Having used elluminate over the last 12 months for regular global staff meetings, online conferences and online professional development, it has only been this year, that I have used it with students and realised its potential application to being the way to go for 21st century education middle to senior school students.
Various benefactor organizations, and our own Victorian Education and Early Childhood Department, Australia, have sponsored a 12 week program for bringing music to three or four remote, rural schools.
Ajax McKerrall, a former digital productions manager, for the London Symphony Orchestra, organized an individual member of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) to come into our classroom, via elluminate, to teach us about their instruments. They play short pieces, demonstrate the key elements or physics of the instruments, and answer questions from the students. The MSO instrumentalists are with Ajax in a radio studio (3MBS) in Melbourne which is a 3 1/2 drive from Melbourne and then proceed to record short music clips which are uploaded onto the shared Ping class music blog. My 28 year 7 students (all in the one class) then grab and download the clips that they would like to use, add them to audacity and make up their own musical stories, which in turn are uploaded back onto the Ping blog. Year 7 students took a few weeks to adapt cf with my year 9/10 students who immediately ‘took’ to it. Now, the chat is worked to the hilt, so rather than asking me verbal questions, when issues arise, the put it into the chat. See a movie on our experiences mid-way through the project.
I have found this to be an extremely effective means of teaching.
- students are in their own ‘space’, feel important and have a chance to be ‘heard’ as cannot be achieved in the normal classroom. (Initially we were asked to have the students watch the virtual lesson on one screen, then return to their individual desktops or netbooks to complete the practical application. However, I perservered with the individual stations and that is definitely the way to go.)
- students are able to interact in real time with the lesson and they are no longer passive listeners. They use chat, emoticons, etc and offer feedback to the musicians as they are playing. (This must be wonderful for the musicians as usually people simply clap at the end of the performance with no real indiction as to what they enjoyed or did not enjoy). We have had to set up a code of conduct for the chat , after a number of issues.
- students can ask questions at any stage and these questions will be answered.
- they immediately tell you if they do not understand (something I do not get so readily from each classmember in a normal classroom) I feel this is one of an online classroom’s biggest advantages. Students have the chance and feel comfortable with expressing their opinions and needs.
- can invite global participants in, or other interested parties, so that they too can witness the class in action eg sponsors, benefactors, software developers, policy makers etc.
As such, I am using elluminate more and more with all types of classes. For revision with my year 12 students as their exams loom. This is mainly in the evenings. To be able to teach two subjects at once (year 11 and 12 accounting) and still try and give each group special and meaningful tuition) We have recently demonstrated the use of elluminate and Ping to our Minister for Education who was also in Melbourne. It has been successfully used for me to teach my students from home when I was sick, close to their exam time.
Hints for successful use of elluminate in intitial phases (with students)
- remove all private messaging priveleges and possibly whiteboard tools
- go through the code of conduct with chat
- disable chat if they misbehave
- for serious issues, place offenders in timeout room, this soon brings them all into behaving
- ALWAYS, always just have a couple of initial lessons to let them play with all the tools ie whiteboard etc before you start in earnest. Students love to fiddle and that whiteboard will be crazy.
- be extremely organised with lots of imagery, use ppt slides etc as there needs to be a lot happening to keep students
- get students to put together some ppt slides and talk to them
- ensure the school’s firewall does not prevent the use of elluminate, and that java can be enabled.
- Use polls, take snapshots etc.
- Allow student use of microphone when confident
- Learn how to test the audio and mic options as these sometimes need to be tweaked.
- Use video camera option if necessary.
Where I will go from here
- increase my usage of elluminate
- seek out guest expert speakers who might come into my classroom remotely. eg authors, accountants, museum officials etc.
- spend time putting together lessons in MS Powerpoint etc
- get the students to run some classes
- work globally in such a classroom
- keep trying to get aspects of elluminate working at school eg the webtour will not work due to filter restrictions.
Note that the DEEC (Education Dept) has purchased a license with elluminate that I can use at the moment so there is no cost. I also use DiscoverE virtual classroom software.