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Videoconferencing in Waterford
by Bill Doherty, Mount Sion, Waterford.

Bill Doherty of Mount Sion CBS in Waterford outlines the potential use of videoconferencing in CSPE Action Projects, a realistic possibility in any area that already has such links in operation for business purposes.

Leargas - The Exchange Bureau, initiated an East/West schools programme in 97/98. The information leaflet appeared in my pigeon hole under the umbrella of C.S.P.E. We joined the programme and after some consultation we "twinned" with Sandon High School in Stoke-on- Trent, England. A significant reason for this pairing was the fact that both Waterford and Stoke had already established strong industrial and commercial links through the Waterford/Wedgewood group. This company has established a video conference link between both cities and we saw the possibilities for both schools .

We negotiated with Waterford Crystal and received an extremely positive reaction. Bearing in mind a cost of 200 per hour to businesses for this type of communication we have been fortunate to have already had six video conferences with out partner school. The earlier conferences were a "getting to know you" type meeting for principals, staff and guests. Students have been involved in the last three "links" and we are now preparing for a visit to Waterford from our friends at Sandon High School. Being able to use such a facility has brought great life to this project.

Seeing is believing and students at both ends have bought into the project and indeed are now beginning to run with the idea themselves. At the moment our 5th yr. history students and Sandon's Yr. 8/9 students are prepared for a visit to take place in May '00. There has been no C.S.P.E. involvement in this project so far as the setting up stage was rather slow and detailed. However in the event of a visit to Waterford I certainly will have my C.S.P.E. group working on the fringes and I can see the possibility of some good Action Projects. For example they could take responsibility for organising the group visit to city hall to meet our Mayor or they could organise a walking tour of some of the historical sites of Waterford, or a bus trip to Kilkenny/Wexford.

The real winners in this project have been the students. They take to this type of technology so readily, at this stage I'm almost in the way. At the last conference the peace process was discussed and to hear young people speak so openly and without any baggage was wonderful. With so many foreign companies in Ireland this type of communication may be possible for school elsewhere. It could certainly add an international dimension to C.S.P.E.

"mutually enlightening" - Principal

"It has given me an experience unattainable in any curriculum ... I was amazed at how well the English students understood the N.I. problem from both sides". Ian Hutchinson - student