Category Archives: web conferencing

Skype in the Classroom

This was a topic for a 30 minute presentation that I made to Sheldon College, in Brisbane, Queensland, 1883 kms from me.

The presentation was made using skype and covered how to use skype, find contacts, advanced features and sample classroom uses including virtual guest speakers/experts, global connections, cultural experiences, virtual tours etc . Here is what was done:

  1. intitial contact made using emails
  2. test of skype connection earlier in the day between the school and me
  3. a quick run through of the proposed session with Vanessa the co-ordinator of the Professional Development Day to ensure it met their objectives and needs
  4. a back channel set up in todays meet for participants to introduce themselves (and for me to have some idea about the interests and needs of the audience)
  5. Chat messages to alert me to when they were ready for the presentation.
  6. Cabled my laptop in for best bandwidth
  7. Videoconference call made at the appointed time for the session
  8. Webcamera introduction
  9. Screen share from my end allowed me to share the powerpoint presentation with the remote location.

See the presentation:-

https://docs.com/d/embed/D25193928-4011-7935-3820-000397619509%7eM9dcb2cf0-75c2-fd54-cc0d-4cb4b9b90919

This took approximately 30 mins. Sound, video and audio were all good. The presentation was uploaded into docs.com for sharing and the link emailed through.

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Behind Closed Doors: Sebastian guest educator from Kerala, India

cropped selfieThis week is Education Week in Victoria, Australia. To celebrate teaching and learning, our school opened its doors today on the theme: “Behind Closed Doors”. Grandparents and parents were invited in to the classrooms between 11:30am and 2:30pm.

Year 7 ICT class demonstrated the power that technology can bring in opening up the doors globally. Sebastian Panakal kindly accepted the invitation to play “Mystery Skype” with the students, then show his wife’s Seena’s wonderful samples of origami and and answer any further questions.

whole class with Sebastian

Students had to think of one question to ask Sebastian, that required only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, whilst I solved the many problems I was facing with my laptop. Sebastian waited extremely patiently whilst my laptop rebooted. Students gradually worked out where Sebastian was from, using visuals and accents as ancilliary clues. Hamish actually worked out the name of the city – Kerala! Students had previously asked if he lived in the northern hemisphere, near a tropical forest, near the Pacific Ocean etc. Once they knew it was India, the next questions were

  • Do you live in southern India?
  • Do you live in a big city?
  • Do you live in Kerala?

showing origami

Sebastian proceeded to share the wonderful origami that his wife Seena creates. I hope he could hear the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the students as the webcam beamed them back to us. She shares her work over youtube.

As it was breakfast time for Sebastian he told us he was having Chappati & Daal – further learning as to what this actually looks like. Appam (made of rice) and curry was also part of it. Our students had had toast, toasties or cornflakes with banana!

Then he  invited us to Skype with “Sandesh – Be the Change” learners as part of training of a team of social entrereneurs ready to empower poor at the bottom of the pyramid in Kerala. The Prime Minister is eagerly promoting “Make in India” – Kerala Government is keen on digital democracy, empowering the marginalized. What a fabulous event for us to be involved in.

another origami

Read some of the student blog posts and what they thought about it all:

  1. Kiara’s post
  2. Dominic’s post
  3. Emmerson’s post
  4. Tim’s post
  5. Megan’s post

Safer Internet Use Day

Today is Safer Internet Day #sid2015 – a globally recognised day organised by Insafe. In First Aid, one of the first lessons to learn is DR ABC. The D being of prime importance as it stands for DANGER. When using the internet, it is important that students also learn of the dangers, so they can protect themselves as much as possible. As our Australian school year starts, this is a timely lesson and should be enforced whenever technology is used.

resizied image

Australian Cybersmart organised webinars to be held throughout Australia for classes of students in years 4, 5 and 6 today. In Victoria, Digtial Learning partnered with ACMA to provide a webinar at 10:30am with more than 130 classes and more than 20,000 students logged in – a wonderful number to reach, all learning and sharing together under the guidance of an expert speaker. Popular Greg Gebhart ran a presentation on “Being a Good Bystander” using case studies, discussion, graphics, real world examples and time for feedback and reflection. Teachers were given the opportunity to test entry into blackboard collaborate, the virtual classroom software to be used the day before with help support provided by telephone on the day.

Students were also given the opportunity to participate as individuals in a chat or backchannel using Todaysmeet. Due to the large number of students online in the backchannel, the chat was fast and furious with some wonderful sharing by most students and lots of ideas on how to support their fellow peers. This is an amazing example of technology allowing students anywhere and everywhere to connect and learn. There were small rural schools, huge city schools, private and government schools all in the one classroom, connecting together and most importantly sharing their learning and experiences.

For Victorian teachers, further resources are available on FUSE for follow up activities and a game called “The Postie” was highly recommended.

What did you do for Safer Internet Day?

 

 

 

Going back in time!

Video call snapshot 32

Mariko Eguchi took us on a virtual tour of a Japanese classroom belonging to the class she is going to connect us with in early December.  Japan brings images of high technology use in my mind so it came as a bit of a shock to see a blackboard, chalk, no sign of computers or technology except for Mariko’s equipment, chairs in straight lines, desks individually placed allowing one student per desk etc. Certainly a contrast to our classrooms at Hawkesdale! It took me way back in time and reminded me how far we have actually come with technology.

Mariko had brought mobile polycom equipment, but the school firewall did not allow video to be transferred during our test linkup.  Skype was used instead with the video and audio of high quality.

The year ICT class used Mystery Skype, google maps etc to determine where Mariko was from. She then took us on virtual tour of the classroom explaining that we were to meet the actual class in a couple of week’s time. Students were intrigued to find out that this school canteen only serves curried rice compared to our school which has a wide variety of hot foods and cold foods.

Video call snapshot 31

One of my students then took Mariko on a virtual tour of our school, using their microsoft surface tablets device.

 

How To Bring in Virtual Participants Effectively

This tweet sparked a conversation on twitter with many teachers offering advice. Before answering the question, further questions were asked:-

  1. was the staff member housebound and able
  2. what software would be best to use and which is easiest
  3. sound could be tricky so need a microphone. Question on what sort of microphone and how to set up
  4. what physical space was being used and how many f2f participants
  5. what does the program look like – presentations, workshops, group work etc?

Valuable advice from Brette Lockyer

As one of my passions is using technology to break down all barriers. From my experience, my response would be as follows:-

Potential tools to be used:

Software options available to Victorian School Teachers:- Skype, Blackboard Collaborate (through DEECD license), MS Lync, Google Hangouts or Polycom videoconferencing equipment. The easiest tool to use would be Skype as it extremely user friendly but may be blocked in some schools. It would allow chat, video and audio options plus some more difficult features such as screen sharing etc. Recording sessions is more difficult and bandwidth may be an issue. A mobile device can be used for access from home.

Using skype

Using skype

MS Lync is available to Victorian teachers but the software would need to be installed and activated on devices. If it is a two way link, it is user friendly and has many advanced features, including chat, whiteboard and the ability to send large files. It can easily be recorded and presents itself as wmv file once finished which can be shared privately or online. All participants could log in and the chat area could be used as a valuable backchannel, giving everyone a voice. Multi participants would take more time to create email invitations.

MS Lync whiteboard

MS Lync whiteboard

Blackboard Collaborate is still one of my favourite tools for bringing in virtual participants to events. It has many advanced features, including that valuable backchannel, an interactive whiteboard, the ability to create breakout rooms for group work and can be recorded easily. One link or booking could run all day or different links created for different sessions logins. The housebound teacher would need to have trialled it first to make sure it all works from home, especially if on a Mac. There is a mobile app which does not allow participants full interactivity eg cannot write on the whiteboard, but can chat, view and talk. At least one staff member will need moderator rights in order to book a room(s).

Interactive whiteboard in Blackboard Collaborate

Interactive whiteboard in Blackboard Collaborate

Google Hangouts Offers many of the above features and is very google based. Sessions can be recorded and uploaded simultaneously to youtube. However only 10 video participants can be involved and it is very bandwidth heavy. If multi participants, takes time to learn how to set up the hangout and share out the link. It would be preferable to provide a different hangout link for each session.

Google hangouts used for PD

Google hangouts used for PD

Polycom Videoconferencing Equipment All rural secondary schools and smaller rural primary schools have access to Polycom equipment. The housebound teacher would need to log in with a mobile device and the video will not be as clear. A separate back channel would need to be created eg with todaysmeet.

Polycom used for PD to several schools

Polycom used for PD to several schools

Brette Lockyers suggestion was such valuable advice as the one of the biggest challenges is to make virtual participants feel part of the professional development.

Other considerations

Requirements:

Equipment: microphone, web camera, ideal location for the recording devices to capture sound, video etc and above all – determination to make it work! Preferably an on-site buddy and a back channel separate to the chosen tool.

The simplest and easiest to use option would be for “an (confident) on-site buddy” to use skype on their laptop or mobile device, sit up the front, directly in line with the presenter and videoconference presentations.  The housebound staff member would be taken with them to be part of their smaller group discussions. It takes pressure off the organisers and presenters to be using the formal equipment and worry about sound, microphones etc. The buddy’s device would need a built in webcam and microphone. However external ones could also be used.  Alternatively any of the above tools could be used by the buddies. The buddy would need to watch the txt chat for any messages from the virtual participant.

If there is no buddy, careful consideration would need to be given to position of webcam and microphone. The webcam will need to capture the presenter, and/or the presentation and will need to be adjusted each time unless using Lync, Blackboard Collaborate or Hangouts.

If the whole staff are to participate in the virtual link up simultaneously, then blackboard collaborate and MS Lync would be the tools of choice. Physical participants will need to turn down their speakers and listen to the actual voice rather than the virtual. They can be active in the chat or on an interactive whiteboard should the occasion present. Other external participants could be invited in to create an even richer environment.

Complementary Tools

A backchannel in todaysmeet could bring in all participants if they have their own device allowing questions, shared resources, information sharing and a space for follow up conversations.

A backchannel should also be agreed upon and tested with the housebound staff member so that they can communicate should the normal channels not work in making connection- could be any of the above tools that they are familiar with.

The buddy

Needs to be comfortable with using technology, networking and a person who can work well, actively, interactively and collaboratively with the housebound staff member.

Recording of the Event

In the event of misfortune, the event/sessions should at least be recorded so that it can be viewed again and again!

What have I missed? What would you suggest? There are many many tools out there now for web conferencing but these are my favourite ones! It is learning in progress and using technology effectively to ensure that no-one is restricted from learning!

“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!

Challenges

  • 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?

 

International Friendship Day

Collage of Brendahs class

Collage of Brendahs class

Today is a celebration of International Friendship Day. Such a day becomes more meaningful the more globally connected we get. Having online global friends helps develop empathy for different cultures, ideas, religions, spaces we live in, conditions we live under etc. Misunderstanding leads to racism, friction and conflict.

My good friend, Sebastian Panakal from Kerala India was going to link up his students with mine today to do an international wave. But, the school was unable to connect. As Sebastian stated:

The school has postponed World Friendship Day Celebration ( and the Skype wave to your students) on 30th July due to Ramadan Holidays. Unfortunately MOON on this day came a bit late and the Ramadan prayer had to be rescheduled..

Immediately, my class is getting a sense of a different religion, the importance of this festival to Islamic people etc without connecting formally.

At night, a request came over the HLW skype group from Brendah of Port Elizabeth, East Cape, South Africa, for someone to speak to her grade 4 class about subsistence and commercial farming in their country. As I live on a farm, it was of personal interest to me. 29 students from her class, with names that I could never have pronounced, participated in the skype linkup with me and had to work out what country I was from, then ask questions on farming. They all spoke their native tongue, learnt in English at school but also learnt Afrikaans at school.

To complete the linkup, they sang with great rhythm and passion, a song that nearly brought tears to my eyes. There was a time ….

What does International Friendship Day mean to you? How did you celebrate it?