AETA Fall Symposium

Gadsden City Schools

My primary reason for using Skype was to connect my students with students from other parts of the United States and the world in order to raise global awareness:
  • there are kids like me somewhere else
  • different cultures, holidays, traditions
  • time zones
  • opposite seasons
  • foreign languages
  • tolerance
  • we live in a flat and increasingly smaller world

Hardware/Software Required:

  • downloaded skype software
  • higher bandwidth connection
  • web camera
  • desktop microphone and earphones, or headset
  • Interactive white board for display or a white wall, and digital projector if videoconferencing with a class.

21st Century Skills Required

A new set of skills needs to be taught and developed as there is now a virtual class. Staff and students need to learn and practice these skills.

  • Speaking to a web camera requires use of eye contact, stillness or little movement and voice inflections or animated voices (avoid all montotones). The voice needs to take the place of body language.
  • Use of microphone is critical as the audio must be carried to the distant classroom(s).
  • Student confidence is crucial – students who are not confident will not be effective. (I have found it is often my quietest students and those who are not so competent in literacy and writing skills who will excel and perform well in the virtual classroom)
  • Appropriate placement of any object being displayed needs to be carefully considered for maximum effect.
  • Keep any movement of objects or people to an absolute minimum, or else there is too much blurring.
  • Use the chat window feverishly for feedback, questions and variety of delivery. If dealing with a country that does not speak English as their first language, or if the sound quality is not so good, the chat is great to type in the key phrases, to ensure they understand what is said.
  • Video should be used to keep the class interested and give some concept of a third party(ies).
  • Diction is another crucial element in successful use. You need clear, slow voices and short, simple sentences.
  • Need to be able to multitask, for example, speak, read, chat, position camera, microphone, control and manage existing class and virtual class.

Management Issues
  • Keep the camera as still as possible. Better to bring the students and objects to the camera, rather than move the camera to them.
  • Seat students appropriately, so that they can be seen via the web camera.
  • Allocate roles to students, for exapmle, chat window, web cam operator, microphone manager etc as this is a real multi tasking operation.
  • Ensure everything is organized right from the start – all materials required are on hand.
  • Determine the outcomes and plan the class accordingly. (We find it is good to get to know each other first – so a show and tell of school, classes, country, culture etc works well in the initial stages.)
  • Always test the equipment before starting the class and test prior teacher to teacher before the day. Practice with family, other teachers in school, country and then abroad.
  • Always use chat to ensure that the other class is ready, then when given the ‘all clear’ ring.
  • Organization, confidence and management are the key to success.
  • If the call drops out, come back in and switch the video off for the group who is listening, then reverse and switch yours on when talking. If it continually drops out even with just one video on, switch off both videos and continue with chat. (not as exciting but it is still maintaining connection)