Tag Archives: ping

Ping – an online music program for schools

Ajax McKerral shared his fabulous use of online learning tools to bring to students a music program that provides social networking at its best. He used application sharing to walk us through the Ping site and shared some of his favourite sites. Ping is looking for schools to work with next year, when drumming and guitar lessons etc will be provided online.

Here is the link to the recording

Sites shared

Tech Talk Tuesdays and eT@lking – this week’s sessions

This week’s Tech Talk Tuesdays and eT@lking are as follows:-

Tech Talk Tuesday, November 23rd, 3:45 – 4:45pm Melbourne, Australia time (gmt+11)

Topic:- Ping – an online music program for schools

Presenter:- Ajax McKerral

Synopsis:- PingMusic is a social network for music education. If you are interested in online learning this session is just for you. See how an effective online learning program can be set up and accessible to all.
During 2010, Ping has been delivering recycled percussion and singing activities to 15 rural primary schools in victoria. During 2011 Ping will roll out beginner guitar, drum, composition courses and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s VCE Music materials – Post 1910’s composition. Ping integrates with Noteflight.com to enable scoring in the browser. In addition to this practice tools, tuners and metronomes are being developed to make PingMusic.com.au a practice tool with social networking feeds.

About our presenter: Ajax McKerral – PingMusic’s project manager will present highlights from 2010 and demonstrate features arriving in 2011.

Here is the link to the session

eT@lking Wed 24th November, 2010, 8-9pm Melbourne Australia time (gmt+11)

Topic:- Successful Web Conferencing including: Unconference – debriefing after virtual events

Allison Kirby: How I ran a successful online conference.  Tips and hints. Come and here what Allison has to say about the organising, scheduling, managing and reflecting on a virtual conference.

Join us to discuss your experiences in the recent Global Education Conference and unpack some of the learning, the inspiration, the challenges and the experiences of a full week of Elluminate conference sessions.

We’ll provide a glimpse of back stage preparation for a collaborative presentation at the GEC – Classroom 2.0 Live meets the Australia Series.

About our presenter:- Allison Kirby has been training people to use Elluminate Live! in Australia and NZ for 4 years now. She ran the very successful Australian Elluminate User Conference in September this year. All this is done from the comfort of her own farm in rural NSW.

Here is the link to the session

Reflections on Ping – 21st century education

In the elluminate classroom
In the elluminate classroom

Two thirds of the way through 2008, my principal came to me with mention of a proposed music project with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. I promptly forgot all about it until towards the end of the final two weeks of term, I was told that a representative was going to come and speak with me and our secondary classroom music teacher. Not wishing to be rude, but being so busy with end of year functions and other exciting online projects that I was involved in, I reluctantly attended the meeting with the full intention of being honest and saying that I really was not interested.

However, 5 minutes into the meeting with Ajax I was ‘hooked’. This was exactly the type of activity I wanted to try out in 2009 and the type of classroom that I was working toward! The answer was:-‘Yes, please! We will be part of it!”

The project:  This pilot project   explored new ways of delivering music education to year 6 and 7 students from 4 rural Victorian schools, using in-house teaching artists, blogging and online virtual classroom workshops with Melbourne Symphony Orchestra  (MSO)and Orchestra Victoria. Students  composed short compositions/sound stories and uploaded them to the  website, as well as participating in online video conference workshops with MSO and Orchestra Victoria musicians.

The classes: As I did not want any of the year 7 students to miss out on this project, 28 students crammed into our computer lab. This meant we had to borrow 5 netbooks to ensure that they all had computer access. Joseph Abou Zeid, a resident artist from the Song Room, worked in the classroom with us. For 50 minutes we would listen to an instrumentalist from MSO or Orchestra Victoria. For the next 50 minutes students would learn how to use audacity and compose their own musical stories. These stories used pre-recorded music clips uploaded onto the Ping blog by the instrumentalists. Students then uploaded their stories back onto the blog.

Learning about the trombone

Learning about the trombone

Engagement in Ping

Engagement in Ping

The highlights

  • Always exciting to be involved in a pilot project – love the challenge, new adventures and the constant learning.
  • Working with the amazingly well connected, Ajax McKerrall, whose innovative idea this project was – a former digital productions manager with the London Symphony Orchestrata – gifted and talented user of multimedia and web 2.0 tools. I learnt so much more by working with him, about blogging, using multimedia and the elluminate room to fuller potential. He capably and professionally led the elluminate class sessions, ensuring that we had the best quality sound from the 3mbs radio studio in Melbourne.
  • The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra came into our classroom, when our students would rarely attend any of their concerts, as Melbourne is 3 ½ hours drive and Warrnambool, our closest regional city centre is 30 mins away. (MSO may visit Warrnambool once a year) To have our students learn about the wonderful classical instruments, their physics, their sounds etc and then to be able to use their recorded clips and mash them together into their own personal musical stories – the impact cannot be justified in words.
  • Having an artist in residence from the Song Room, Joseph Abou Zeid, to teach the students about muscial composition through the free software audacity.
  • The sheer engagement of the students in the elluminate classroom. This was an unexpected outcome. The learning for me, as a teacher, to see each student at their own desktop, interacting with the musicians, chatting, offering feedback, using a range of emoticons to convey feelings, was enlightening. Students would readily state in the chat section that they did not understand the instructions. This rarely occurs in the normal classroom. Students are reluctant to state that they do not understand, they are rarely given the opportunity to offer feedback  or evaluate what the teacher or instructor is saying and are not given the opportunity to interact as individuals.
  • The student outcomes. Their musical stories developed from ‘basic sound grabs thrown together’ that challenged the musical ear, to musical stories that actually reflected animals, soundscapes and ‘stories without words and pictures’.
  • Many of the students who struggle with usual classroom work in the generalist classrooms, were able to excel in this environment. Literacy no longer became an issue as they could work with music and creativity.
  • The collaboration with the students and teachers from the three other rural schools who share similar experiences and characteristics, threats and challenges working on a common and shared blog site . This is an area though, that could be further developed. 
  • Witnessing the increased confidence in all students, especially those who do not normally achieve to a high degree in generalist classrooms.
  • Ovbserving the improvement in student listening skills.
  • Having a chat option when outside the elluminate classroom and when just working on the blog or in the normal IT classroom.

The challenges

  • Lack of Experience: This project started in the first full week of term 1, when 30% of the year 7 class was new to our school, some with little computer expertise and few of the new ones knowing what a blog was and it was their first time in our computer lab. None of the students had been in elluminate before. The rehearsal was done with my year 9/10 class as they were my class at that time.
  • Lack of a computer technician: We were on our own, with many technical hitches getting the audio – microphone/headsets working. The class was noisy trying to work it all out. It took more than 20 minutes for us all to be logged into elluminate. Students had to get used to an online classroom and use the tools there to communicate. Frequently they were vocally calling out for help.
  • The Chat: Initially the chat was being abused, students discovered the private messaging function, but strangely, they did not fiddle with the white board tools. Students tended to ‘bully’ one of the students, but interestingly, other students told them to stop it. A couple of swear words came through and spamming was frequent (where students type 20 smiley faces in one sentence etc.) We worked together to formulate a code of conduct when using online chat. That code now rests on my  class blog and the school blog.
  • The web cameras It was vital that we had the video image on our computer screens, but as we worked in a basic lab, it was difficult to get our webcamera in a position that was useful to our instructors. Being able to see the class was essential for them, but it was an issue that was never really resolved.
  • The time delay The streaming was often delayed between desktops and netbooks in the classroom and this could be annoying.
  • Student curiousity Students will fiddle and check out everything. So hands will be raised for prolonged periods, the white board will be covered with graffiti and private messaging will run rampant. To overcome this, students need time to play and explore and the first lesson should do just this.

After two lessons, I was ready to say that it was not working and we would remove ourselves from the project, but…..

….after 10 mins into the third lesson, I could have heard a pin drop. Students were engaged, listening intently and had sorted out any technical issues by themselves. The tapping of keys would break the silence as students happily chatted away, made use of the range of emoticons and tools  and interacted with the guest musician. They would provide feedback on what they heard, interact and ask questions. They learned to work the chat and asked questions of me through it as well. At times, a student would hum along, oblivious to their surroundings.

And so, I was led into the classroom of the 21st century.

On behalf of the year 7 students and I, I would like to sincerely thank Ajax McKerrall, Joseph Abou Zeid, and the  Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Victoria, The Song Room, and Country Education Project. In particular to our generous sponsors  – the Helen MacPherson Smith Trust and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development Innovation Division.


Learning outcomes

  • improved listening skills (students were able to interact, use various emoticons and tools to keep them engaged and listening.
  • Appropriate behaviour and codes of conduct in a virtual classroom – (learnt by experiencing)
  • how to tweak the audio controls in elluminate
  • Learnt how to use audacity and many of its finer features to create muscial stories and mp3 files
  • how to grab flk files from the Ping blog to import into audacity
  • how to embed musical stories in mp3 format with a player into a blog
  • how to blog (this was especially so for some of my new students who had never blogged before)

A Grand Jam Session for Ping

Before the jam session

Before the jam session

So much happened at the end of term, that I am only just catching up on all my posts now. In early June, we held our grand finale for Ping –  a massive ‘hands-on’ concert with all the students involved from Casterton High School, Casterton PS, Heywood and District College and Hawkesdale P12 College.

Unforgettable moments – the online world meets f2f

  1. As we entered the assembly hall, I told students to go outside and get some fresh air while we waited for the other schools to come. I felt a tug on my shoulder, and one of my boys asked me “Is that Ajax?” (Ajax had moderated and led many of the online Ping sessions)
  2. As Ajax played back some of the most interesting musical stories, he got to Camko’s and after playing it, he asked “Who is Camko?”
Some of the student body

Some of the student body


Sheldon, a capable conductor led 3 Melbourne Symphony Orchestra instrumentalists and the 60 odd students attending in a grand musical production. As we started to settle and await instructions, I thought that this is just not going to work. 60 excited students from years 6 and 7 were all talking and sections were not listening very attentively to group instructions. The first exercise was a warm up where stretches were undertaken and then rhythms of words practised.

To my initial dismay, students were gradually asked to seat themselves at instruments that had been carefully laid out on the floor. The majority of students had not learnt an instrument andtheir only exposure to composing had come throught the Ping project. However, I underestimated the talents of Sheldon. Within minutes, he had those students ‘in the palm of his hands’. They listened intently and actually played a fabulous piece based on word jingles set to short sentences. Shiles suggested they needed a  segment on a space theme and so, in it went

Listening to instructions

Listening to instructions

 How great it all sounded! It was recorded and can be heard here.  The home economics centre prepared a wonderful fingerfood lunch. This was a gesture of thanks to our students for being involved in the project.

Sheldon leading the jam session

Sheldon leading the jam session

Using elluminate in the classroom

Ping class online

Ping class online

Having used elluminate  over the last 12 months for regular global staff meetings, online conferences and online professional development, it has only been this year, that I have used it with students and realised its potential application to being the way to go for 21st century education middle to senior school students.

A trombonist teaches year 7

A trombonist teaches year 7

Various benefactor organizations, and our own Victorian Education and Early Childhood Department, Australia, have sponsored a 12 week program for bringing music to three or four remote, rural schools.
Ajax McKerrall, a former digital productions manager, for the London Symphony Orchestra, organized an individual member of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO) to come into our classroom, via elluminate, to teach us about their instruments. They play short pieces, demonstrate the key elements or physics of the instruments, and answer questions from the students.  The MSO instrumentalists are with Ajax in a radio studio (3MBS) in Melbourne which is a 3 1/2 drive from Melbourne and then proceed to record short music clips which are uploaded onto the shared Ping class music blog. My 28 year 7 students (all in the one class) then grab and download the clips that they would like to use, add them to audacity and make up their own musical stories, which in turn are uploaded back onto the Ping blog. Year 7 students took a few weeks to adapt cf with my year 9/10 students who immediately ‘took’ to it. Now, the chat is worked to the hilt, so rather than asking me verbal questions, when issues arise, the put it into the chat. See a movie on our experiences mid-way through the project.

I have found this to be an extremely effective means of teaching.

  • students are in their own ‘space’, feel important and have a chance to be ‘heard’ as cannot be achieved in the normal classroom. (Initially we were asked to have the students watch the virtual lesson on one screen, then return to their individual desktops or netbooks to complete the practical application. However, I perservered with the individual stations and that is definitely the way to go.)
  • students are able to interact in real time with the lesson and they are no longer passive listeners. They use chat, emoticons, etc and offer feedback to the musicians as they are playing. (This must be wonderful for the musicians as usually people simply clap at the end of the performance with no real indiction as to what they enjoyed or did not enjoy). We have had to set up a code of conduct for the chat , after a number of issues.
  • students can ask questions at any stage and these questions will be answered.
  • they immediately tell you if they do not understand (something I do not get so readily from each classmember in a normal classroom) I feel this is one of an online classroom’s biggest advantages. Students have the chance and feel comfortable with expressing their opinions and needs.
  • can invite global participants in, or other interested parties, so that they too can witness the class in action eg sponsors, benefactors, software developers, policy makers etc.

As such, I am using elluminate more and more with all types of classes. For revision with my year 12 students as their exams loom. This is mainly in the evenings. To be able to teach two subjects at once (year 11 and 12 accounting) and still try and give each group special and meaningful tuition) We have recently demonstrated the use of elluminate and Ping to our Minister for Education who was also in Melbourne. It has been successfully used for me to teach my students from home when I was sick, close to their exam time.

Learning about the trombone
Learning about the trombone

Hints for successful use of elluminate in intitial phases (with students)

  • remove all private messaging priveleges and possibly whiteboard tools
  • go through the code of conduct with chat
  • disable chat if they misbehave
  • for serious issues, place offenders in timeout room, this soon brings them all into behaving
  • ALWAYS, always just have a couple of initial lessons to let them play with all the tools  ie whiteboard etc before you start in earnest. Students love to fiddle and that whiteboard will be crazy.
  • be extremely organised with lots of imagery, use ppt slides etc as there needs to be a lot happening to keep students
  • get students to put together some ppt slides and talk to them
  • ensure the school’s firewall does not prevent the use of elluminate, and that java can be enabled.
  • Use polls, take snapshots etc.
  • Allow student use of microphone when confident
  • Learn how to test the audio and mic options as these sometimes need to be tweaked.
  • Use video camera option if necessary.

Where I will go from here

  • increase my usage of elluminate
  • seek out guest expert speakers who might come into my classroom remotely. eg authors, accountants, museum officials etc.
  • spend time putting together lessons in MS Powerpoint etc
  • get the students to run some classes
  • work globally in such a classroom
  • keep trying to get aspects of elluminate working at school eg the webtour will not work due to filter restrictions.

Note that the DEEC (Education Dept) has purchased a license with elluminate that I can use at the moment so there is no cost. I also use DiscoverE virtual classroom software.

How proud to be a teacher!

Students back at school logon to elluminate

Students back at school logon to elluminate

As a teacher there often few proud moments ,but last Friday was a very proud day for me. Removed from my year 7 class by a 3 ½ drive, I watched them logon to the computers in the lab at school and noted one of my challenging year 11 boys, patiently fixing the audio problems. That class of mine was in  video capture from elluminate on a big screen at the Crown Casino Palladium in Melbourne. Back home, Marg Murnane and our principal bravely supervised the class whilst, I, for a change was with their normal instructor Ajax, from the Ping project.  Jason, a Melbourne Symphony Orchestra member, was waiting to play the saxophone and clarinet, teaching the students about this instrument.

My class was to be presented to the Minister for Education, the hon Bronwyn Pike, as a forerunner to Education Week and the Innovations Showcase, held at the Crown Casino, Melbourne. Nerves were running rather strong as there were technical issues but they were soon overcome. So, as if by remote control I watched 13 of my year 7 students set up, logon and test elluminate. The class began, as the Minister entered and I was so proud to see my students interacting, working the chat and asking questions of the musician. The Minister, in turn, was watching the chat and ensured that questions were answered. After 15 minutes or so, a photo shoot was set up with the Minister against the screen projecting my class at work with pictures taken of Ajax, Jason and me.

The Minister with my online class

The Minister with my online class of students on the Melbourne screen

Teaching my students from Melbourne

Teaching my students from Melbourne

Later in the morning it was my turn to present to an interested audience on my “Flat classroom walls”. either of two scheduled “Tell Me”sessions or to one of the 10 “Show Me” sessions.  This presentation involved working with an online and a face to face audience simultaneously – an innovative addition to the Innovations Showcase. Carole McCulloch, from Mildura, was my moderator and again I had some of my year 11 and 7 students in the chat, plus a parent and fellow staff members, adding rich content and answering questions from the online audience.

Here is how it worked:-

  • Organised  9 students and a parent to be in the school computer lab, logged on to answer the questions in the chat for the virtual audience.
  • Prepare 55 MS Powerpoint slides to engage the two audiences, so that they both could catch a glimpse of what a 21st century classroom looks like.
  • My voice had to reflect as much emotion as possible for the online audience who could not see my body language.
  • It was important to keep informing by microphone, my moderator, Carole McCulloch, who was in Mildura co-ordinating it all.
  • Stopped for questions half way through and at the end. These came from both the f2f and the online audience. Had to repeat questions for the online audience.
  • An onscreen timer reminded me of how much time I had left.


Reflections:- There were several choices for the presentation. I wanted a movie playing in the background but that could not be worked, despite the presence of three screens. I had too many slides and went over time. The slides will be uploaded up onto the innovations ning. Carol downloaded a copy of my MS Powerpoint slides and sent them to my online participants. Presenter needs to multi task with elluminate and I had to remember to switch on my microphone in the elluminate room before talking.

Ping Session

Ajax conducted the session after mine. I had offered to have the year 7 students on with him so that they could add rich content and give an idea of how elluminate works in the classroom. Ajax had asked me to speak as well with him, so I logged onto a computer set up in the pod area and joined the chat alongside my students (who were 300kms away!) Again, how proud I was to see them following the appropriate code of conduct in a chat room, yet adding to comments, asking questions and responsibly working in an online classroom. (I am convinced that this is the classroom of the future.)

Further observations…

The venue was magnificent with views across the Yara river from the River room. Food kept being constantly replenished when it came to lunchtime. All presenters had participants supporting them. Technical help was quickly at hand. Well organised – like the postcard handouts reflecting some othe emerging technology grants Well attended with approximately 500 in attendance. Computer hub was good idea and the RILO staff did a great job, helping participants to sign up for the ning. It would be great to have wireless internet access available for future conferences.

My pride continued as I attended the magnificent dinner for the Excellence Awards, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

Holding my curriculum innovation finalist award

Holding my curriculum innovation finalist award

Although I did not win the Innovative Curriculum award, I was proud to be one of three finalists up on the stage.

And to my dear friends on twitter, thank you for your shoutouts and joining me in the online session.

My dear twitter friends shoutouts

My dear twitter friends shoutouts

twitter Innovations conference

Mad Mondays

Mondays are crazy or mad days for me, as I teach every possible lesson ie 6 periods for the day. After lunch, I have the Ping music project, where I have the two year 7 groups combined. The students who have attended our school since primary school are conversant in technology use and web2.0 tools, but 1/3 of them are new to us this year, and have limited or basic expertise. This means that I need to be super organized and cater for all skill levels. Before each class, I list on a tick sheet what the students need to complete for the double session, with spare activities at the end to challenge those students who complete their work quickly.

Today, was not so ‘mad’, in fact so many interesting developments took place. In period 1, my year 11 class experimented with xtranormal One of our students completed the movie and it successfully embedded in his blog. Perod 2 was year 11 accounting and as the cd that comes with the text did not have the correct case study, I had to quickly think of an excercise that  students who had finished their work could work on. Budgeting was our theme, so students worked on an xtranormal movie to explain the concepts of budgeting.

Scheduled for the pod and working with my year 12 class for Information Technology Applications, we had a fascinating lesson today. Studying virtual teams as part of their set coursework, I set up a data projector and speakers to show them some of the  virtual teams that I work with. First site was twitter. People quickly responded from various countries and many of them from Australia. One interesting response came from @susanwrites who is an author.  White@susanwrites @murcha Hello to year 12 students from an author in California. 7pm in the evening here, it’s still light out and perfect spring weather.

When I explained that we were studying virtual teams, Susan responded with:- “You and your students might want to check out freshbrain.org It’s all virtual – technology, leraning and fun, kids 13-18 ” Before I could blink, students in my class who did not have a twitter account, were registering. Next minute this tweet came up on the white board:-774melbourneCFA launches http://www.cfaconnect.net.au/ 

One of my students said to me that she was part of the pilot program for this project. How amazing was that, that the tweet came up at the very time we were online! It must give her satisfaction in that the ground work has now contributed to this launch and she was part of it. Plus, she heard of the launch as soon as the media release went out.

Then came my double year 7 class after lunch. I had  been rung up that morning to ask whether we could videoconference with some student teachers in Parkville, Melbourne and as Ajax was with them (our Ping organiser) we used this session. This is the first time that we have used skype or videoconferencing with another party in Australia!! As we were in the computer lab, my facilities are limited. I used my laptop and its inbuilt camera. It was placed on an old printer that was placed on a table at the front. This would allow a view of the classroom for those who were participating.

External speakers and a usb mic were used for a start but we had to revert to a headset and its mic. My laptop worked on wireless internet which was not quite strong enough to keep both videos going. So, we turned the video on for the people who were talking. Again, I was amazed, that the most challenging of students volunteered to come up to the microphone and talk to their skype audience. These students often struggle with written media and literacy but confidently speak to an unknown audience. Questions were asked and a number of students went to the web camera to speak about where they live and what they enjoyed about Ping.

The rest of the double lesson was used for writing a story without pictures and words. Julie Lindsay from Qatar academy is working with the same topic ,as her students have WWW – a week without walls. Some students are off to Italy, London and Turkay. Those students who remain behind are completing an alternative program which includes music sessions in the lab. Julie’s students will also produce ‘stories without pictures and words’, featuring Middle Eastern instruments. The best will be uploaded onto the Ping blog for us to share.  My students will try and compose a story with an Australian influence – where they live, their favourite holiday destination, the outback etc How exciting is that?

A virtual classroom for tweenagers

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Charles demonstrates the didigeridoo
Charles demonstrates the didigeridoo

I see…..

I hear…..

  • many  calls for help….. technical problems/misunderstandings in software use.
  • my frantic voice trying to keep control of the class, maintain online status and a semblance of SANITY!

I feel….

  • frustrated, anxious, helpless dealing with all the technical issues.  Read more.

…..Backtrack to 6 months ago, where I trialled various forms of online classroom software,enabling students to

Virtual classroom software types used: elluminate and discoverE

Fastforward to our third  elluminate class for PingThe elluminate window

I see….. 

  •  students all logged on within 5 mins, quietly glued to their screens.
  • questions for help now coming through the chat window

I hear….. silence….

  • except for the click/clack of keys as students happily chat asking questions, answering questions, make requests giving feedback
  • the occasional laugh as Rohan talks about his instrument in an entertaining way.
  • humming from one girl

I feel…..

  • relaxed, confident, excited, satisfied

Requirements for using a virtual classroom:-

  • headsets , single webcam (optional)
  • individual computer access
  • patience/risk taking ability

Tips for success

  • set up a code of conduct early on
  • pre-test the equipment
  • practise to gain confidence
  • individual student desktop access – (personal  ownership)
  • work the chat laboriously –  interaction, feedback, motivation, concentration etc
  • moderate the student permissions  -remove private messaging,  access to whiteboard tools unless required and chat for those who spam, bully etc.
  • provide lots of multimedia eg screen dumps, video, polling, use of emoticons
  • send to timeout (breakout room), if bad behaviour continues

See my class at work, during session 4

Read the feedback given after session 5

Fine tuning in Ping- a Virtual Classroom


Concentration in a virtual classroom

Concentration in a virtual classroom

After the third session students are used to the routine, getting more comfortable with the software and the new environment for learning. They logged on a lot more quickly – all were on within 10 mins compared with  25 mins in the first session. Technical issues are getting less and students have worked out how to solve them independently.

Students actually worked the chat well. Feedback on what they are hearing is coming in naturally now.  They are now using the chat in elluminate to say they have problems cf with our first chaotic class when everyone seemed to be calling for help at once with their technical problems. This really is  becoming a virtual classroom.

The photos of the percussion instruments with  captions on the white board was good and added extra interest for the students.

They love lots of action, so photos and things happening on the whiteboard as well, work at engaging them fully. Ajax demonstrated great sound control from Melbourne when the percussion instruments were being demonstrated.

It seems to work well to have just one session on elluminate and the other with Joseph in our classroom and Ajax and the musician still on standby in elluminate. We are flat out in the classroom though, with 27 students.

The practical session

The students were efficient at putting their tracks together this time. Joseph placed the required outcome on the whiteboard and that worked well. Students knew what they had to.

Task Activity Instructions

  • Project duration is 1 minute
  • Their musical story must have 4 different tracks of music



-bass clarinet

-clarinet sounds

  • Convert to mp3 file format
  • Upload onto the blog post
  • Write a brief description about the lesson, what you heard, learnt and what you tried to accomplish 

Our first virtual classroom with Ping

The setting

·        27 students x year 7, 1 staff member and Josef, our artist in residence  from the Song Room in a computer lab of 26 desktops.

·        3 machines refusing to come off the sound window when the headsets are plugged in

·        12 students who are new to our school, with no experience in blogging or audacity

·        No students had used audacity

·        Lab desktops newly ghosted so all tested sound settings were lost from Thursday

·        A double session at the end of the school day on Monday

·        Four experienced year 7 students on netbooks

·        Our instructor, Ajax McKerral in a music studio, 3MP in Melbourne

 The good……

·        Testing several times with Ajax online, prior to students coming on board,  to gain confidence in working with each other and in using the elluminate. Used year 11 and 9/10 IT to ensure sound settings for headsets were okay (they took some  tweaking)

·        Students coped well with the elluminate room and soon worked out the chat, moving the video image around and activate a large image of Ajax by clicking on his video image.

·        Ajax who did a great job

·        Ajax used presentation slides for summary of concepts.

·        Images were added to text (always good for student engagement)

·        Use of shared applications to teach us how to use audacity. Ajax was able to explain what each of the tools on the audacity tool bar were, using voice and the mouse movement, from the studio at 3MBS

·        The blog had saved cello files for students to pull down and import into audacity

·        A simple exercise given to students – import three cello tracks into audacity to produce a short sound story. Students named their files in their folder on the file server. Most students were able to do this, but required me to show them where to find audacity.

·        Great tutorials on the blog post especially on embedding music files on to the ping blog.

The bad

·        No internet access week one, due to a burnt out router. Meant that half the students had not registered for the ping blog

·        It took 30 mins to logon and ensure that all students could use their headsets

·        Some computers kept throwing up the sound control screen, once the headsets were connected and this would not go away. (Advice: put the headsets in before students logon)

·        One computer refused to work

·        Many new students who were not familiar with the web2.0 work that our school has done in the past and who were not confident with computer use.

·        The library netbooks were not ghosted with the beta version of audacity and could not convert their files to mp3

·        Students had difficulty remembering how to save audacity into mp3 files

·        25 mins was probably too short a time to produce the sound track, save to mp3 and goto the blog to embed their sound file.

·        Students were confused with embedding the sound file in to the ping blog.

·        I probably took over the teaching too much in the classroom when there was confusion.

·        Ajax was not able to gauge what we were doing when there were long pause sand time was given for the students to produce their tracks. There was no feedback or visuals to help give clues as to how we were operating.

·        Josef needs to be able to logon to our network and use our proxy with his mac

The ugly

·        Our embedded music files failed to play. The player embedded but after buffering, the sound track says that it is unable to connect to the file.

·        My laptop fails to login to elluminate (It has a web camera)

·        When 29 people in the room use elluminate, it takes a while for the slides to load on each screen

·        The video switch no longer works with the installation of new desktops, so it was difficult to have one screen projecting onto the wall.

So, next time:-

  • Each student makes a folder named ping in their IT folder.
  • Practise working with several open windows>open audacity>login to the elluminate room>open ping music blog in a new tab on IE
  • Ensure all students have registered for the blog
  • Print off a number of tutorials for those students not so confident on computers
  • Show students how to write a post/add categories/tags
  • Need to constantly communicate via chat or a web cam with Ajax as to what is going on in the room
  • Need to work the chat more and add the instructions in there, if possible, (be easier for the teacher in charge to add the chat as Ajax talks through the steps or have ppt slides set up with a summary of the steps. (Students can only remember a small number of instructions)
  • Ghost netbooks with latest audacity version.

Possible areas to experiment with

Try one big speaker for the students for all to listen to at once, rather than individual headsets

Place a web cam up on the whiteboard so that Ajax can get the feel of the class and what they are doing. Need to position a laptop at the whiteboard to keep clarity and good visuals through the webcam as an attached lead will cause loss of clarity.

Try projecting one computer screen up onto the wall with a data projector so that students who lose their screen can watch the main one.

Overall summary

Despite the chaos that appeared at times, all students have now seen each of the software types that we are using and next time will not take as long to logon and find their way around. They have all played with the software types.

It is a completely different mindset to the normal classroom. With me in the room, students naturally ask for help verbally. The mindset needs to change so that students ask their questions through the chat, use hands up in elluminate and wait for Ajax, Josef or me to answer them in the chat or by use of the microphone. Students will need to hone in on their listening skills and work with their virtual teacher and not so much with me. Greater use of powerpoint slides to give us instructions as a reminder what we are doing, for those who have difficulty remembering.

This is a completely different way of teaching/learning for me and I also, need to remember that. At times it was necessary to get up out of our seats and go and help the students at their desktops. As confidence develops, we need to work the virtual room and not the real room, and this will keep Ajax in the loop as well.

Despite all this, 16 out of the 27 students managed to upload and embed their files into the blog post –  an amazing feat, so thank you Ajax. 

 I love this way of learning/teaching  and look forward to next week. For our students in a remote rural location, it gives them access to experts who can connect, communicate and allow our students to create. It is true 21st century learning in this digital age.