The Horizon Project took on a new challenge last week when we ventured into synchronous interaction using the online conferencing and collaboration software Elluminate. I have already blogged about the preliminary session between ISD (Bangladesh) and PLC (Australia). I have also previously introduced our Student Summit using Elluminate. As a final summary to the week I want to share some comments and thoughts as to the implementation of a tool like Elluminate in the regular classroom.
For a start Elluminate is an incredible, sophisticated software that allows many people to interact online and share ideas and resources. For the Horizon Project we had corporate sponsorship for 50 seats for one month. There is a free account option for 3 seats, the vRoom, that could be useful for certain collaborations.
My class in Bangladesh had two opportunities during school time to interact with either a partner class or other international guests during the week. Both of these sessions were not easy due to various technical issues, mainly the lack of bandwidth and having to cope with being bumped off the session regularly. However, what I found was that asking the students to prepare and then present on their research into one of the technological trends explored really stretched them into a higher level of understanding. They found it tough going! I am pleased to say that they did a great job overall. As part of their presentation they could bring up an image (JPG) or a short PPT. They could also draw on the whiteboard and share URL's and key words. As the week progressed they became more adept and more focussed on what they were trying to communicate. Our problem was getting all the students online at the same time....a problem technically it seemed.
I also sat in on one of Vicki's Elluminate sessions with her class in Georgia where she expertly managed students and software and had all of the class online simultaneously as well as a number of international guests. What a great session that was!
One of our partner classes in Austria from Vienna International School also had an Elluminate session, which we were not able to attend, but which Judy O'Connell and Lisa Durff were able to support as international guests. The comments from the teacher, Barbara Stefanics, who was on a real high afterwards, are extremely encouraging. I think we must be on the right track with this, despite the technical issues. In an email Barbara says:
"I cannot tell you what an incredibly positive experience it was for the students. David B (VIS) who is very intelligence but normally cannot express himself well in front of the camera was able to completely overcome his autistic problems and talked without hesitation. Kyungsoo (VIS) who has had difficulties in posting because of his written language problems made impressive contributions. Judy and Lisa were so encouraging. The participation in the Horizon Project and the Summit have made genuine breakthroughs for all of my students."
These images are from my class session where we had Judy and Lisa once again as well as Jo McLeay pop in. As you can see we are spread around our large room mainly with laptops with some students in the anti-room with PCs. It was such a great experience to have other people 'in' the class with us and to be able to ask questions and interact with the students.
More images can be found on my Flickr account at the Horizon Project set
This recording is from 2 Elluminate sessions. When you listen you will hear PLC from Australia interact with me here in Dhaka (their teacher, students and administrators all come online), then it cuts to the afternoon sessions as mentioned above with my class. You will need a little patience with the second session as apart from some technical issues some of the students had not been into Elluminate more than once beforehand and were still finding their way. There are some gems from the students worth listening for however.
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