Assignment for "An Arctic Year" Web Site
This chapter addresses the steps involved in producing a videoconference,
including choosing appropriate instructional techniques, arranging
the presentation room, and using videoconferencing hardware and
The instructional options available to a teacher in a videoconference
classroom are similar to those used in a traditional classroom.
Small and large group work, demonstration labs, and lectures are
just a few ways that teachers deliver content and students engage
Delivering a lecture on the day's subject is appealing because
a teacher can get through the entire lesson and eliminate the time-consuming
work of facilitating numerous groups or demonstrations. Lectures
are an effective means of delivering information to students at
all sites during a one-time-only videoconference or in combination
with more engaging activities. However, lectures can be counterproductive
for both teacher and students if they are used as the primary mode
of instruction throughout a videoconference course.
An interactive model of instruction allows students to actively
participate in the lesson through demonstrations, small-group discussions,
labs, writing, and presentations. Activities can be done "live"
during the videoconference or after the videoconference. Preparation
considerations and production time increase when a class is more
interactive. Coordination with teaching partners and students at
receiving sites is key to managing class time effectively and delivering
the essential parts of the lesson.
Combining lectures with activities ensures that important material
is covered while engaging students and giving them hands-on experience
with concepts. The production needs of a combined lecture/interactive
approach vary based on the kinds materials and participation activities
required. It is important to balance flexibility with the lesson's
The presentation room is the center of production for a videoconference
class. Having the room and the presentation area organized goes
a long way toward smooth and effective delivery. The tips that follow
address many details of arranging materials and setting up the room
to minimize distractions during a videoconference presentation.
- Write out step-by-step instructions for connecting, using equipment,
and contacting off-site troubleshooters, and keep them nearby.
- Mark off with masking tape and clearly label areas used for
sitting and working; do the same for spaces used for cameras,
overhead projectors, and other equipment.
- Use a large desk or table with a panel covering in the front.
- Connect a computer to a scan converter that is connected to
the document camera to eliminate the awkwardness of constantly
switching floppy disks.
- Keep a storage unit near the desk for presentation supplies
such as paper, white-board markers, and felt-tip pens.
- Use plastic tubs to arrange supplies and materials for a particular
lesson. These can be returned to the storage cabinet later.
- Have tissues, water, trashcans, paper towels, etc., nearby.
- Practice using the overhead camera before the videoconference.
- Place a clock on the wall that the presenter can always see
without distracting students.
- Work closely with an assistant, if possible, to help with cameras
and other equipment; have the assistant remain in the room during
the entire class.
- Set the presentation camera at eye level with the viewing monitor
so that the presenter can easily and naturally look into the camera
broadcasting to receiving sites.
- Check for effective lighting:
- Use additional lights to illuminate the presentation area
if the room is dark or shadowy.
- Set up and readjust lights before each class.
- Keep camera remote controls close for easier switching between
- Place the document camera on the presentation desk.
- Design a backdrop for the presentation room that establishes
an appropriate tone for the class:
- A bulletin board with student work (photos, drawings, graphic
designs, etc.) can be changed periodically.
- Rolling bulletin boards are also an option, though expensive.
The tools of a videoconference classroom are assets for quality
instruction. Students can also use these software and hardware tools,
enhancing their own skills and actively involving them in learning.
Document camera. This camera shows printed material, photographs,
book pages, slides, and 3-D objects. The ELMO is a commonly used
document camera. Lead teachers can most effectively use document
- Preparing overheads in advance or make slides of notes using
- Stacking overheads in order and place them by the document camera
- Focusing and arranging documents prior to the videoconference
to facilitate smooth transitions between documents
- Having books open to pages that will be displayed
- Placing materials for demonstrations near by and using the document
camera to show each step of the demonstration
- Using the document camera as a slide projector by placing slides
on the camera table and turning on the backlight
- Placing paper on the document camera and writing on it as a
whiteboard or chalkboard
- Using a black felt tip pen and write in large letters
Room camera. This main presentation camera is focused on
the presenter and can be programmed to focus on others in the presentation
room. Cameras can also be programmed to follow the presenter from
the presenting desk to the white board or elsewhere in the room.
Lead teachers can most effectively use room cameras by:
- Preparing for the videoconference least 15 minutes prior to
- Reviewing lesson script, arrange necessary materials and supplies,
check room lighting, ensure hardware is working properly, and
check appearance (e.g., clothing, hair)
- Pre-programming cameras for his or her movements so that the
camera does not have to be refocused during the presentation
- Pre-programming cameras for other speakers and selecting these
settings at the appropriate time
- Reviewing camera settings before class to identify any distracting
items in their scope
- Removing plants, closing doors, and checking bulletin boards
that will be behind the presenter
- Avoiding having students or others sit behind the presenter
- Focusing the presentation camera closely on the presenter so
that students feel more connected to the presenter and the material
White board. White boards are used instead of chalkboards
in computer and other classrooms where chalk dust can be damaging
to electronic equipment.
Software. Presentation software, such as PowerPoint, can
be used to display documents, notes, and other material to receiving
sites. Doing so allows for a smoother presentation by eliminating
loose paper that must be placed on and removed from the document
- Cue tape to the appropriate segment to avoid delays during the
- Stop and start the video using a remote control to emphasize
and discuss points
- Assign students questions or other activities related to the
video to help focus their attention
Specialized software and hardware
- Arrange for proper training of students and other team members
- Assign projects to give students experience on the hardware
and software, reinforce learning, and give a purpose for learning
- Ensure computer software at receiving sites is installed properly
and consistently with presenting site's set up
- Use and demonstrate on the same hardware that students have
at receiving sites
- Use a computer equipped with a scan converter to display a computer
screen to televisions at receiving sites
- Keep the keyboard close at hand
- Use large-sized, easy-to-read fonts and compatible background
colors that avoid color blindness problems
- Use presentation software to outline the lesson, and eliminate
switching and arranging papers on the document camera
- Preview presentations on the videoconferencing equipment before
- Select a pleasing color for the computer background screen
- Avoid using patterns on background screen
- Avoid using screensavers, especially password-protected ones
- Post class assignments, presentation overheads, and other materials
- Post lesson plans so that teaching partners can access and print
them at their convenience
- Provide links to resources students can use to complete assignments
- Post student writing and projects
- Load Web pages in advance to avoid waiting for sites to load
in the midst of a presentation
- Minimize the windows and bring them up as needed
It is important to be prepared, creative, and flexible, especially
during the beginning stages of such a program. Organizing materials
and equipment helps create a smooth presentation; having contingency
plans and being flexible can turn technical problems into teachable