All I Want for Christmas is a Videoconference

While I am admittedly a fan of H323 videoconferencing and mostly write about that, occasionally I have an experience with desktop VC that I must share with you. This weekend was one of those times.

With two nurses among my in-laws, sometimes we celebrate Christmas at odd times. This year it was last night. All the in-laws gathered at our house, with the exception of my brother- and sister-in-law who are teaching in Taiwan. Last year we connected to them with Yahoo with video one way (to them). This year we wanted to do video both ways. They are a Mac family, so hooking up our PC to them with a full blown VC has been a puzzle since they moved to Taiwan. When we started talking about our celebration this year, we found out that the new version of Skype has video on the Mac FINALLY!

So this year the tech set up in our house included a laptop with Skype, a projector, and a Polycom SoundStation. In Taiwan, a Mac laptop, web camera, and a splitter connecting two headphones completed the setup. The sound was excellent and the video quality just like I see at work with H323 and good bandwidth. The only pixellation and breakup came when they took their laptop outside wireless to show us their yard & surrounding scenery.

But it really wasn’t about the technology this year. It was about being together. Family. Which is what family celebrations are all about anyway! We exchanged gifts long distance, but the real “connected” moment came when my four year old nephew began throwing torn wrapping paper at the wall where we were projecting larger than life full screen of my brother- and sister-in-law. Soon a paper fight broke out. Only once did my nephew turn around to see if the paper had fallen behind him (the one they threw!). Giggles and chuckles from everyone around, the moment continued on, each one feeling the love and connection across the miles. This morning he was still talking about playing with his aunt & uncle in Taiwan.

We also played the trading game. You know, where everyone brings an wrapped un-labeled gift. You draw numbers, and then open the gifts or trade with someone until the game is over and everyone has a gift. Of course we’ll have to mail them their gifts now, but it was very fun to play long distance. The interaction was incredible; almost like being together. My nephew kept trying to touch them and hug them.

So this Christmas, I’m thankful for (among other things) technology that brings us closer together.

1.7.07 Update. Added after reading The Weblog Handbook. The Polycom SoundStation was given to me by a Polycom Sales Specialist.

About Janine Lim

Janine Lim, PhD, currently serves as associate dean for online higher education in the School of Distance Education at Andrews University, in Berrien Springs, MI. She and her team support over 200 online courses, provide training for faculty teaching online, and work with the campus infrastructure support of online learning. Her department also provides educational technology and Moodle support for faculty and students. In addition, Janine is responsible for the faculty and courses of the Consortium of Adventist Colleges and Universities. Janine has taught over 15 unique graduate educational technology classes online numerous times over the past 15 years, with some classes attracting participants from all over the world. Her undergraduate teaching includes social media courses for communication and digital media majors. Janine has served on the board of the United States Distance Learning Association since April 2015. Prior to her work at Andrews University, Janine coordinated distance education for 22 K12 school districts in southwest Michigan for 14 years. In that position, as one of the co-founders of TWICE, Michigan’s K12 Videoconferencing Organization, Janine has spearheaded popular international K12 videoconference projects such as Read Around the Planet and MysteryQuest. While still serving on the board of TWICE, she was instrumental in designing and implementing the CAPspace website for collaborative videoconference projects. Janine also served on a team of Michigan educational technology trainers providing a workshop called ATA Technology Academy. Her current online learning research interests include successful teacher behaviors, quality online discussions, and student activity patterns in self-paced courses.
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