Joined by only one other class of eighth graders from Humboldt County — connected through the California K-12 High-Speed Network which the Imperial County Office of Education administers — the students had a chance to listen to the governor talk about his experience as an immigrant to the United States from his native Austria. Then, students had a chance to ask the governor questions.
The 30-minute session ended with the governor taking students on a virtual tour of his Sacramento office.
“It was totally interactive,” said Alan Phillips, assistant director of conferencing services for ICOE.
Not only did the Heber students have a chance to talk with the governor via videoconference, they — along with the students from the Humboldt school district — were the first to participate in a program initiated by the governor’s office to use videoconferencing as a way for the governor to interact with students.
“Not many students will have this kind of opportunity. It is special for local students to have the chance be the pioneers of this inaugural event,” Phillips said.
Because ICOE administers the California K-12 High-Speed Network, which provides statewide videoconferencing support as well as access to online educational resources to school districts statewide, ICOE was called upon by the governor’s office and the State Parks Department to help organize the videoconferencing event.
Phillips explained the opportunity to have local students meet with the governor through videoconferencing happened rather quickly.
On March 17, representatives from the State Parks Department and the governor’s office met with ICOE to discuss the concept of the event, which had originated from Gov. Schwarzenegger as a way to reach out to students statewide, Phillips said.
“The State Parks Department was involved because it already is a leader in utilizing videoconferencing services as an educational tool,” said Joe von Herrmann, who administers a program called Parks Online Resources For Teachers and Students (PORTS) for State Parks. PORTS is a program that provides virtual field trips to the state’s parks for students statewide.
As part of the PORTS program, State Parks also administers another academic resource, Your Voice In Government, which has allowed state legislators to talk with students in their districts via videoconferencing.
Herrmann said working with ICOE and with the Humboldt County school district also was a natural fit as those agencies are leaders in the use of technology as a delivery tool for educational resources.