The use of technology tools allows us to connect with others in ways that would not normally be possible. I live on a farm, in a relatively remote part of Victoria. The distance, cost and effort of attending professional development prevents me from attending many professional development programs that may be readily accessible by my peers and also prevents me from presenting and sharing my work.
However, tools like skype, ghangouts, zoom, blackboard collaborate etc break down those barriers. One of my colleagues, Hili Zavaro who I recently met on twitter, invited me to present to teachers in Tel Aviv, Israel for a short time on “what the teachers can do to open their lessons to the world through global projects”?
It is interesting that the teachers from a variety of schools and year levels were meeting on a Sunday at 6pm my time and Sunday morning for them. A recent presentation given at EduTECH was shortened and a link to the document that was set up for ISTE 2017 was given so they could get some ideas on where to find people/classes to connect with, hashtags to follow on twitter etc.
We used skype to connect. I was in my warm winter clothes, they were dressed in cool summer clothers. After playing a brief “mystery skype” so the teachers could work out where I was from, I shared my screen and the presentation. Time was given for questions – one of which was “how do I use twitter for global connections?”. At the close of the session, I clicked the + button on skype, sent through the powerpoint presentation and the photos I had taken when I clicked the + button on skype and chose ‘take a picture’.
This did take 30 minutes but was a rather amazing experience for me, as in the past Tel Aviv has featured strongly on our news as being and area of conflict etc, yet here I am presenting to them as though there were no walls, barriers or oceans between us.
Glancing through my emails, I noticed that there was an opportunity to do smart board training through virtual sessions. This sounded too good to miss as we live 3 1/2 hours from our captial city where most professional development activities take place. So, our school was registered and the bridgit conferencing software downloaded onto the library smartboard. Several staff indicated interest in attending over the 7 week period, despite our school having a mix of Smart boards and Team boards.
Last week was the first session. As I had to catch a train to Melbourne, I quickly logged on following the instructions, but unfortunatley, the audio for the session had to come through a conference call and not through the smartboard. Yikes!!! Now what! The phone was in the library office a long distance from the smart board. Then, I remembered the credit on my skype account, so I quickly logged onto skype and called the conference line.
Skype worked a treat. The audio was perfect and the session went seamlessly
Tonight, was the second session. The first 10 mins were spent working through all the frantic questions and calming nervous first timers. Much to our amusement and the consternation of the tutor, schools forgot to mute their speaker, so we could all hear the background conversations. At one stage we all heard the ‘on hold ‘ music from one school as they placed their phone ‘on hold’. Midway into the session, we could hear a hungry dog barking and waiting to be fed.
However, the session was wonderful. The audio was clear. Our instructor from NSW kept moving through his slides in a professional and efficient manner and pulled up the internet at one stage. Five teachers from our school sat around the interactive white board and learnt a lot from the session. Another powerful learning application using a combination of online tools for professional development.
What I learnt:-
- Always have the mic muted when not talking to the tutor.
- There is always a solution if you are determined to make it work.