The NCTE have not installed broadband in my school yet. Since my school opened in September 2008, we have been paying Eircom €30 per month for a service we should be getting free. However, after trying to set up a video conference with another school on the broadband scheme, perhaps it might be just as well, we’ve got our “lightning fast” 3Mb connection.
I have been testing out video-conferencing in education for a fantastic company called OnlineMeetings and as part of this pilot, my aim is to have as many conferences as I can to investigate the educational benefits. Unfortunately, many schools don’t feel ready to take the virtual step into video conferencing – they’re only getting their heads around interactive whiteboards (but that’s another article).
I had my first conference just before Christmas with my wife’s school in Athy. She is in a school with a DSL connection (3Mb/s) and we did quite well. I was delighted when another school volunteered to try a conference with one of my teachers. We did all the preparations, etc. then came the test connection.
Both myself and the other teacher logged into the online room where the conference takes place, (the cool thing about this conference is that there’s no software needed at all). I said hello. Six seconds later, the teacher heard me and responded. By this time I had already asked whether he could hear me and was already trying to solve the connectivity. To cut a long shpiel short, it was impossible to have a conversation.
We checked out the speeds that this teacher’s school was getting and it was nothing short of disgraceful for a school in the 21st century, less than 1/2 Mb/s. Sadly the video-conference won’t happen unless broadband speeds pick up quickly. Sadly his schools isn’t the only one. It may prove very difficult to find a school in Ireland to hook up with at all.
I’m aware that there is a second rollout of broadband but I’d be surprised if speeds are in any way future proofed. 100Mb/s should be the norm for all schools, primary or second level.