Posts tagged "adobeconnect"

June 25, 2011

Using Connect to connect with a real audience

For the last few years, our Grade 2 classes have been doing a project called “Great Inventions” which looks at the history of various common items, such as toys, bicycles, toilets and Christmas lights, to name a few. Each child picks a topic, then puts together a slideshow about it. These kids are only in Grade 2 (about 7 years old) so there are quite a good collection of research, technology and presentation skills involved in this project.

Last year, I helped the Grade 2 teachers rethink this task a little, making three main changes.

Firstly, we scaffolded the task a little more than it had been, getting the students to have only three slides (plus a title slide) – one that informed about the past history of the invention, one that informed about the present state of the invention, and the third which tried to make a prediction about the possible future of the invention. This allowed for a nice balance of factual research with some imaginative dreaming.

Secondly, we created a wiki that had a sort of “sanitised” collection of the relevant information that we wanted to students to focus on. Being only 7 years old, we felt it would be better if we pre-selected the information that they would find most useful. This meant we could then ensure the language was at an appropriate level, and it gave the kids a bit more focus on the information we knew they’d be needing.

Thirdly, I suggested to the teachers that the whole point of creating a PowerPoint instead of a poster or a printed document was that they should be presenting the final product to a real audience. In the past, the PowerPoint file was the end result on its own, but I really felt that if you go to the trouble of making a set of PowerPoint slides then you ought to be standing in front of an audience and actually presenting them.

To this end, I pushed for the idea of live streaming the student presentations out onto the open web so that parents, friends, grandparents, etc, could log on and watch their child present to the rest of the class. After carefully addressing the obvious concerns, letters went home to parents and the student presentations were live streamed using the free UStream service.  Feedback from parents was very positive.

A full explanation of the project from last year can be found here http://chrisbetcher.com/2010/07/redesigning-learning-tasks-part-2/

Following on from the success of last year, the teachers were very keen to do it again this year. When they approached me about setting up the live stream again I started to set up the same UStream channel, but I was dismayed to realise just how much advertising is now being inflicted on UStream users. Ads were being injected into the streams, and the UStream website has so much advertising on it that it’s basically unusable for schools.  I looked at other alternatives, such as Livestream, but without much success.

Then it dawned on me… why not use Adobe Connect? I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, but Connect is a perfect tool for this kind of thing. Not only is it clean of advertising, it’s as private as you want to make it. We decided to still make the room completely open to guest access for anyone who knew the URL, but it’s good to know that higher levels of access security are possible.

We arranged a layout using the modules we wanted, with a backchannel chat, a live video window and also the shared screen of the student PowerPoint. This meant we were able to not only watch the student actually present their work, but we also got to broadcast a high quality version of their PowerPoint output screen as well. Because we had the Connect-enabled computer connected to the classroom Interactive Whiteboard, the student could simply stand at the board and present as usual, but the video and shared screen would both be broadcast synchronously with each other. We also used an external Logitech High Def eyeball-style webcam with a built in microphone, so the quality of the audio and video was quite good. It all worked really well.

As intended, the chat room soon became populated with parents and grandparents logging in to watch their little darlings. The positive comments from the chat room, and the fact that it was an authentic audience they were presenting to, were hugely motivating factors for the students. Every child that got up to present their work knew that it was not just their classmates and the teacher watching them, but a whole audience “out there” on the Internet. That sort of authenticity makes a big difference.

Adobe Connect was exactly the right tool for this sort of thing. As well as the fact that it was relatively protected and ad-free, it also allowed us much better control over the virtual presentation space, the layout, the participants, the backchannel, etc. The presentations were all recorded and archived so that parents – and teachers – could revise the presentations and watch them again if necessary.

The parent feedback was extremely positive. Within the hour after the first set of presentations, the Grade 2 teachers had received several emails from parents who were over the moon about being able to watch their child from their home or office, such as this one…

Thank-you for the opportunity to watch the presentations this morning through a live stream.
I was very happy as I managed to log on just as Ashley was about to begin! It was so impressive to be able to watch the wonderful presentations and comment at the same time. I did have to turn the volume up high on my speakers but it was good to see Ashley get up and she was looking forward to doing her presentation.
I think it’s a wonderful tool for the students.

And this one…

I just wanted to share with you & the girls that both my husband & I really enjoyed the webcast of the Invention Presentations this morning very much!
It was really wonderful to see the great work & preparation that the girls have put into researching their topics, & their Powerpoint skills are just fabulous! They could teach some of my team here at work a couple of things about clip art & animations!
We would love another opportunity to dial into the classroom one day.

For all the hoo-ha about students accessing the Internet and the supposed dangers of students being online, I think the results of this session with Adobe Connect, and the positive feedback from the parents, speak for themselves.

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