by Naomi Manning
| 16 May 2013
I read this article last year and was inspired by the Face to Faith project. This case study looked at students from countries around the world connecting to discuss their differing religions and experiences, and these video conferences promoted religious literacy and understanding among the world’s youth. As Tony Blair, former UK Prime Minister said in the article, 'The great divide in today’s world is not between the haves and have nots, rather, the great divide is between those who are open minded and those who are closed minded.' As founder of Face to Faith, he believed understanding among the different religions was key to world peace.
These ideas also resonated with the Head of Christian Studies, Debbie Tarrant, who teaches a comparative religions topic with her Year 11 students. We have linked up with the Face to Faith program and this week we connected with Chiranjiv Bharati School, Gurgaon, India. The students discussed their differing experiences in learning and following the Christian and Buddhist faiths. They were able to share their own experiences with religion in their countries and ask one another about their experiences in growing up as a Christian or a Buddhist. A Hindu girl from Gurgaon was also able to share her experience in following the Hindu faith and her experience of choosing the path of Hinduism. The Abbotsleigh students shared what they found interesting in their study of Buddhism and shared personal experiences as well as the beliefs and values they felt they shared with the Buddhist teachings.
by Naomi Manning
| 29 April 2013
Year 7 were lucky enough to end the term by meeting an archaeologist who brought to life their early History studies this year. They were taken via video conferencing to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and met with Mark Kollecker, a professional archaeologist. He talked about his work and the lessons he teaches there at the Museum.
The session was made interactive for the students firstly through a flin -knapping demonstration, and then with him teaching them to use raffia to make a cordage, as they did in the past. Students had raffia (soaked in water for an hour or so) with them during the program so he was able to lead them through the process. Students were also given question and answer opportunities with the archaeologist, saw artefacts from the Museum collections and were interested to have this live discussion with this expert from across the globe.
by Naomi Manning
| 02 April 2013
As we begin the year here at Abbotsleigh we are looking forward to some really exciting benefits that our video conferencing can bring teachers in the classroom. We have found that the technology works for teachers in different ways. Here are some of the ways we are preparing to use it in the upcoming year.
- Collaborative opportunities: We are excited about the new relationship we are developing with composer Dr Keith Fitch and our senior Music students. We are also hoping to continue student collaborations, such as those with our Mathematics classes and students in China.
- Experts: We are planning to connect students with various experts in their fields – something we could not access without this technology. To start the year our Year 9 History girls are linking with medieval experts in the next few of weeks. Latin girls have been speaking and will continue to speak to historians who provide an insight into the texts they are studying.
- Different perspectives: We will continue to connect the girls (as we have been doing) with individuals who provide an invaluable perspective to the students' studies. We are planning for our Senior Studies of Religion girls talk with people from various religions, to add authenticity to their studies. We also do this in other areas such as connecting our Elective History girls to Holocaust survivors so they can speak with them and ask questions in a more intimate way than just through a text or video.
- Virtual Excursions: We are also planning to continue to use the video conferencing for a range of virtual excursions, both new ones and those that have been successful in the past such as the Sixth Floor Book Depository in Dallas, Texas and to the Great Barrier Reef.
- Teaching the teachers: We have used the technology for professional development and access to training and plan to continue to do so.
by Megan Bennett
| 31 October 2012
Earlier this term, our Director of Service Learning approached us with a potentially exciting video conferencing opportunity. He was planning to travel to Lightning Ridge with a number of Abbotsleigh students to take part in the Music Outback Foundation’s MOBFest. So that students at Abbotsleigh could receive an update on our involvement in the MOBFest, a video conference was proposed for all students in Years 7-11 during the weekly Chapel service. While it sounded like a fantastic new video conferencing opportunity, there were a number of limitations that had to be factored in prior to a successful video conference.
The most significant issue that needed resolving so that the video conference could proceed, was the lack of a reliable internet connection. The video conference was to be held outdoors, and given the isolated nature of Lightning Ridge and the school that the MOBFest was taking part at, it was decided to investigate conducting the video conference over a 3G mobile connection. A Telstra Bigpond 4G wireless dongle was purchased and a number of tests confirmed its suitability for delivering video conferences.
As we have done in the past for a number of endpoints without video conferencing equipment, the decision was made to use the Vidyo software. This software is supported by AARNet, making it relatively easy to connect with endpoints that do not have equipment. Vidyo was installed on a laptop ready for the Lightning Ridge trip and was tested using the wireless connection provided by the Telstra 4G dongle.
The final aspect of our remote video conference that needed to be considered was the camera and microphone. Instead of using the laptop’s built-in camera and microphone, it was hoped that an external camera could be used to provide a more interactive experience for the students watching here at Abbotsleigh. A number of options were explored, with an external webcam used so that students could be given a larger view of the surroundings. As audio quality can be difficult when video conferencing with a laptop, a headset microphone was used to reduce any potential audio feedback.
On the day of the video conference we ensured that a brief test connection was conducted prior to the event. We also connected well ahead of the schedule, ready for the start of the Chapel service. It was very windy in Lightning Ridge during the video conference and while this did impact a little on the connection quality, overall the video conference was a success with both parties able to communicate clearly. It was pleasing to see that despite a number of potential technical limitations, these were overcome and Abbotsleigh students had the opportunity to learn more about this service learning project within an outback community, further increasing their awareness of what it is to live as a global citizen.
by David Beattie
| 23 October 2012
Video conferencing in schools is fast becoming a major part of the learning experience. Being able to connect with experts in a particular field, situated across the other side of the world is giving students a great advantage in their subjects. Opportunities to ask questions and have a completely interactive experience, enable the students to feel closely connected with the presenter. Conversely, the presenters on the other side of the world are also able to feel as if they are presenting to the class in the same room.
At Abbotsleigh, we strive for excellence. We aim to provide the best experience in regards to our technology for our students and staff. Hosting many Video Conferences throughout each year, we wanted to make sure we have the best equipment to allow the best experience in the classroom.
The Polycom Eagle Eye Director has been an extremely useful resource in that regard. This camera switching system allows the presenter to see a wide shot view of the classroom and a close up view of students asking questions. The system uses voice and facial recognition to pin point where the question is coming from, and then frames the camera up on the student asking the question. It allows the presenters to feel more engaged and see the facial expressions of the students.
The system is quite simple to setup and once up and running, the users just need to sit back and enjoy the lesson. There is no need to adjust the camera for any reason, no time is lost waiting for the remote to be found and then slowly and painfully move the camera to focus on someone speaking. The Eagle Eye does it all for you.
Initially, it takes the girls a few minutes to let the giggles and embarrassment pass when they see the camera move towards them to place their image on the screen, but once they are all settled they see the advantage and so does the presenter.
We try to use the Eagle Eye in all classroom video conferences. Occasionally there are video conferences that do
not require it, but when it does, it takes the quality of Abbotsleigh video conferences to a professional level.