Keystone Conference Promotes K-12 Internet Videoconferencing

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Jul 18, 2005) — 

The second annual Keystone Conference will be held October 3-5, 2005, in Indianapolis. The conference theme, "Interactive VideoConferencing: Igniting Opportunities for Learning" will bring together educators, videoconferencing leaders, content providers, and industry representatives to learn how interactive videoconferencing (IVC) technology can motivate K-12 students by igniting opportunities for learning.

The Keystone Conference will help users reach beyond the limitations of their local and regional resources by creating links with videoconferencing users around the world to demonstrate and discuss the best practices and uses of interactive videoconferencing in education, and to identify and address common concerns to advance the use of IVC. The conference will also convene collaborative work groups to focus on issues related to establishing and promoting quality standards and learning experiences with IVC.

Ruth Blankenbaker, executive director of the Center For Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC), said the idea for the conference grew out of her recognition that the use of videoconferencing was increasing, but those who were using it had little or no way to share their experiences.

"A community of users needed to form," Blankenbaker said. "Developing a conference for these videoconferencing users seemed like the right approach."

Blankenbaker tested the idea of holding such a conference on a few of her national network of colleagues. She said their feedback revealed dramatic support for creating such a venue. A year to the month of that feedback, the first videoconference conference was held in October, 2004.

Marvin Bailey, president and CEO of CILC and the Corporation for Education Technology (CET), said that according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 72 percent of schools indicate they plan to increase their distance learning programming, while 49 percent of schools say two-way interactive videoconferencing is their technology of choice.

"The Keystone Conference will allow participants to learn innovative programming options using videoconferencing that will help learning organizations achieve their goals," Bailey said. Nowhere else will you find program providers from around the world, technology vendors representing various solutions, and K-12 users all focused on the effective integration of videoconferencing for learning communities."

Bailey said the conference has been held at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis the past two years. He said the conference will be held in other cities starting with Austin, Texas in 2006.

OARnet Videoconferencing Engineer Arif Khan said his is one of several agencies across the country that are providing the Multipoint Control Units (MCUs) for the entire Keystone Conference. OARnet is the sole agency providing Internet videoconferencing service for the presenter tracks during the conference.

Khan said thousands of other remote participants can watch the conference proceedings through web streaming. Remote viewers who are at live videoconferencing sties can interact with presenters, but those not at official interactive sites can only view the streaming video.

"OARnet and the Internet2 Commons will connect nearly 40 on-site and remote sites across the country for the conference," Khan said. "These sites will have direct, two-way, face-to-face videoconferencing communications between participants in Indianapolis, as well as those at live remote sites across the country during the conference."

Bailey commended OARnet's role in providing technical support for the conference.

"OARnet is the technical hub responsible for connecting all of the conference speakers wherever they are across the country, and assuring quality connections. The service we received is nothing short of spectacular," Bailey said. "They are the back-room organization, hidden from the spotlight, but their role and the expertise they deliver is key to the success of the conference. We are very grateful for all they do."

The Internet2 Commons site, for which the OARnet Support Center serves as the Network Operations Center (NOC), is located at the Ohio Supercomputer Center in Columbus.

In addition to the Keystone Conference, OARnet and the Internet2 Commons provides numerous videoconferencing services to places throughout the state, across the country and around the world. OARnet will operate the 7 th Annual Megaconference this December, as well as the world's first Gigaconference on August 5, 2005. OARnet also operated Megaconference Jr 1 & 2, last year's Keystone Conference, performances between the Cleveland Institute of Music and the New World Symphony in Florida, Ohio Governor Taft's Eminent Scholar Awards Ceremony, Internet2 Spring and Fall Member Meetings, the bi-yearly Intenet2 Joint Techs Meeting, and may others.

Khan said on average OARnet hosts about two videoconferences daily at any given point around the world and for a variety of educational, government, cultural, medical, and research institutions.

OARnet also operates Ohio's Third Frontier Network (TFN), the nation's most advanced network for education, research and government. The TFN connects Ohio's universities and colleges with each other, their business partners, Ohio's federal labs, medical centers, and K-12 schools as well as Internet 2, the national high-performance backbone network for advanced networking applications development. For more information on TFN see

John Ramicone, Director of Distance Learning Services at WVIZ-PBS in Cleveland, will be coordinating and scheduling the eTech Ohio (formerly the Ohio SchoolNet Commission and Ohio Educational Telecommunications Network Commission) sites around the state that are participating in the Keystone Conference.

Ramicone said WVIZ-PBS was a participant during last year's Keystone Conference, but was asked by eTech Ohio this year to assume a more active role in recruiting and assisting Ohio's K-12 schools for the Keystone Conference. Ramicone said WVIZ-PBS also helps eTech Ohio coordinate K-12 schools in other state conferences besides Keystone.

"We help identify interested K-12 schools throughout the state, then assist them in various practice and testing sessions, establish proper connections, then bridge those sites to MCU services here in Ohio such as OARnet and the Internet2 Commons," Ramicone said. "It's very important that we bring those sites on, test their connections, make sure no problems exist, and keep things running smoothly for Ohio's K-12 sites during this conference."

eTech Ohio Transition Executive Director Jeff Tyler said his organization is pleased that that the Cleveland affiliate, WVIZ, has taken the lead to help organize so that schools across the state of Ohio can benefit from the Keystone Conference

"It is essential for Ohio educators to take advantage of the educational technology offerings that are available to them, and this is one of many opportunities available that will help to enhance technology integration into the classroom," Tyler said.

More on the Keystone Conference

The Keystone Pre-Conference and Workshop Groups, " Lighting the Torch of Best Practices in IVC" provides participants the opportunity to examine issues particularly relevant to IVC practice nationwide, with the intention of creating on-going discussion and documentation to further best practices. Participants will work in four distinguishable groups that will be facilitated by IVC specialists:

  • IVC Leaders - Policy and Practice for IVC Leaders: Broadband Access, Research
  • Novices - The How's, Why's, When's and Where's of Videoconferencing for Novices
  • Teachers - Best Practice for Using Videoconferencing to Improve Student Learning
  • Program Providers - Research, Funding, Best Practice

Work group registration includes lunch and snacks. The novice, teacher, and program provider work groups will receive a copy of the book " Videoconferencing for K-12 Classrooms: A Program Guide." The IVC leader group will receive policy briefs related to IVC research and current practices.

Keynote Speakers include:

Dr. David Thornburg , founder and Director of Global Operations for the Thornburg Center and Senior Fellow of the Congressional Institute for the Future.

Chris Dede , the Timothy E. Wirth Professor of Learning Technologies at Harvard's Graduate School of Education.

Come to the conference, or let the conference come to you.

Those who can't attend the conference can participate from their schools or workplace through videoconferencing or web streaming. Last year, 1,400 people from five countries and 35 U.S. states attended the inaugural Keystone Conference via 112 remote site connections.

Remote IP sites will connect to IP Bridges (MCU's) around the nation that will connect to Strand 1 via the Internet2 Commons MCU located at the Ohio State University, and to Stand 2 & 3 via two MCU's located at IUPUI in Indianapolis. Because IP addresses can sometimes lead to firewall violations, IP sites will be using the Global Dialing Scheme wherever possible. IP Sites will receive information about which MCU they will be assigned to for the Keystone Conference. Detailed instructions will be provided by your MCU at a later date.

For information, hotel accommodations, conference registration, and streaming information go to

Streaming Video will be provided by the Starbak Streamer located at the Internet2 Commons, of which OARnet is a NOC, in MPEG-4 format via unicast on the public Internet and via multicast on the Internet2 network.

Streaming will also be provided by the Vbrick VBXcast in MPEG-4 format via unicast on the public Internet and via multicast on the Internet2 network. Streaming speed will be 384 kbps.