There were a few things we learned last time around that helped make this conference a little smoother:
- Set up a “hot seat” right in front of the video camera so that students are automatically framed perfectly in the video feed.
- If you have one, a good quality microphone makes a huge difference.
- Arrange seating so that all students can easily come up to the video/mic without having to push through a forest of legs. We found that a max of two seats next to each other was right, and a large aisle helped students easily move between their seat and the front of the room.
- After the conference is finished, keep track of the conversations for future reference.
The students thoroughly enjoyed their second conference and were able to get to know their collaborators a little bit better this time around. They especially appreciated being able to put a face to a name and finding common interests with their partners in NZ.
Some background info:
These conferences take us about a half hour – we always make sure that every student has a chance to say something to the group. The set-up takes me about 5 minutes and consists of having the students move their chairs to one side of the room, turning the computer around, turning the projector and speakers on, and clicking on the “call” button. An interesting fact I forgot to mention in my last post about our video conferences is that the class in NZ has a Windows PC and we’re using a Mac – so Windows to Mac Skype video is no problem at all.
An idea for the future:
Next time I’d like to make the video conference more like a “center” in the classroom, and have it open and running in one corner of the room so students can chat one on one, without having the whole class watching. Now that they know each other a little better, they can focus on collaborating on their work, while still utilizing this exciting new tool.