More than 200 school districts and thousands of students participated May 19 th in Megaconference Jr, a project designed to give students in elementary and secondary schools across the country and around the world the opportunity to communicate, collaborate and contribute to each other's learning experiences in real time, using advanced multi-point Internet videoconferencing technology. Megaconference Jr was held Thursday May 19, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
More than a dozen countries worldwide participated in the second annual Megaconference Jr, with a variety of presentation subjects such as Human Rights Issues, Marine Laboratories, U.S. Constitutional Amendments, The Great Lakes, Native American Tribal Dancing, Robotics, and Rain Forests. Additional presentations were conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, the British Consulate in Indonesia, the U.S. Library of Congress, a tour of Barcelona Spain, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and African Poetry and Art.
Worthington Kilbourne High School teacher Kevin Johnson said his students were very excited to participate in Megaconference Jr this year.
"The use of advanced technology for helping students and teachers around the world gain a deeper understanding of our different cultures is invaluable. This event helped to break down the walls of our schools and engage students with issues that are meaningful to them," Johnson said. "Beyond the Megaconference experience, our students will hopefully continue to build new bridges of learning and communication with students around the world through the use of technology at home and in their school."
The Worthington Kilbourne students were also given tours of the OSC BALE (Blueprint for Advanced Learning Environment) Interface Laboratory, which is a high-tech "playroom" for scientific research. The BALE lab provides interface equipment and expertise to Ohio's researchers. In addition to providing high performance graphic displays for both interactive and recorded presentations, the Interface Laboratory offers dexterous devices to precisely localize and track 3D digitization, user movements, morphometrics, and haptic (force reflecting) interaction with complex data. The Interface Lab also provides equipment for recording and generating various types of audio for both interaction and presentation.
K-12 students from the Netherlands, Canada, Taiwan, England, the United States, Spain, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, China, Russia, Malta, Pakistan, Australia, Ghana, the Philippines, and Singapore participated in Megaconference Jr, using this pioneering communications technology to addresses local, national and international curriculum standards, and interact in panel discussions, science presentations, and even songs, dances and games.
The Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) and its networking division, OARnet, provided supercomputing and technical support for Megaconference Jr including managing the Network Operations Center (NOC) for global Internet2 H.323 Services. OSC is a technology initiative of the Ohio Board of Regents. Everyone participating in Megaconference Jr was routed through the OARnet Support Center (located on The Ohio State University West Campus), which provided services such as testing connections and connecting participants to the conference through Multipoint Control Units (MCUs).
OSC Executive Director Stan Ahalt said deploying the underlying technology for Megaconference Jr was both an honor and a challenge for the Center.
"As the technical hub for Megaconference Jr our engineering staff work many hours for months in advance to make sure this technology worked at hundreds of locations around the world. Our staff are some of the brightest and most dedicated individuals in this field, and their dedication to using technology to bring the students of the world together in this cross-cultural forum is part of the larger mission of OSC," Ahalt said.
Ohio's new high-speed statewide fiber optic network, the Third Frontier Network (TFN), carried Megaconference Jr traffic throughout the state, and the Internet2 network carried nationwide traffic. Internet2 is the national high-performance backbone for advanced networking applications development that connects more than 200 universities throughout the United States and to networks in dozens of countries worldwide. The Mid-Atlantic GigaPoP in Philadelphia for Internet2 (MAGPI) also provided networking and production support for the event.
OSC Engineer Arif Khan, one of the lead technical organizers for the event, said he was amazed to see how much this event grows with each consecutive year.
"This year we had more than twice as many locations as last year, and it just keeps growing. We finally had to turn people away who wanted to participate because our schedule was overflowing with presentations," Khan said. "The students were very excited about this event, and some of them had been planning their presentations for the past year. Megaconference Jr will definitely set the example for how students throughout the world can use technology to break down barriers of place and time to communicate with, and learn from, each other."
Presenters, activity leaders, and audience members in Megaconference Jr included students, teachers and technical staff from elementary, middle and high schools around the world. Presenters designed and conducted videoconference-based presentations and activities.
Building international cultural and academic awareness is a major component of Megaconference Jr, and participants had opportunities to address questions to presenters and collaborate with their geographically dispersed peers in this collaborative learning environment. It also helped students and teachers develop the capacity to effectively utilize high-speed networks, Internet videoconferencing, and other emerging technologies that enhance the learning experience.
For more information about the Ohio Supercomputer Center go to www.osc.edu