Mandarin Kids `Visit' California an Eighth-Grade Class from Mandarin Middle Participated in a Test Run of Parker Vision's Teleconferencing Program

Article excerpt

Last week, Mandarin Middle School students discussed

school cafeteria food, dances and dress codes with middle

schoolers in California; however, neither group traveled

cross country for this face-to-face meeting.

They met via a video teleconference held at Parker Vision,

a Southside manufacturing company that sells video teleconferencing

equipment nationwide.

Using a special video camera, microphones, speakers and

a telephone line, Parker Vision technicians tapped into

an eighth-grade classroom at Cole Middle School, in Lancaster,

Calif., which is north of Los Angeles near the Mojave

Desert.

Students on both ends laughed and waved to each other

on the two 35-inch monitors before them.

Teachers and Duval County School Board officials piled

into the 20-by-30-foot room on Baymeadows Way to watch about

50 eighth-graders take part in the first video teleconference

involving Duval County students.

"This is unique. I never thought we could do something

like this," said Judy Till, the School Board's coordinator

of Management Information Systems.

Students in both classes disliked their school cafeteria

food, strict dress codes and homework. They also agreed

that friends, sports and dances were the highlights of

school.

Mandarin students seemed fascinated that rural Cole Middle

School had earthquake drills, no lockers, no gymnasium and a

dress code policy that forbids overalls and sports jackets

because they are considered gang-related attire.

"It was fun hearing about what's going on across the

country. I didn't know what to expect," said 13-year-old

Jared Williams of Mandarin. "I'm thankful for what we have

at our school."

Cole students wanted to hear about the Florida weather

and hurricanes.

For Mandarin student Phil Costa, the meeting destroyed

his preconceived notions about what Californians were

like.

"I thought they'd all be surfers," Costa said. "Turned

out they were just like us."

That was the main purpose of the lesson, according to

eighth-grade teacher Betty Toohey.

The concept is called "distance learning." It allows

students to explore other cultures without the hassles and

cost of travel. Now, it is used mainly by schools in Boston

and California, according to Alex Holtz, marketing director

at Parker Vision.

Holtz said Parker Vision wanted to give area students

a taste of the latest in distance learning.

"It was absurd, really. We are here in Jacksonville manufacturing

the latest technology and our own schools aren't up to speed,"

Holtz said.

So, Parker Vision offered the use of its distance learning

conference equipment free-of-charge to Mandarin

Middle. …

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