California Virtual Parks Program Adds Tablet Viewing
- By Dian Schaffhauser
An elementary school in Southern California will be the first to experience an online state park program that uses a tablet-outfitted mobile studio. Kindergartners at Los Angeles-based Castlebay Lane Charter Elementary School will virtually visit Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach.
A park ranger will lead the kids on a tour set up through the California Department of Parks and Recreations' Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students (PORTS) program. PORTS delivers live, interactive videoconferencing into the classroom through two-way audio and video feeds delivered via the "EduGator," a golf-cart-like vehicle converted into a wireless studio.
That studio includes a tablet set into a Belkin portable tablet stage, a device that holds the tablet and allows the presenter to swivel the tablet for capturing and presenting images. Belkin has also outfitted the Parks Department's indoor studios too. According to the company, the tablet stages will enable teachers to customize the view for their students and assist the park interpreters in seeing the classrooms they're visiting with and speak directly to students, who can ask questions and hold conversations with the experts.
"Through this relationship with Belkin, we can deliver in real time the beauty and unique resources of our parks and our people to students with simple yet effective tools we didn't have before," said Brad Krey, California State Parks PORTS program manager, in a prepared statement.
At the upcoming Crystal Cove tour the students will learn about tide pool ecology and habitat protection and restoration.
"There's no doubt that our students will benefit from the experience of not only seeing our state parks but talking to the experts directly, as if they were there themselves," added Christine Chun, assistant principal of the school. "It's an exceptional learning opportunity and I am sure our students and teachers will be excited by what they can do with it."
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.