Last updated: August 24. 2013 1:24PM - 502 Views

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ADA — Ohio Northern University student Zachary Freer hails from Ashland and has a good chance of landing a teaching job close to his hometown.

Those chances got even better when video conferencing allowed him to student teach at the school while being evaluated by his professor back at ONU.

“Without it, I would not have been allowed to teach here,” said Freer, who will graduate later this week with a technology education degree.

ONU student teachers are usually confined to teaching at schools within a 40-miles radius of the university. A big reason for that is travel time for professors to evaluate students.

Freer wanted to do his student teaching with Mapleton High School industrial technology teacher Craig Wiley, an ONU graduate. Wiley teamed up with Patricia Freeman, ONU’s education technology coordinator. The two set up video conferencing equipment and Freeman observed her student five times.

“It went beautifully,” said Freeman, who applied for an internal grant to pay for the equipment. “All eyes were focused on this experiment. Now that it was successful, I am certain others will want to try it.”

Freer, who hopes to find a position with the district after next year, said being observed by way of video conferencing made it easier for both him and the high school students.

“It has been less distracting for them. The equipment is always there and you don’t even notice if it is on or not,” he said. “And it is less distracting for me. I don’t see myself or Dr. Freeman, so it is less distracting than if I would look and see her in the back.”

The system included a computer, two joystick-controlled webcams, floor microphone, wireless microphone and monitor. The system sat on a cart that could be easily moved from the classroom to lab.

Using the equipment has also been a good experience for Freer’s students, he said. Describing it to them as "Skype on steroids,” he has been able to use the equipment in other ways to enhance their learning.

Freeman and Freer were also able to use the equipment to talk about his teaching. Freer could also record the observation so that Freeman could look at it again and so other professors could observe later too.

Ashland is about 90 miles, an hour and a half drive, from ONU. It would not have been possible for Freeman to make that trip. Even much closer observation trips take time, she said.

“So much time is wasted traveling from one school to the next for observation,” she said. “Time could be spent more productively with less time on the highway. I think this will start other teachers looking at this.”

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