Several months ago Maryan Pelland, a writer for grandparents.com, contacted me about our family’s experiences using videoconferencing with our children and their grandparents / our parents. A few months ago she published the article “Videoconference With Your Grandchildren: Hearing your grandchildren’s voices is special, but seeing their faces is even better. Videoconferencing is the next best thing to being there.” Her quotation from our phone conversation was:

“Few things are as important as keeping grandparents and grandkids connected,” says Wesley Fryer, 37, of Edmond, Okla. “My grandmother lived in Wyoming. I was in Texas. We wrote letters, made phone calls. But kids and language and their likes change so fast, being able to hear their voices and see them up close is compelling.” Fryer uses Skype to help his children videoconference with their grandparents, and he says that setting up an account is as easy as setting up Voicemail.

During our phone call, I recommended that Maryan contact Rod Reese, who I met in the spring of 2007 when I shared a presentation about videoconferencing for faculty in Tonkawa, Oklahoma. I was impressed and enthused to learn that Rod’s family uses Skype every weekend to visit over video with his son in Europe. In her article Maryan wrote:

Rod Reese, 55, the superintendant of schools in Tonkawa, Okla., chairs a family videoconference almost every Sunday morning. He stays in touch with his seven grandchildren and with his 25-year-old son, who coaches football in Germany. “It’s simple, and I can’t believe it’s free,” he says. “Seems like something this important would cost.”

Some of Reese’s neighbors still give him blank stares when he talks about his videoconferences, he says, but more people are catching on. “It’s terrific for little children to keep a clear memory of loved ones far away,” he explains. “It’s not like waiting for a letter and getting a few lines of news. It’s instant and has a very positive impact.”

I knew this article had been published but hadn’t actually found and read it till tonight. I’m sharing a presentation here in Sturbridge, Massachusetts at the MASSCUE conference tomorrow on “Videoconferencing Collaborations and Virtual Field Trips” and am going to mention the grandparent / grandchild connection as a great way to get started with videoconferencing.

It is very important that educators at all levels find personally meaningful ways to use technologies FIRST before they can be reasonably expected to find professionally worthwhile ways to integrate technology. Safely videoconferencing with family members is hard to beat! This is a photo I snapped this past Halloween in our living room, when our kids checked in with their Lubbock grandparents to show off their costumes! :-)

Videoconferencing over skype with grandparents

To learn more about videoconferencing applications for the classroom, I highly commend Brian Crosby’s 2008 K-12 Online Conference presentation “Video-Conferencing It’s Easy, Free and Powerful.”

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  • http://brandtschneider.edublogs.org Brandt Schneider

    We use it for the same purpose. Single best use for technology.

  • http://tipoftheiceberg.edublogs.org Keri-Lee Beasley

    I’m so glad you posted this. I regularly videoconference with my grandparents. One is 92 years old. Hey, if he can do it, anyone can.

    My grandparents love seeing their Great-Grandchildren in action.

    We live in Singapore, but my grandparents are in NZ. It is a fantastic way of staying connected. We see them more regularly than we would if we lived in NZ.

    When my parents went overseas in the 70s, it would take a week for a letter to reach home. Now, we are showing them what my 3 year old drew at nursery, my son’s first steps and both kids ‘playing’ the piano. It’s absolutely priceless.

    One thing we did recently was to make a Voicethread for my Mum’s 60th birthday. All the family commented on the photos through her lifetime – even my grandparents left audio comments. We played the Voicethread at the party, and it was one of the most commented on presents.

    I urge everyone to give it a go!

  • http://bumpontheblog.net Brian Grenier

    A week doesn’t go by that Aidan, my 4 year old son, doesn’t VC with his Grandpa Papa and Grandma Carol in Illinois. It really reinforces the family connection in a way that wasn’t possible a few years ago. The only problem I’ve encountered was when Aidan was holding a pencil and Grandpa Papa thought it might be a good idea to pick up a pencil on his end so that he and Aidan could have a virtual sword fight….Needless to say, my computer’s flat screen took the brunt of the pain. :-)

    Take Care,
    Brian

  • http://www.wesfryer.com Wesley Fryer

    Ouch, Brian! That is the first laptop-damage-from-a-virtual-pencil-fight story I’ve heard! Hopefully the screen wasn’t punctured and is still usable!

    These personal connections with videoconferencing really are the place to start, I think.

  • Linda Dierks

    So glad for your post! We use videoconferencing to keep the far away cousins in touch. My 2 year old nephew can’t walk by his Mom’s laptop without squealing to see my kids. Without videoconferencing, he would be scared silly of us during the once a year visits we can manage. This way, he can’t wait to see us all next week at Thanksgiving.

    Videoconferencing… it’s not just for buisness anymore.

  • Emily Mann

    A group of Ed Tech trainers from AZ and I just played with a site mentioned by Peggy George, toxbox.com, for a 4-way video conference. We used it as a brainstorming session for getting classes across Arizona together for AZ Day or Earth Day or some kind of state-wide celebration. We could get kids from all over the state together on one screen at once. What fun!
    It is free.

  • Eva Maria

    I too use videoconferencing to keep in touch with my grandkids, and am amazed by technology every time. Using the technology in this “personal” sense does give me the courage to try the technology in the “professional” sense in my classroom.

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