NASA LIVE Videoconferencing Enhances K-12 Science and Math

December 24, 2004

Videoconferencing in K–12 classrooms enhances the learning process, increases student motivation and participation, and encourages cultural diversity. It provides access to a vast array of information and resources to better meet students’ individual needs. The face-to face interaction of videoconferencing improves student comprehension of difficult, abstract concepts. Positive relationships among educators, students, and community members are cultivated through videoconferencing, as it establishes a visual connection between real-world experts (presenters) and participants (educators, students, and parents). Conversation and body language also enhance communication when educators and students see and hear remote learners in real time.

Educators can meet and match the educational needs and abilities of their students through videoconferencing. The technology supports the shift away from traditional lessons that are short, isolated, and educator centered to a student-focused interactive experience. Different learning styles are considered when emphasis is placed upon long-term, interdisciplinary, student-centered activities integrated with real-world issues and practices. Through videoconferencing, various learning styles are addressed by a variety of available educational materials. For example, animations, audio, graphics, and video clips enhance the visual learner’s educational experience, while audio communications appeal to the verbal or linguistic learner. Kinesthetic learners benefit from audio and video communications, while hands-on activities like the Mars Egg Drop Activity, demonstrated via Learning Through Interactive Videoconferencing (NASA LIVE™), appeal to all students, including special needs students. Produced by NASA Langley’s Center for Distance Learning in Hampton, Virginia, NASA LIVE™ is a free series of videoconferencing programs designed for K–12 educators and students.

NASA LIVEâ„¢ offers 30- to 60-minute videoconferences between its researchers and students throughout North America and beyond. Educators and students have the opportunity to establish real-world connections with experts in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Through the power of videoconferencing technology, students participating in a NASA LIVEâ„¢ event interact with and learn from the researchers who play an important role in the Mars Exploration Rovers mission, as well as other aspects of aeronautics and space exploration. Videoconferences, such as the ones seen via NASA LIVEâ„¢, allow educators in different locations to share information, resources, and any costs involved without traveling long distances.
One illustration of effective, synchronous videoconferencing took place via NASA LIVE™ among students from Oxon Hill Middle School in Oxon Hill, Maryland, and Princess Anne Middle School in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Via NASA LIVE™, middle school students participated in the first joint NASA CONNECT™/NASA LIVE™ event: The Nutrition and Exercise Challenge. Accepting the challenge highlighted in the NASA CONNECT™ program, Better Health From Space to Earth, allowed students to work in groups and develop daily meal and exercise plans for individuals with special needs. This hands-on activity provided the students with real- world examples of the nature of research and knowledge within NASA’s Office of Biological and Physical Research. More importantly, document sharing, collaboration of ideas, problem solving, and decision making among the students created a high degree of cooperation, resulting in increased student participation, higher retention of material, and a greater understanding of cultural differences. Upon completion, the students presented their plans to the presentation evaluators, Dr. Scott Smith and Dr. Don Hagan, researchers with NASA Johnson’s Office of Bioastronautics. Without the technology of videoconferencing and the knowledge and effort of program moderators Chris Giersch, NASA CONNECT™ Program Manager and Coordinating Producer, and Katrina Townes-Young, NASA LIVE™ Program Manager, this collaborative project would not have been possible.

Videoconferencing participation also improves academic and social skills. Through group collaboration and interaction, students develop and improve their communication and management skills. As students prepare, present, edit, and provide feedback on projects, their presentation and speaking skills improve. Interviews with field experts such as those in The Nutrition and Exercise Challenge provide students with opportunities to sharpen their listening and note-taking abilities. For additional information about videoconferences available via NASA LIVEâ„¢, access the NASA LIVEâ„¢ web site at