Category Archives: polycom

Learning from the chill of Yukon, Whitehorse, Canada

hand mittens.jpg

Our second linkup with Kate Leeming was a fascinating one. Students are seeing history being made. Kate videoconferenced in to us from minus 15 degrees in Whitehorse the capital of northwest Canada’s Yukon territory to us where we are experiencing 30 degrees in Victoria. Kate had just arrived in the chilly weather (-10 degree) of Yukon, Canada. Polycom Video conferencing equipment was used to videoconference her in from the home that she was staying in.

This is our last videoconference connection before Kate sets out on her bike riding trek across the Arctic circle. Kate is an Australian adventurer who will be the first to ride her bike across the Arctic. The video and audio was clear. She explained how she actually arrived in Canada before the time that she had left Australia.  Kate talked about her specially built bike.

lined riding boots

She talked about her preparation for the Arctic bike ride, showed us her fat bike, the first of its kind in the world, specially made by an engineer in Pittsburgh to cope with . Kate also talked about the special clothing requirements and need for layers and different fabrics. When she sweats it is important that her sweat does not freeze. It was particularly interesting to see her show objects such as the fat wheels of her bike, the special hat and mittens and boots etc. Three schools across Victoria linked in to the presentation with each school being given an opportunity to ask a question.

bayley question

Bayley, from our school asked:  “What gave you the idea to ride across snow and ice?”Kate’s answer was  that she got the idea when she was cycling through the sand of the Australian outback desert. Always wanted to go to Antarctica so she thought about how she was going to ride – and what sort of bike. Cycling in sand at home, it is really hard – If it slips a bit, it can skid. She needed a system and a bike that would allow her to explore. The snow is a challenge but so beautiful.

You can follow Kate’s journey at

Kate Leeming -Virtual Stories from an Australian Adventurer

Kate Leeming     is an Australian explorer/adventurer, who has cycled the equivalent distance of twice around the world at the Equator.

Rarely do we get the opportunity to listen to motivational and educational people of Kate’s calibre. It costs too much to bring them into our school face to face and the distance from Melbourne is great. How wonderful it was that my year 9/10 ICT class could listen to her via polycom videoconferencing equipment  in a session set up by Digital Learning, Department of Education and Training.

Prior to the connection:

  • Websites of potential interest to learn more about Kate were emailed out
  • The access number for the session was also shared.
  • A test call was required before the actual day to ensure the equipment worked.
  • Students were given a short time to look at Kates blog set up especially for them.
  • A backchannel was set up for students to add questions, experiences or general sharing as Kate was presenting

The Connection

  • Kate was formally introduced, explained a little what motivated her to do what she does, what she has done and how she hopes to cycle across Antarctica in 2018
  • Kate shared her screen showing some of the amazing photographs that she took on her journey of being the first person to ride from East to West Africa.
  • Students added questions into the backchannel as she spoke

The engagement factor

  • Her presentation style was excellent and the images captivating.
  • Her stories and experiences were interesting and inspiring
  • Some of my most disengaged students weer active in the chat with questions, so she certainly held their interest

After the event

  • The event was recorded Year 6 in our school will watch that as they were absent during this session.
  • We can continue to follow her journey through her blog
  • Students will be encouraged to subscribe to her blog and add comments on her posts.
  • As we had to leave early, Kate kindly answered all our questions from the TodaysMeet backchannel and the document was emailed through to us.
  • Students will write a blog post and add a link to Kate’s blog

Some follow up activities and further research include:-

Learning Resources

  1. Level 5,6,7 Unit of Work – Climate Change and the Environment –   –
  2. Take the Online Quiz – What is your Ecological Footprint?
  3. Taking actionOrganise your own Expedition or Fundraiser
  4. Communicate with Kate – There is a Blog Post from Kate

What wonderful opportunities for students to get involved in? Why werent more schools in attendance for the session?

Tips for successful polycom videoconference linkups

ian and participants on polycom

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?

“Meet The Scientists” Virtually

polycom linkup

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

best we can do

Who we listened to:

  1. Dr Stuart Mills, Geologist
  2. Dr Erich Fitzgerald, Palaeontologist
  3. Dr Karen Rowe, Ornithologist
  4. Dr Kevin Rowe, Mammalogist
  5. 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?


When the North Star meets the Southern Cross!

Wisteria, our engaging presenter

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.

wisteria and boatsc

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

some of the students

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.

wisteria and the little ones

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

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?

Question time

Question time


Overcoming the Loneliness of the Far Distant School!

Visiting Federal Politicians

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.
Classroom setup

Classroom setup


And the little dog laughed to see such fun!

The little dog who laughed

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.

jenny clear and girls

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  classesThe 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 window! 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.

The challenges:-

  • 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?

the two classes

Year 3/4 Classes connect with Video Conferencing with Polycom

Capturing the engagement

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!

demonstrating favourite sports equipt

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

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  diorama

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.

Every student has a voice – Election Youth Forum Q & A Style

One of the first questions from Canberra

One of the first questions from Canberra

Q & A Style – Student Election Forum from across Australia providing students with the opportunity to question national politicians on hot issues that are prominent with our youth. This forum was complete with a twitter feed – #gcf2013

The Panel

The hot issues for Austtralian Youth ie The questions included the following:-

  • lowering of voting age, youth suicide, illegal immigrants, legalization of gay marriages, costs for rural students of moving to the city for tertiary education, racism, sexism and more

About the forum:- Gungahlin College, in conjunction with Electroboard (See Share Shape)and Community CPS Australia organised the 2013 Election Youth Forum on Friday 31st May 1:20 – 2:45pm.  This was a video conferencing opportunity, using polycom videoconferencing equipment,  for students in years 10 – 12 for schools across Australia to join  ACT students in questioning federal politicians and experts on youth issues in the lead up to the 2013 federal election.  Members from the three major parties were open to questions from students in the theatre audience and virtually to students from schools who joined in via the video conference. Seven schools were videoconferenced in –  a mix of states and  a mix of government, International and private schools.

Waiting to begin

Waiting to begin

Schools enter the forum

Schools enter the forum

Prior to the Forum:-

  1. Connections were tested 1 week prior to the Youth Forum 
  2. A lists of student questions was emailed through to Canberra the afternoon before the forum.
  3. Questions chosen were then emailed back to schools involved.
  4. From our school point of view, permission forms had to be obtained due to the possibility of a large national media presence.
  5. A number of teachers brainstormed with classes current political issues that were of interest to young people and list of questions to pose of the politicians was compiled.
  6. A list of students interested in being present for forum was established (unfortunately it clashed with the day of the Presentation Ball with many senior students absent)
  7. Students who were part of forum met at lunchtime to discuss appropriate netiquette, use of webcamera etc.
  8. Students registered for twitter, added avatars, learnt how to tweet in 140 characters and how to use hashtags.  Just prior to the forum, they sent out a tweet to share their involvement.
  9. Some of the politicians and panel involved also shared their involvement prior via twitter.
  10. Logged onto videoconference 2 hours prior to ensure connection worked.
The Panel

The Panel

The Forum

  • Students brought their netbooks to our school meeting room, logged into twitter, opened up tweetchat and keyed in the hashtag #gcf2013
  • Students followed the tweetfeed and viewed the videoconference
  • Two questions were asked from Ghungalin College, Canberra and one question from another state. This pattern was then repeated.
  • Georgia, whose question was chosen,  posed the question to our webcam and the Canberra audience.

What will you do to help with the costs for rural students of moving away from home to attend higher education in the city.

Highlights and outcomes:-

  • Students were engaged listening to students pose questions that they were also interested in
  • My students were highly engaged with the twitterfall. As one student said:- “It exposed us to more than one opinion”
  • Exposing our students to broader viewpoints by both panelists and the Australian student body via twitter.
  • Sparked an interest in politics amongst students
Georgia asks her question

Georgia asks her question

some of twitter feed resized

The use of twitter:-

Initially, students were flippant with their tweets. We heard the request that no food was to be brought into Gunghalin College auditorium. There were tweets daring someone to be the first to throw their sandwiches. However, the tweets started to become serious with different viewpoints shared, discussions between groups re topics eg country and city students  discussing their viewpoints on costs for tertiary education. The legalization of gay marriage drew lively debate amongst the young. When some tweets bordering on the inappropriate were sent, other students reminded those students of the inappropriateness. The twitterfall portrays a great summary of the forum. People from outside the forum also interacted and added to the conversations. Retweets were common.

Engaging with the tweet feed

Engaging with the tweet feed

Special thanks go to all those who were involved with the organisation of this conference. It was a wonderful experience for our students who are geographically and culturally isolated, allowing them a voice either real or virtual (via twitter). Technology has the power to remove many barriers.

It was great to discover this shared pic on twitter of the live student audience in Canberra. It is always beneficial to ‘see’ things in full.

Shared on twitter by @youthco_act

Shared on twitter by @youthco_act

Sharing War Stories of our Ancestors

The two classes in action

The two classes in action

Our year 6 students linked up virtually with Lismore Primary School (approximately 1 1/4 hours drive away) to share war stories of their great or great great grandparents. As Australia celebrates Anzac Day tomorrow, April 25th, to remember those who fought for our country, this was great use of polycom equipment and  smart boards to be able to connect and share.

The army uniform

The army uniform

Staff from both schools worked with Concetta Gotlieb (@chetty)  of See Share Shape on this project. It involved using the Polycom Videoconferencing equipment and our smart board to share a presentation by Lismore PS.

Innovative use of smartboards and polycom for sharing

Innovative use of smartboards and polycom for sharing

Students researched their family’s involvement in previous wars, wrote a report or story to share and then using the web camera shared that story. One of our students brought her great grandfather’s army jacket complete with medals and cloth badges and share that with all. Students from Lismore shared a powerpoint presentation which included video footage of interviews with and ex Russian prisoner of war and his memories. Another Lismore student revealed what it was like to be a civilian during World War 2 with rations etc.

Illustrator uses Polycom to teach drawing

Illustrator uses Polycom to teach drawing

The link up was a direct result of a previous project with See Share Shape when an illustrator, Mark Wilson,  virtually taught  a number of virtual classes how to create drawings to illustrate stories. Mark had illustrated Jackie French’s story on Anzac Day, A Day to Remember

As it looked on smartboard

As it looked on smartboard