P. Vassala1, A. Georganti2

1Hellenic Open University (GREECE)
22nd Experimental High School of Athens (GREECE)
The development of technology in the field of web communication has led to the introduction of innovative applications of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) supporting Distance Learning (DL). Two-way communication, which is applied through the World-Wide-Web and PCs, enables users to experience live visual and audio contact and creates a learning environment of direct interactive dialogue.
This research studies the application of Interactive Video Conference (IVC) in the context of a European e-Twinning program, in which students from the 1st Experimental High School of Athens, Greece and the Liceo Bonghi of Lucera, Italy participated in the school year 2006-2007. The program aimed at the development of communication and cooperation between the remote student groups through the exchange of information on cultural issues. The participants were 21 Greek students and 17 Italian students, aged 12-16. IVC was selected, as it supports two-way communication between the remote groups with sound, video and chat and allows the participants to interact with the educational material simultaneously.
To facilitate the evaluation of various types of interaction among the participants in different conditions, the decision was made to design three experimental IVCs, which featured a different layout of the participating classes, different number of used PCs and different use of the video-projector. The experimental designs, were adapted to the three types of IVC (Classroom IVC, Small room IVC, Desktop IVC) and were implemented from December 2006 to February 2007. For each experimental design we had determined the date, period and topic to be presented by the students of each school. The topics were selected after discussion with the students, who gathered their material from various sources and processed it appropriately (in digital form, translated into English) in cooperation with their teachers, so that it could be transmitted to the remote group. Each interactive VC design lasted 45 min. The first 10 min. were allocated to the presentation of the topic from a student and the remaining time was allocated to discussion with all the participants. The venue of the three IVCs was the school PC lab, which offered the necessary equipment at no cost.
Research findings led to the conclusions that in the three experimental designs of IVC dialogue and interaction were promoted between remote student groups. The layout of the venue (classroom) depends on the number of participating students. The tools of the IVC platform allow the direct transmission and reception of data, so that the remote groups can work on text and pictures at the same time exchanging information and feedback via live communication and use of the Whiteboard features. The teacher’s role during the IVC is restricted to the coordination of the discussion, the resolution of technical problems and the support of the topic presentation. For the above reasons, IVC can easily be implemented by all schools having Internet access, offering new instructional approaches and developing collaboration between teachers and students of remotely located schools.