Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Classroom Reactions from "Where in Pennsylvania?" and Creating "Video Ready" presentations

Earlier in April, I ran a "Where in Pennsylvania" videoconference for six classes across Pennsylvania. The idea (again, borrowed from the great folks at Berrien RESA and TWICE) is that students connect from different locations around the state and give the other participating schools clues about their location. We had some fantastic presentations that day!

Mr. Jim Knight from Pearl S. Buck Elementary School discussed the program with his class at the conclusion of the event and was kind enough to share the following student feedback with me:
  • I liked the variety: giving clues, listening to clues, going somewhere to research, returning to guess, and getting to hear if you were right.
  • It was good to see what other classes did after only seeing what our class was doing for the past week.
  • We liked seeing ourselves on camera.
  • We liked seeing how other classes interpreted what they were asked to do and see how they presented the information.
  • It made us feel smart when we guessed the locations of all the other classes.
  • Our location seemed tough to guess. Either our clues weren’t very good, or they were really good.
Personally, I am intrigued by the students' comment "we liked how other classes interpreted what they were asked to do and see how they presented information." During this program, we had skits, power point presentations, poster presentations and more. I agree with the students - - seeing how everyone creates their presentations is one of the highlights for me as well!

But creating presentations that are "camera friendly" isn't an easy task. Here are some tips:

  • When using multimedia in a presentation, TEST the ability to send the multimedia through the codec with your far site and/or bridge ahead of time. There is nothing more frustrating then trying to share hours of hard work and hitting a technical snag - - not only does it slow the flow of the videoconference, but it adds undue stress. Make sure to test with THE far site (not another far site). There could be compatibility issues with different endpoints.

  • When creating multimedia presentations that involve sound, make sure your audio levels are audible. If you're having trouble hearing your presentation when you're in the same physical space, it will be even harder to hear at the far site. Be sure the microphone is close to the speaker if that's how you are sending the audio to the far site (and be equally sure the other sites are muted to avoid any echo cancellation issues!).

  • If your students are performing a skit, the last place you want to put the microphone is at their feet! The far site will hear more feet scurrying and dropped scripts than they will your students voices. Try putting the microphone up on a desk or chair as close to them as possible. And be sure the microphone is in front of them -- not behind.

  • Speaking of scripts -- rustling papers will literally put a kink in your performance. Students will tend to look down and read (which means the far sites only see the tops of their heads!) and the paper flipping will often time mask your students' voices. Use cue cards next to the camera which will encourage students to look up!

  • When students are performing a skit, it's helpful to set camera presets ahead of time so we can see 'close up' shots of individual actors as well as the group shot. And make sure your group shot is 'in frame.' Meaning, if you have 4 performers, make sure that you get as close as you can to those 4 performers without cutting one of them off in the group shot. It's distracting for the far site to see 4 performers in a large space along with an audience of 30 students.

  • Posters, in general, are great tools for videoconferencing; however, the text on a poster should be kept to a minimum (just the highlights - - no novels necessary) and the font size should be very large. If you can read the poster from across the classroom, you're in good shape. If not.... well, your far site won't be able to read it either.

  • Speaking of posters - - displaying them can be problematic. If you tape them to a whiteboard with a florescent light overhead, chances are that the glare from the light will keep the far sites from being able to see the poster. Avoid glossy textures on your posters (and lamination, too! Preserve the work of art after the videoconference!).
I'm sure there are lots more tips out there! What are your favorite ways to make a student presentation "camera ready?"

1 comment:

Roxanne Glaser said...

Hi, Heather, here is a link to our Landmark Challenge Best Practice page. http://www.edlink12.net/vcrox/2008/11/19/landmark-challenge-best-practices/ (Yes, it is a spin-off of Janine's MysteryQuest adapted by Linda McDonald who let us copy it!)

One tip from a teacher in another project was that they used the poster board for the cue cards. The student with them sits next to the camera with the poster board with script on it. Then if a student gets stuck, they look at the camera and there are the words. (They got the idea from Jay Leno who still uses that method with the Tonight Show!)