The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has long pioneered innovative use of video and UC in the classroom. Their students have and are doing everything from collaborations with other students around the world, accessing their classes from anywhere on any device, to virtual field trips to the Great Barrier Reef, and more.

All of this is now punctuated by a course offering that allows students to work toward a Polycom Video Coordinator Certification. In its second year, the program takes students through four levels beginning with global connections and collaborations that culminate into a Polycom student internship at level four.

This semester, we have our first two Polycom student interns – Matt and Mara. At level four, they are working with public and private schools, school districts and higher education institutions to educate and train teaching professionals on the use of technology in the classroom.  They assist educators in the creation and implementation of technology based on a curriculum which requires their speaking to large audiences and in small workgroups of teachers.  They are teaching educators innovative ways to utilize apps in the classroom, how to access Polycom’s Programs and Resources, and how to find collaborative partners globally.

How are they doing? We decided to ask them to tell us about their experience via a series of blogs. Check out the first blog from Matt and Mara below:

Throughout our high school experience, we’ve been very fortunate to have access to video conferencing solutions. It’s enhanced our learning in new and innovative ways, creating an environment of limitless possibilities. We rely on this technology to create an interactive and interesting environment while we partner with local and international students. Our school district has received awards and has become a case study in why video conferencing is such a useful tool for teachers in education today. Because of our experience with video conferencing, we have been selected to take part in an internship program with Polycom. We are both currently seniors in high school, and throughout the next few months, we will be documenting our experiences working with video conferencing professionals in various industries. We are so excited to have this opportunity to intern at one of the most recognizable communication companies in the world. We’ll be sharing tips and tricks we’ve learned along this journey, as well as a funny story or two. We hope you’ll stay tuned and join us on this amazing journey as Polycom interns!

When we first started this internship, we were not sure what it would be like having Mrs. Elaine Shuck as a boss. After doing a couple of presentations and meetings, we realized this experience was going to be very fun and also very demanding. One of the first things Mrs. Shuck told us was that our room was terrible – manly that our background was terrible. The view people saw behind us was definitely not video conferencing friendly! We didn’t know what made a good background, so naturally we Googled it. We found articles about camera-friendly colors, and after some rigorous research, we agreed blue was the best background color. We scoured our school, found some blue construction paper, and set to work setting up our office. We spent a whole two days putting up our new, improved blue background, but we weren’t finished there. Mrs. Shuck suggested we put a plant in our room, and other miscellaneous items that represented our personality. The room slowly started to come together as we decorated our office.

As we’ve been working more with video in our classroom, we’re eager to share our experiences with others.  Some have asked while we’ve volunteered to share the experience with others. We have been busy partnering with Mrs. Shuck to build and deliver a presentation about our video conferencing opportunities in Alaska. We presented (via video) at the Funding for Collaborative Education seminar, and shared our experiences with educational leaders all over Ohio. We presented to around 78 different educators about the opportunities video conferencing has given us. The audience was very engaged and asked questions about how this has impacted our high school learning experience. We talked about the international friendships we made, and how being exposed to video conferencing in high school is an enriching and beneficial experience. They asked questions about being nervous while presenting, and what kind of career opportunities video conferencing gives us. We loved answering questions and sharing our stories about how lucky we are to use video conferencing so early in life.

We presented to Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, Ohio on Sept 12. Even though we had presented to large audiences many times before, we admittedly were nervous for this video conference. We were presenting screen to screen, but public speaking is always scary. Video conferencing is just as engaging and interactive as a presentation in person. However, as we continued presenting throughout the week to other schools in Ohio, we grew much more comfortable with our presentation. We felt more confident with our presentations after the fair results we’d had earlier in the week. We started answering questions with ease, and relaying information with a calm familiarity. Repetition and practice is imperative with any skill, and by the end of the week, we were feeling like professionals thanks to the easy technology and the great audiences.

Being nervous for large presentations and not knowing what makes an effective background are common video conferencing challenges. What we’ve taken from this experience is that we see how many more people are using video conferencing today. We’re all learning new things and new ways to make video conferencing even better. The fact that we have the opportunity to experiment with this amazing technology is truly special and impactful for us. Many of you have used video as much as we have – sometimes less. The more we learn, the better we’ll be – together!


More about Matt and Mara:

Mara Youngren-Brown is a senior at Kenai Central High School in Alaska, and now a student intern at Polycom. She’s involved in National Honor Society, Battle of the Books, SkillsUSA and Choir. She loves music and collects vinyl. She hopes to work in the telecommunications field to help create international collaborations and connections.

Matthew Zorbas is also a senior at Kenai Central High School in Alaska. He has been involved in video conferencing throughout his high school career, and he is excited to be an intern at Polycom.  He enjoys playing sports and being outdoors. Undecided on what his future will hold, he says he know it will involve telecommunications in some shape or form.

Follow Matt and Mara’s blog posts about their intern experience here on Public Sector View and on Linkedin

Are you or your school looking to implement or expand a distance learning program  but struggling with technology funding? The Polycom Grant Assistance Program experts can help. Request a Grant Assessment now.