Tag Archives: virtual tours

When Learning is Evident outside the Classroom

vesna-and-the-virtual-tour-of-shangha1One of the joys of teaching is when student learning from one classroom becomes evident in other subjects or classrooms or better still beyond the classroom.

It has given some self fulfillment to have students return to me to double check how to use moviemaking software for an English class or some other tools/apps that have been taught in the ICT classroom to be transferred to other classes, but when on a recent school trip to China, I was so proud to see one of my ICT students use the skills learnt from videoconferencing in skype with both global and local classrooms, to using skype with her family back home, taking them on virtual tours of the places and attractions that we were visiting and the places we were staying. Although many sites are blocked, including google, skype was not.

shanghai views.jpg

Fortunately, there was free wifi at many of the tourist attractions eg our restaurant at the base of the Great Wall of China, our hotels and much more. But, the most memorable use of Vesna’s use of skype with her family was with her family all gathered around in Hawkesdale as she capably used skype to walk her family around the lookout on the 90th floor of the World Financial Centre (Bottle Opener) in Shanghai.

vesna and the virtual tour of Shanghai.jpg

Her family included primary students, secondary students through to university students and her parents. They were able to ask her questions on what we all could see and she could share the Bund and other wonderful sights of Shanghai.

Where have you seen evidence of classroom learning in your students outside of the classrom?

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Which tool for virtual tours?

Polly Woodside museum is in Melbourne in the beautiful Docklands are. Polly Woodside is a 1985 Tall Ship and is a reminder of Australia’s rich maritime history and of the importance of such ships to the settlement and development.

Polly Woodside intend to run a staff PD web conference session in October to promote the possible education and learning resources offered at the Polly Woodside.

virtual tours

However, following are the few logistical issues …

  • they prefer an “outside broadcast” – “live” from the deck of the Polly Woodside and to then move around the deck to different locations and activities for the presentation.
  • They would use a laptop computer for this with a good quality video camera (usb).
  • Polly Woodside do not have any wi-fi. They were going to use a mobile wi-fi hotspot or  possibly access/utilise the wi-fi from the Melbourne Convention Centre immediately next door to their location.
  • National (ie Australia wide broadcast) so would need to be an accessible tool for all to participate.
  • Want to demonstrate a class of students working on activities there but may need to be asynchronous ie via shared videos

Questions:

  • Which tool to use for conferencing?
  • How to overcome the logistics etc?
  • How to share pre-recorded  videos of students working on activities

My response:

Tools to be use Blackboard Collaborate (BbC) would be the top suggestion – can be used nationally through DET (Department of Education and Training, Victoria) license, can have up to 250 or more logged in. Allows a backchannel, video conferencing (participants would need to know how to grab the video module and drag it on to the whiteboard to make demonstrations more visible.) Can pull back the bandwidth if internet access is an issue. Best of all it has a recording function.

  • MS Lync could be made to work  as DET has a license, but would be more fiddly with invitations for schools outside DET etc.
  • Maybe zoom but I don’t know how many video logins you can have with this but it is a relatively stable platform.
  • Skype would only allow 5-10 video logins
  • Live streaming through ustream etc but bandwidth heavy and may cause lots of problems.

Polly Woodside’s wifi access –

  • a mobile dongle may also allow them sufficient bandwidth to web conference out.
  • Cabled access is always preferable when working with video etc.
  • Or if they can tap into the Melbourne Convention centre, that would be ideal.

Sharing videos of students involved in activities will be problematic for whichever tool chosen, due to file size, sound, bandwidth. Links to the work online would be better so participants can look later.

Challenges:

Sound, may need a wind sock for the microphone or alternative (would a headset with mic prevent the ‘wind’ type sound often experienced if outside?)

A mobile device logged in would allow a virtual tour by a moderator. Allows them to walk around, use the back camera and take us on a virtual tour, whilst another moderator is on the laptop. This could be smart phone, ipad, surface tablet etc.

Backup Plans: I think back up dates would be the only option. However, could we run BbC and MS Lync or is that too complicated simultaneously. Would need several moderators so if one falls down the other would work? If Polly Woodside are on board they can always record and share the recording link. Testing is essential and maybe several tests prior. A backchannel in Todays Meet or similar would allow communication through most problems. They would need smart phones

Summarising: I think that BbC is the tool to use (MS Lync could be made to work too). Polly Woodside would need to test the set up before hand. (We would be happy to be a ‘test’ class) and work through any of the sound and video issues that might arise.) Ideally they should have a standby tool like ustream but I have seen that fall over many times when used on poor bandwidth or even ideal bandwidth.

What suggestions would you make? What tips could you give?

Putting the magic into skype videoconferencing – sound and sight (but no smells)!

On Tuesday last week, I received a request from @shamblesguru (alias Chris Smith) to linkup with skype for one of his professional development sessions, at a school in Singapore, on the use of skype for learning. Fortunately it was after school hours and I was able to oblige (it is approaching VCE exams and I am not so adaptable with classes at this time of year).

Rather than simply talk to the teachers, I decided to demonstrate the best features of skype for learning. To ensure best quality conferencing, I cabled in my laptop to the school network and answered the call with video. 10 mins before the session began, Chris and I tested our sound, video quality etc.  Chris set up a todaysmeet as a back channel.

Features of skype used

  1. Audio and chat – Chat was periodically used to ensure full understanding of my accent. Todaysmeet backchannel was also used.
  2. The video – the webcam was used to demonstrate some of my favourite hardware eg flip video, easispeak microphone
  3. Screen sharing for sharing a MS Powerpoint presentation  of the school, students and some of our global connections.
  4. A virtual tour of the school – my laptop was uncabled and I walked the Singapore teachers through parts of our school and the outdoor surrounds. They were shown the Chinese Teahouse (as we teach Chinese mandarin), outdoor totem polls painted by students, our beautiful big gum tree (our school logo), the school canteen etc. Leanne our canteen operator had just baked tasty looking sausage rolls. Pity the smell did not waft through to Singapore!

The virtual tour worked really well and received positive feedback. I personally feel that is one of the most ‘magical’ uses of skype or videoconferencing for learning. Below is some feedback given:-

Following is some of the feedback via Todaysmeet backchannel:-

  • It is interesting how technology can be used to enhance teaching and learning!ifah
  • what a great way to meet an expert from half-way around the world.
  • Skype put to good use-educationally and feeding the young minds to a world of knowledgeangelia
  • Your school looks very beautiful! I like it!!Li Lin

What features of skype do you  like to use? How do you use the web camera? View a video of the session compiled by Chris Smith. Thanks Chris for sharing.