The following tips have been modified slightly from a wonderful list of suggestions from DART connections and although directed primarily at people who use dedicated videoconferencing equipment they can be adapted for use with other tools such as skype, zoom, qq, ghangouts etc
- Set camera presets before joining the conference (to do this, position the camera, hold down the no. 1 on the remote until the monitor tells you no.1 preset is activated, then position the webcam and preset a no. 2 etc To revert to the no. 1 preset, simply click the no.1) Preset the whole class, small groups of students and individual students who may ask questions.
- Close any drapes or blinds as daylight is a variable light source and can conflict with interior room lighting.
- When setting presets, adjust the camera and fill the screen as much as possible with people rather than tables, chairs, walls, lights or the floor.
- Microphones should be 1 metre away from video conference camera and distant from other electronic equipment.
- Mute microphones until invited to speak by presenter. These are high quality, sensitive microphones and pick up everything and can be very distracting to all involved. If noise is greatest from your classroom, it will activate your image up on the monitor and push the presenter into a small image.
- Display options – click on the display button until you get the preferred display setting for each element of the videoconference
- Questions: If there are a number of schools participating, have your questions ready before the Q & A section of the presentation. Or write them down as they come to you or students or better still, open up and share an online backchannel eg todaysmeet
What suggestions do you have? What has this list missed?
This week is National Science Week in Australia. Many events have been organised and suggested for schools and science classes. Most of these great events occur in Melbourne which is an 8 hour return trip from our school – a near impossibility!
When the opportunity arose for our students to be part of a remote polycom video conferencing linkup to Meet the Scientists , we were quick to take up the opportunity. Cameron Hocking of the Melbourne Museum was keen to reach out to as many rural schools in Victoria and target primarily year 8-10 students, introducing them to some amazing careers and opportunities in Science.
Yesterday, we had the linkup with 5 scientists who have the most amazing careers, unusual opportunities and chances to travel. A backchannel was set up which provided remote students, teachers and classes to be given an opportunity to ask questions of the scientists. This worked really well and many interesting questions came forward. It was gratifying to hear them being answered.
Why it worked well:-
- many hours had been spent in preparation for this event, ensuring the connections, equipment etc all worked as it was a first for Scienceworks and the Melbourne Museum (at least on this scale)
- promotions had gone out through social media
- the scientists were well chosen and strong, engaging speakers sharing wonderful images.
- the backchannel was great and could be used for questions, sharing of knowledge and also to report any audio, video issues etc.
- the careers were adventurous, unusual and of high interest to students
- the bandwidth was sound
- best of all, we could actually attend!
- technology and getting the video displays right
- ensuring all participants muted their microphones
- keeping within 1 hour, as beyond that time, students get restless in the virtual space
- getting all students logged into the backchannel
Who we listened to:
- Dr Stuart Mills, Geologist
- Dr Erich Fitzgerald, Palaeontologist
- Dr Karen Rowe, Ornithologist
- Dr Kevin Rowe, Mammalogist
- Mel Mackenzie, Marine biologist
Britt Gow and her biology students also participated in a Polycom videoconferencing event on Monday for Science Week. Professor Doug Hilton, CEO of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute will be speaking to Secondary students on the topic of “I wish I was a Biology student in 2014”. He spoke about current research in gene technology at the WEHI.
There are so many wonderful opportunites to bring the outside world into our classrooms, why aren’t more teachers/classes taking up these opportunities. Did you celebrate Science Week? If, so how?
Wisteria, our engaging presenter
This morning reminded me how anxious and nervous teachers can get when they face the unknown! Although I have used our polycom videoconferencing equipment extensively with educators, classes and community organisations within Australia, I had never dialled an overseas polycom unit. The IP address had been given to us to dial rather than they dial us! Eek! A practice run was rather difficult due to our time zone differences so at 9am my time this morning, I dialled the number 15 mins before the students were due in for lesson one, having shared Skype contact details should we face technical problems.
Almost immediately, Wisteria answered the call and we were transported into Marriner’s Museum, Virginia, USA, a different day, a different time zone, different hemsipherse, different culture, history and a different accent. Students from year 1/2, year 7 and 9 then enjoyed an engaging and interactive session with Wisteria as she revealed life at sea centuries ago. It was fascinating to hear from someone in our ‘yesterday’, who talked about the Northern Star and their famous explorers eg Christopher Columbus cf Captain Cook for us.
What worked well
- a crystal clear videoconference on both sides, with no hint of lag
- our microphone that was able to pick up the answers from our students who often spoke quietly and were at the back of the room.
- an engaging and interactive presenter, in Wisteria, who varied the session with a mix of using images, objects from the museum, getting the students involved, using the webcam effectively and even sharing a youtube video that did not lag either!
- having the broad mix of age groups. The young students added a dynamic, unreserved and spontaneous addition
At the end of the 60 minute session, students were asked to relate three things they learned and one thing they enjoyed. Following are some of the year 7 ICT student comments. Year 1/2 repsonses will be added as soon as they have had their responses go through the editing stage. By the time year 7 related what they learnt and due to most remembering different elements of the presentation, their total compilation almost gives the overall presentation on Life at Sea.
3 things I learnt:
When at sea, they worked for 4 hours and rested 4 hours, about the different parts of ship
What people at sea eat, lots about compasses, learnt all about parts of ship
The youngest pirate executed was 9 years old. Captain Cook was first captain to give his crew fresh vegetables, in their spare time, crew members would carve pics on whale teeth
Only males were allowed to go on a ship, and as young as 6 or 7; they would eat crackers made of flour and water, dominoes were made from parts of whale’s mouth
Children started work at age of 6 and 7 – eg scrub the deck, peel the vegies; because they didn’t eat fresh veg and fruit, they lost their teeth and their skin would change colour; older kids would have to work for hours, $12 per month pay
Pirates take valuable things, you need vitamin C otherwise you get black gums and your teeth will fall out; little boys started work on ships between the age of 6 and 7
Kids went on ships at such young ages; women work on ships disguised as boys; pirates don’t really kill captives unless they have to – put them on an island if they did not comply. Walking the plank was only done once in history. It is not a common practise.
It was night in USA, 7pm, our today was there yesterday; pirates don’t make you walk a plank, only one person was ever made to do that; Time differences, didn’t know USA were so far away from us,
Showing museum objects
What I liked
Much better learning from someone like Wisteria than through a textbook
How she showed the actual objects
Hearing about the female pirates
All of it was really good – Wysteria was a really good presenter, asked questions and got everyone involved.
Different time and it was interesting to know that she was in my yesterday and there was a night time concert outside while she spoke to us.
Lady pirate Chin commanded 500 pirate ships, made me interested in old history
The problem with hearing clearly eg the girl was actually a boy who answered a question, misunderstanding accents
Liked how she was actually at the museum, and showed us the actual objects from the ship
To see the things they used – photos and objects
If I could ask a question
why did kids start work so young
Did they eat canned food?
What kind of food do they have in America?
Visiting Federal Politicians
A big thank you is extended to the education staff at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) who taught our year 9/10 Visual Communication students and VCE Vis Com/Studio Arts students about “the use of lines and patterns in design” – their current topic of study”.
Ingrid Wood of NGV taught them about contemporary Melbourne artists and the ways in which they have used line and pattern in their work. These Melbourne artists were featured in the recent popular Melbourne Now exhibition were featured. Polycom videoconferencing equipment was used to bring Ingrid into our classrooms. Our visiting politicians were also able to witness this great use of technology in giving equal educational opportunities to country students.
Our school is approx 3.5 -4 hours drive to Melbourne. The cost, effort and time taken for a day trip makes it very difficult take students on excursions, to explore and enjoy many of the cultural institutions that city students take for granted. Our students are geographically and culturally isolated, so it is wonderful to be able to use technology to connect them to many institutions, galleries, museums virtually so that they learn beyond classroom walls.
Feedback from the students on this engaging videoconference:-
- There are many different simple ways to make art – magazine cutouts of bottles were re-arranged to make a new work of art
- I liked how they demonstrated local artists from Melbourne to show you can actually do it. They weren’t overseas artists but our very own.
- I liked the masking tape on the wall that had an intricate design.
- Exposure to different artists that we did not know about or haven’t seen before. As a student I wouldn’t know who to look up to find what we saw yesterday.
- I learnt how to use patterns and colours
- You can use anything to create art.
- How different artists use different products that are just part of everyday life to make art – the orange bags, the stickers, the Ikea buckets to make the dome.
- Really liked the mix of media types eg video, presentation, talk in the presentation.
How we could improve:-
- I want to see more even more examples of artists work and more sessions.
- Position the class better – tables were in the way.
- Set up a backchannel for questions, feedback as it is too hard to ask question because students didn’t want to interrupt the presentation as it stops the flow.
Upon dialling Timboon Consolidated School’s polycom equipment, Jenny, the librarian promptly answered, said ‘hello’ but a little dog could be distinctly heard in the background drowning out some of the audio. She hastily said ‘excuse me” and disappeared from view. Instantly a little black poodle ran up to the equipment and excitedly barked and carried on at me. The more I spoke to it, the louder it’s barking got! What a to do!
Within a few minutes, Jenny returned but the little dog stayed. I thought she would take it away and find it’s rightful owner but by now it was quiet. Jenny proceeded to tell me that the dog, Pablo, was part of the school’s animal program and he was in fact, the library dog!
Part of my role as a virtual conference coach is to help teachers use polycom high definition videoconferencing equipment. This equipment has been rolled out to a number of schools by the Victorian Department of Education and I dialled Jenny, the librarian from Timboon Consolidated School to step her through the procedures. After going through the basics of remote controls, the microphone, camera etc, we again discussed the role of the dog. This discussion would make an ideal lesson for my year 7 ICT class. Jenny agreed to talk to them last week, invited the year 7 teacher, Lisa, and class to connect as well. Lisa is the teacher who introduced the dogs into the school.
And so it came to be that:-
- my year 7ICT class linked up with a year 7 English class from Timboon – another small rural schoolThe two classes
- we learnt about the role of the dogs in the school and their importance eg students who came to the library would often read out loud to the dogs. They relaxed, developed confidence as the dog did not know if they were not reading fluently or were making mistakes. Other children who may be feeling down, will cuddle the dogs in the classroom and gain comfort from them etc
- we shared our environments, using the remote controls to swing the camera to the windows to show ‘what was outside our window’. We had the primary school sports and a race was in progress, Timboon showed us the trees outside their window where resident koalas were perched in the trees.
Outside our windows!
- students stood to speak, introduce themselves and share their favourite subjects, which led to more questions etc
- An hour quickly flew by and we have agree to link up several times over the semester and share further activities.
- learning to use the remote controls and camera effectively
- learning to speak articulately, project the voice and talk to the camera
Some of the learning that took place has been documented as students were asked to record three things they learnt and one question that they still may have on their blogs.
Future linkups – could Pablo listen to our school students reading to him via the equipment?
Capturing the engagement
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
Colourful furniture in the Meredith classroom
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.
Sharing a student
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.
Posted in polycom, skype, videoconferencing
Tagged @Ben_Mr_G, ben gallagher, Meredith PS, polycom in education, polycom in the classroom, polycom videoconferencing, Spontaneous learning, teachable moments, Year 3 and 4 with polycom