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English-Web conferencing

Page history last edited by ross8243@... 8 years, 9 months ago

    Bing Images Web conferencing opens up several opportunities for learning beyond the traditional classroom. By introducing students to settings outside of the classroom they see everyday, teachers can broaden perspectives and create new learning environments that would ordinarily not be possible without leaving the classroom.

     New technology can often be frightening for those of us with little experience but with a little preparation, a successful web conference is not that difficult. This page is designed to walk secondary English teachers through the steps required to integrate web conferencing into their own curriculum. It also serves as potential inspiration for how web conferencing could potentially be used.



Preparation Questions:


1.What standards/objectives am I attempting to accomplish?
It is important to remember the ultimate content outcome you are attempting to accomplish. Web conferencing should not be an end but a means of accomplishing the content end.


2. What type of interaction do I want?
Think about whether you want the whole class to experience the web conference at once or if you’d rather they interact in smaller groups or even individually. Think about how this will occur and whether or not you will need multiple computers.


3. What technological capabilities will be necessary?
Consider what type of capabilities you are expecting from the web conferencing experience. Some of the areas to consider are video and audio capabilities, document sharing, interaction, safety, recording, and the option for personalization. After you know what you need, you can take a look at the available technologies that can meet these needs.


4. How will students be involved in the process?
It is important to consider whether you will do the preparation or whether the students will involved in creating and setting up the web conferencing experience. Depending on the simplicity of the tools you are using and the group size, either option could work.


5. And of course, who will you be web conferencing with?
Depending on the reasoning behind web conferencing, this may vary. It may be an expert in the field or a classroom in a different state or country. Either way, you will mostly likely need to do  a significant amount of work to contact this group or person and collaborate to create the web conferencing experience for your students.

Web Conferencing Tools


     There are many free downloads and websites available for anyone to use. The chart below is designed to help teachers narrow down which particular web conferencing tool may work best for their specific needs. There are six websites included in the chart that have a range of capabilities and characteristics including video, audio, recording, and file sharing capabilities.

     The first column “Easy Use” exists for instructors who are not willing to spend much time setting up web conferencing and prefer a simple interface. The “Personalization” category designates the interfaces that allow for customization, which can be a fun aspect for student involvement depending on the objectives.  Finally, the “Download” category marks the sites that require a download to use the software. The sites that are not marked in this category simply run via the internet.




*Click on names below for access to individual websites 


This is one of the most popular video conferencing interfaces available. There are many levels of usability depending on if you want to pay or not. For free, users can make calls, access video, and instant message. It allows users to put up pictures of themselves and some information. This is a tool that would definitely need to be monitored by the teacher because it is not uncommon to have strangers request access.  


Go Live Room
This site is neat because it requires no preparation of technology. You simply go to the website and create a room. Participants would have to be sent the room name and then go to the site and type the room name into join. It has a very simple and friendly interface.


Web Huddle
I included this site for its super simple interface and usability. It is the only tool I included that does not have video capability but for audio and file sharing, it provides a very easy and effective format. Users do need to register.  


Open Meetings
This site has a very businesslike feel which may be appropriate for more professional web conference exchanges. Video appears off to the side making documents and presentations the priority. There are more complex possibilities with this site, but there are also plenty of helpful tutorials.  


Any Meeting
This site has the same complexity as the previous, but it adds a level of customization which could be fun for students. The free access to this website allows for every web conferencing characteristic but along with all of that is a level of more complexity. However, there are plenty of help videos. The one downside is that the free version will be accompanied by supposedly “non-intrusive” ads.


Tok Box
Tok-Box is reserved for those teachers who are willing to spend some time with technology. If that’s you, this tool could be particularly fun and interactive for the classroom. Its premise is to make video and interaction on existingwebsites possible. By using a blog like this one or WordPress in the classroom, video conferencing downloads and interaction can be added by using Tok-Box. This one would be more of a long term project and include some design but would be great for students to dabble in technology along with you leading up to a web conference.  

 Teaching Applications

Having trouble conceptualizing how exactly web conferencing could potentially fit into the classroom? Here are a few ideas to consider...


1. Talk to an expert
Sometimes regurgitating information for your students can be tricky to portray in accurate and interesting ways. I’m sure many of us have toyed with the idea of bringing experts of some sort into our classrooms, but it is often difficult to coordinate, especially if we can’t find the right expert nearby. Web conferencing allows for that synchronous presentation and interaction with the students without actually being present in the room or having to worry about transportation. Your ‘expert’ could show documents and even give a PowerPoint presentation if that is your aim. Question and answer sessions would also be possible if the classroom is set up well and you inform students how the technology will work before hand.


Example: One of my favorite ideas is exposing students to people with careers they look up to. It can be very hard to coordinate these meetings, but web conferencing removes some of the time commitment for the “expert.” Inviting these role models into the classroom virtually to talk about how writing and reading are important to their everyday work can be much more encouraging than the teacher’s consistent plea that this is in fact true.


2. Take a virtual field trip
Photography and video are wonderful ways to portray people and places our students have never seen but they lack the interaction teenagers need in order to really connect. Web conferencing has the potential to provide that opportunity. By coordinating with a tour guide or some other knowledge person in other parts of the country or even the world, teachers could set up “virtual field trips” for their students in which they experience a place right along with a tour guide. The tour guide may provide photos and video but also interact with the students as he or she explains the field trip area. This idea becomes similar to talking to an expert but with a focus on experiencing the environment in a more realistic way than through simple video.


Example: While reading Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, a teacher could bring her students on a “virtual field trip” of the area in Massachusetts Bay where the story is set. The Witch Dungeon Museum and the Witch History Museum could be videoed and explained by museum personnel. Questions and answers would also be possible during the web conferencing session. Of course setting something like this up may be more difficult but with iphone capability it would be rather easy for a technological savvy tour guide.


3. Collaborative Learning
This is my favorite idea for web conferencing in the secondary English classroom. Frequently, teachers want to generate discussion and conversation over texts but our students often get stuck on the same narrow minded perspectives. We can’t necessarily blame them considering the communities many of them grew up in without a whole lot of diversity. I find it invaluable to have perspectives from various different backgrounds brought into the classroom for discussion. Because we do not always have access to this diversity geographically, web conferencing provides a great opportunity to bring two drastically different classrooms together. Through conversation between students from different parts of the world, it is much easier to open students’ minds to a reality much bigger than their own.


Note: This will of course take a bit of planning. Drastically different classrooms to collaborate with may be found within the United States or abroad. Beginning as penpals is often a good idea to find these contacts. There are many websites that help facilitate this interaction although it is hard to find any resource for hooking up international classrooms via web conferencing.


Example: I am lucky enough to have travelled abroad and have contacts at an international school in Bangkok, Thailand. I think it would be extremely interesting to read a book like Animal Farm that has a political focus and discuss it with a class in Thailand. Because Thailand’s political structure is quite different from our own, it would be very interesting to see how students from each classroom brought their different perspectives to the discussion. We would of course lay a lot of ground work beforehand to set up times and etiquette for this project. We would also have to split students into groups in order to get everyone involved. It would be nice if the students could talk with their group mates from Thailand via email prior to the synchronous web conferencing discussion.


Images courtesy of: Google Images 

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