Our first virtual classroom with Ping

The setting

·        27 students x year 7, 1 staff member and Josef, our artist in residence  from the Song Room in a computer lab of 26 desktops.

·        3 machines refusing to come off the sound window when the headsets are plugged in

·        12 students who are new to our school, with no experience in blogging or audacity

·        No students had used audacity

·        Lab desktops newly ghosted so all tested sound settings were lost from Thursday

·        A double session at the end of the school day on Monday

·        Four experienced year 7 students on netbooks

·        Our instructor, Ajax McKerral in a music studio, 3MP in Melbourne

 The good……

·        Testing several times with Ajax online, prior to students coming on board,  to gain confidence in working with each other and in using the elluminate. Used year 11 and 9/10 IT to ensure sound settings for headsets were okay (they took some  tweaking)

·        Students coped well with the elluminate room and soon worked out the chat, moving the video image around and activate a large image of Ajax by clicking on his video image.

·        Ajax who did a great job

·        Ajax used presentation slides for summary of concepts.

·        Images were added to text (always good for student engagement)

·        Use of shared applications to teach us how to use audacity. Ajax was able to explain what each of the tools on the audacity tool bar were, using voice and the mouse movement, from the studio at 3MBS

·        The blog had saved cello files for students to pull down and import into audacity

·        A simple exercise given to students – import three cello tracks into audacity to produce a short sound story. Students named their files in their folder on the file server. Most students were able to do this, but required me to show them where to find audacity.

·        Great tutorials on the blog post especially on embedding music files on to the ping blog.

The bad

·        No internet access week one, due to a burnt out router. Meant that half the students had not registered for the ping blog

·        It took 30 mins to logon and ensure that all students could use their headsets

·        Some computers kept throwing up the sound control screen, once the headsets were connected and this would not go away. (Advice: put the headsets in before students logon)

·        One computer refused to work

·        Many new students who were not familiar with the web2.0 work that our school has done in the past and who were not confident with computer use.

·        The library netbooks were not ghosted with the beta version of audacity and could not convert their files to mp3

·        Students had difficulty remembering how to save audacity into mp3 files

·        25 mins was probably too short a time to produce the sound track, save to mp3 and goto the blog to embed their sound file.

·        Students were confused with embedding the sound file in to the ping blog.

·        I probably took over the teaching too much in the classroom when there was confusion.

·        Ajax was not able to gauge what we were doing when there were long pause sand time was given for the students to produce their tracks. There was no feedback or visuals to help give clues as to how we were operating.

·        Josef needs to be able to logon to our network and use our proxy with his mac

The ugly

·        Our embedded music files failed to play. The player embedded but after buffering, the sound track says that it is unable to connect to the file.

·        My laptop fails to login to elluminate (It has a web camera)

·        When 29 people in the room use elluminate, it takes a while for the slides to load on each screen

·        The video switch no longer works with the installation of new desktops, so it was difficult to have one screen projecting onto the wall.

So, next time:-

  • Each student makes a folder named ping in their IT folder.
  • Practise working with several open windows>open audacity>login to the elluminate room>open ping music blog in a new tab on IE
  • Ensure all students have registered for the blog
  • Print off a number of tutorials for those students not so confident on computers
  • Show students how to write a post/add categories/tags
  • Need to constantly communicate via chat or a web cam with Ajax as to what is going on in the room
  • Need to work the chat more and add the instructions in there, if possible, (be easier for the teacher in charge to add the chat as Ajax talks through the steps or have ppt slides set up with a summary of the steps. (Students can only remember a small number of instructions)
  • Ghost netbooks with latest audacity version.

Possible areas to experiment with

Try one big speaker for the students for all to listen to at once, rather than individual headsets

Place a web cam up on the whiteboard so that Ajax can get the feel of the class and what they are doing. Need to position a laptop at the whiteboard to keep clarity and good visuals through the webcam as an attached lead will cause loss of clarity.

Try projecting one computer screen up onto the wall with a data projector so that students who lose their screen can watch the main one.

Overall summary

Despite the chaos that appeared at times, all students have now seen each of the software types that we are using and next time will not take as long to logon and find their way around. They have all played with the software types.

It is a completely different mindset to the normal classroom. With me in the room, students naturally ask for help verbally. The mindset needs to change so that students ask their questions through the chat, use hands up in elluminate and wait for Ajax, Josef or me to answer them in the chat or by use of the microphone. Students will need to hone in on their listening skills and work with their virtual teacher and not so much with me. Greater use of powerpoint slides to give us instructions as a reminder what we are doing, for those who have difficulty remembering.

This is a completely different way of teaching/learning for me and I also, need to remember that. At times it was necessary to get up out of our seats and go and help the students at their desktops. As confidence develops, we need to work the virtual room and not the real room, and this will keep Ajax in the loop as well.

Despite all this, 16 out of the 27 students managed to upload and embed their files into the blog post –  an amazing feat, so thank you Ajax. 

 I love this way of learning/teaching  and look forward to next week. For our students in a remote rural location, it gives them access to experts who can connect, communicate and allow our students to create. It is true 21st century learning in this digital age.


2 responses to “Our first virtual classroom with Ping

  1. Thank you for posting this. I enjoyed reading about your experiences on your first time using Elluminate. I noticed you had a few challenges with Elluminate relating to audio and connectivity. We’d be happy to work with you to resolve these prior to your next session so please feel free to contact me at any time.

    Zemina Hasham
    Senior Director, Client Services
    Elluminate Inc.

  2. Pingback: A virtual classroom for tweenagers « On an e-journey with generation Y

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