Kate Langsdorf, Ford’s Theatre’s Education Programs Manager, was gracious enough to schedule time for a phone interview discussing her role in the creation and implementation of Ford’s Theatre’s distance learning programs. Currently Ford's programs include Virtual Field Trips and a short play entitled Investigating the Lincoln Assassination with Detective McDevitt, and they hope to further expand their offerings in the future.
Distance learning is a fantastic tool for arts organizations, particularly those which are educationally focused, to expand the impact and reach of their programming. Applications go beyond just the convenience of delivering high quality educational programming directly to classrooms. Technological solutions such as “people on content,” which allows the background behind presenters to be edited much like is done for weather reporters, creates the possibility of new and more engaging formats. For example, Ford's Detective McDevitt tour leverages this technology to display period photos behind the actor leading the tour, transporting students back to April 1865.
For years, high up-front costs of videoconferencing equipment have proven prohibitive both for institutions and schools, while free programs such as Skype don’t offer the same reliability or range of features. One resource that overcomes these challenges is Polycom’s m100 software (soon to be replaced by RealPresence Desktop), which offers a low cost way for educators to provide full featured distance learning using their classroom PC.
If you’d like to learn more about distance learning, Kate suggests visiting the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration which serves as a hub for both providers and consumers of distance learning.
Thanks again to Kate and Ford’s Theatre for speaking with us. The full 15-minute interview can be found below.