How has and will Video Conferencing change our school?

Students use Polycom Video Conferencing equipment to connect to a remote Indigenous School
Today we conducted our first Video Conference with Normanton. It was an exceptional first time experience and allowed students to reconnect after recent field-trips. Thanks to the NBNEESS Project we have installed a Polycom Video Conference Unit and our sister school in North Queensland has also aquired the same hardware. The hardware will improve our existing relationships with the Indigenous community and will improve teacher collaboration.

The Video Conference (VC) maintained a smooth and excellent connection throughout the lesson. It was not at all problematic and in fact was a truly seamless experience. At our end of the connection we had approximately ten Senior Students involved with the VC. Approximately twenty students were connected at Normanton. We maintained an uninterrupted connection for thirty minutes.

At first we commenced with introductions. Students at Normanton started by sharing their names in turn and then our students shared their name. After our introductory proceedings I connected my MacBook Air to the VC equipment, shared content and facilitated a brief lesson in Video Conference Etiquette. The content displayed brilliantly. The students at either end of the connection viewed the material being displayed.

After basic housekeeping, NCC Senior Students asked primary aged students from Normanton what they enjoyed most about their recent trip to the Sunshine Coast. Students then engaged in discussion about local attractions. Students from Normanton than asked our Senior Students what they enjoyed most about Normanton. Our students were able to reflect on some pleasurable moments from recent missionary work performed within the Indigenous Aboriginal Community. They recalled the rodeo event and the special memories of this occasion.

After quality dialogue I reattached my laptop to the Video Conferencing Equipment. I opened AirServer on my MacBook. My iPad4 was then mirrored to the laptop and therefore displayed through the video conferencing equipment. I distributed my iPad to the Senior Students. I then  instructed them to capture 'selfies' so the students in Normanton were able to witness new social dynamics through use of technology. It also provided a humorous moment after moments of formality. It also provided opportunity for the students in Normanton to remember the fun times that were recently shared when Senior Students visited several months earlier. Under my instruction I requested the students to leave the room with my iPad and enable Camera to capture video footage of our school premises. The exercise operated as a virtual excursion. The students maintained a wireless connection for a reasonable distance and once connection was lost the virtual excursion ended. The students then returned to the learning space. I switched back to the Polycom camera so students were able to engage in continued discussion.

The exercise was truly enriching and I believe the students at both end points enjoyed the exercise. The quality of service was incredible. We were able to simply and successfully connect two schools with a distance of over 2000km.

In the future the Video Conferencing equipment could be used in numerous ways. We have a buddy program operating here within our College. The peer mentoring program has operated for numerous years. This method of pastoral care could extend into using conferencing hardware that allows Senior Students to mentor students in remote areas. The Video Conferencing equipment provides opportunity for Library Staff at NCC to facilitate lesson in research methods to students on remote areas who have limited access to specialised librarians. We could use the hardware for distance education, professional development of staff, instruction in iPad technology and digital pedagogy. Executive who frequently travel to the location could use the service to reduce travel time and costs. Classes at NCC could connect with Aboriginal Elders when conducting curriculum investigations of Australian history. Learning Enrichment staff can conduct remote assessment and diagnostic reports of students requiring extension or support. The possibilities are endless.

Educational opportunities are many and teaching staff may require coaching and mentoring in the use of the equipment. Staff will require assistance with developing networks outside our immediate contacts to engage in international conversations. Teaching staff can connect with international museums and specialists. Students in music studies for example can engage in personalised instruction with composers and art students can receive advise from renown artists. VC equipment will provide new learning opportunities that were previously unaccessible.

This experience was incredible because the entire time I was seeing the possibilities of future use. Twenty first century methods are enriching and delivering exceptional possibilities. The difficulties will be in scheduling time to take advantage of new technologies and ensuring personnel are available to provide assistance when necessary. It is also important for schools to ensure staff are encouraged and motivated to use equipment and that events are promoted, lessons are scheduled and someone is appointed the duty of training and motoring staff in utilisation otherwise equipment will simply feature as a mounted television and web camera.


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