes to sharing artwork on the table for the other party. By contrast, the Point 2 View camera mounts on the monitor but can be taken off just as easily. In seconds, Arlene and her students are able to transition from face-to-face video conferencing to sharing sketches, drawings and other art objects.

Another feature the Dear You community found useful was the one-touch snapshot feature of the camera. Whenever they need a permanent record of the artwork under the camera, they can take a snapshot. From there, Arlene or her students can immediately upload the picture to the Dear You Facebook page.

So, Dear You had the video covered, but what about the sound? Sometimes it's hard to understand with only two people conversing, but imagine the computer's built-in microphone trying to capture 6 or 7 rambunctious kids speaking at the same time. That's a headache! But the X1-N6 Internet Conference Station solved that problem.

Arlene talked about the X1-N6's ability to capture sound in 360 degrees, or to restrict the sound capture to a narrower section of the room. "I can limit the sound capture to specific spots, all while eliminating background noise. I mean, they are kids, after all. They get very excited when the camera is on, and so it's completely normal for them to get a little rowdy when they have the spotlight. The X1-N6 filters out the chatter and makes our sessions clear and understandable."

Today's technology has helped Arlene teach her art class in a way she never could have dreamed of before. "The classes are more interactive," she said. "The kids get to see, listen and talk to students their age from different places all over the world. It's like we have the chance to take an international trip twice every month without leaving the classroom. Maybe that's why the students are more committed to the class now. Their curiosity to see what is happening on the other side of the world has only increased their focus and their excitement.”

Arlene summarized Dear You's experience in this way: “We are like a huge family, and the kids love to learn this way. The classes are very enriching and I am really proud of the development of my students through our positive use of technology.”

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