I am taking a look at the role of technology in supporting global education efforts at school. I am new to this field and have a lot to learn! The basic premise is that a school may attempt to create as many opportunities for rich interactions between its students and people/places around the world. The richest interactions involve expensive trips, but technology can play several roles. Technology-mediated communication may enhance the richness of these trips by providing pre- and post-trip activities that make the time spent there even more valuable. It may provide for less rich, but more broadly accessible interactive experiences, such as email pen pals, discussion forums, blogs, and cheap audio and video chat interactions. Finally, technology may provide expensive, rich distance interactions through such technologies as high-end videoconference solutions.
One immediate reaction I have to my first investigations in this field is that there seems to be a significant split between the high-end and low-end folk, especially when it comes to synchronous telecommunication. When you’re talking to someone halfway around the world, it seems to me that the additional expense and complexity of high-end videoconferencing is not worth the marginally improved quality. Even with Skype, it’s remarkable how close people in Africa (for instance) feel and how much richer the communication is than anything that was possible for free even two years ago.
So my first recommendation is that those looking for rich, electronic interactions with faraway people would do best to make the maximum use of inexpensive communication technologies now and then just wait. For what we consider expensive and high-end today will no doubt become inexpensive and ubiquitous in a rather short period of time.