At the beginning of each school year, VCE (year 12) students from across a number of small rural schools, including ours, attend a three day study camp at the University of Ballarat. A last minute plea was made for suggestions of a speaker or workshop for the Business Management class. This is the first year that I am teaching this subject so am inexperienced!
Again the power of a professional network came into play, as I contacted a wonderful colleague, Amanda Ritter who teaches at Toorak College (a private girls’ school) in Melbourne. Each year Amanda’s student gain extremely high results and Amanda is herself well networked, resourced and experienced. Amanda offered to videoconference in to the students and speak to them virtually from her school. Blackboard Collaborate was the software tool of my choice for the virtual workshop, as students have access to a chat, can see Amanda on video and watch the powerpoint presentation on the virtual whiteboard. Polls can be setup and high interactivity employed. However, this software does not work at their school. So, we agreed to use skype.
The Business Management student cohort:-
- 15 students at the camp were studying Business Management
- students came from 8 different small rural schools
- Students studied the subject under different conditions – some with a face to face teacher, some study virtually with a remote teacher using polycom videoconferencing equipment, several study the subject by distance education (I still call it study by correspondence)
The challenges included how to-
- ensure that skype would work in a tertiary institution where I had no control or direct contact with lecturers or technicians (it can be blocked in many eductional settings)
- provide a backchannel or area of chat for the students to interact, ask questions, provide feedback etc
- encourage an ongoing social network for students beyond the camp and through this final school year
- engage students for a 2 hours – the length of the workshop
- project Amanda’s video image up (feedback suggests seeing the presenter is more engaging for students) whilst simultaneously sharing the powerpoint presentation. (I did not have time to print it out in pdf form and photocopy for students). Amanda was unable to share her screen with us in skype.
- contact students after the date when they publicly state they dont use email!
- the lack of time to fully test skype and its potential features for the presentation.
- Give Amanda a clear view of her virtual class (this was difficult as they were in a computer lab and mostly hidden behind monitors whilst taking notes)
- the practicalities of accessing skype at the university and their network
- Camp organising staff organised a University rep to help me setup and ensure we had a username and password.
- created a Todays Meet backchannel for introductions, discussion, questions, reflections etc
- shared a collaborative google document to add contact details for networking and sending out the pdf version of the presentation
- opened up the powerpoint presentation on my laptop
- when in the videoconference, skype was maximized to show Amanda on video, then when referring to specific slides, the ppt was maximized. This enabled Amanda’s video image to be projected (in small size) over the actual slide. I could grab her video and move her into a position where she could be seen but did not block out any of the images or text. A fabulous feature that I only discovered that day!
- Took photos of the class and the way in which Amanda appeared to the students. Share webcam view of her projected image in the computer room.
- Amanda’s voice has lots of character to hold student attention
- Had one quick test two days before to ensure our linkup would work.
- used my laptop with skype downloaded, cabled into University’s network, used a temporary username and password to login to their system, projected laptop screen onto their large white screen at front of room via a data projector. Brought my own speakers (thank goodness, as students would not have heard audio otherwise)
Reasons for the session’s high success and being rated as one of the top camp sessions:-
- Students introduced themselves in school groups via the webcamera and in the backchannel to Amanda
- Amanda had created an engaging presentation using text2pic to replace the usual dot points on slides, featuring images as much as possible to show what she was talking about and gave examples of things that her students had said had worked for them.
- Amanda appeared at all times in video format so that students could always see their presenter.
- Amanda used interactivity where possible – with questions requiring feedback, written response etc
- She had also worked out a hands on session at the conclusion of her presentation. Students used magazines to cut out appropriate images to build posters on “The Operating Environment” or the “Macro Environment”
What I learnt
- how to have a ppt presentation up with the virtual presenter image shown in an overlay of the slide and discovering the ability to drop or drag this video image around the screen. Will test to see if it works when presenter shares their screen
- using text2pic app to replace the often boring dot points in Powerpoint. This creates very effective imagery.
- how to improve student external exam results based on the experience of another teacher
- the need to remind students of appropriate behaviour in a professional online chat
- being reminded of the need for each party to see each other or understand how they look to each other.
Have you used skype for virtual formal presentations? What elements of skype do you use?