Tag Archives: polycom

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?

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.

 

Solving technical issues on a global scale!

Skype for initial call then keeping contact open

Skype for initial call then keeping contact open

There is a saying that “if your product is good, the market will come to you!” The same saying can be applied to a person who has a strong online presence. If you are interested in global connections, have a strong profile, blog, share what you are doing and push it out there, others will find you and seek connections with you.

I was delighted to get an email from a university lecturer, Mariko Eguchi, from the Shimaine Prefecture in Japan who is working on global competencies with a number of countries including USA, Taiwan and Russia but was seeking interested secondary teachers in Australia. I immediately responded and said yes I would be interested as Mariko offers linkups via both skype and polycom. We get lots of skype contacts but global polycom users are more difficult to find. The visuals can be clearer with dedicated videoconferencing equipment so I was keen to try our school equipment with Asia.

Year 12 dress up day

Year 12 dress up day

Yesterday we used skype to initially connect, and used as a backchannel while we tried dialling each other over polycom. Year 8 girls happened to be in the room as were some year 12 students. It was their final day of school and they had come dressed up! Always a great opportunity to show off their costumes if it is on a global scale!

I could ring Mariko using polycom but she could not ring me. It was decided to test the connection with the school that she wants us collaborate with this Friday.

Skype opens our learning spaces

Skype opens our learning spaces

Polycom videoconference was next

Polycom videoconference was next

Testing is essential and to ensure we covered all possible potential complications, I booked a room for us to meet  through our Education Department just in case. Mariko then used skype chat to tell me that I cannot ring her on her mobile unit when outside the university, I have to ring her! We then tested the room connection immediately through the booked room number, but although Mariko could see me, she appeared as a blue box to me and also to her.

Resolving Mariko's lack of video

Resolving Mariko’s lack of video

Mariko is back on video

Mariko is back on video

Gary Schultz, a virtual learning officer with our Education Department was messaged. He came into the room virtually and immediately to try and resolve the problem. As there was still no solution, the central office digital support technician was contacted who also immediately looked at the back end to find all was well on the Australian side. It was suggested that Mariko’s camera was not working. She contacted her technician who was on site. She came in immediately and resolved the problem. The actual linkup takes place tomorrow so fingers crossed all goes well.

How fortunate were we to have almost immediate virtual and face to face help and that technicians from 2 countries could work together and resolve the problems.

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!

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

watches

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