It is always fun to experiment and link two classes of a similar age group through videoconferencing. Most of my connections have been global so it is great to be able to connect with local or Victorian classrooms especially when they are of a similar age group. The best results and learning outcomes arise when the quality of sound and video is good!
Such was the recent connection with Ben Gallagher (well known for his Online Student Led Conferences) of Meredith PS and his year 3/4 class. As we both have Polycom equipment in our schools, it was decided to use this for videoconferencing as the highest possible video quality is almost guaranteed through our Education Department e-pipeline!
It was a fairly unplanned, spontaneous linkup where we had decided to simply share our learning and classrooms. The year 4 students had a cricket workshop so I only had the year 3 portion.Student from my class found something that they could share, including:-
- their sports equipment and container in the classroom
- dioramas that they were creating as part of their study of animals
- some worksheets
To our delight, Ben used the webcam to great effect and showed their colourful classroom and some of the great equipment they had including a revolving cube. Students in my classroom were rather envious. His students demonstrated their white, write on tables. To our delight, another his student had created and shared a wonderful diorarma that inspired my students and motivated them to add more detail to theirs. Finally, Ben shared some of the digital movies that students had made. This was also opportune as my students were finishing off their digital movies using photographs and videos taken on their recent camp. The transmission quality was good and we could see the movies clearly as Ben used the ‘shared content’ option on the remote.
Only at the end of the session when Fairlie, an innovative educator at the same school, came in to say ‘hello’ did the bandwidth falter.
What worked well:
- although little formal planning had gone into the connection, it became a powerful one when students were given the opportunity to share.
- effective use of the webcam and its zooming features to share how the other classroom looked and its special spaces and features.
- demonstrating objects to share learning (rather than just talking)
- sharing content via polycom meant images and movies could be seen in real time
- comparing learning and learning outcomes beyond classrooms inspires and motivates peers to achieve at higher levels.
- the evidence of improved communication skills and confidence engendered in the participating students.
Skype was used as the backchannel so that we could communicate if things did not work with polycom.