The Frustrations and Exhilaration of my Virtual Presentation

Yesterday, I had the opportunity present to Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach’s pre-service class at the College of William and Mary. At the conclusion, I was both frustrated and exhilarated. I was frustrated by the number of problems and issues that I experienced while using Elluminate. Some of the problems were due to my lack of understanding of how to best use Elluminate. Knowing what I do now, I would use different methodologies in order to comply with the environment. I attribute some of the issues to the “technology gremlins” which always seem to make themselves know when trying to pull off a dynamite presentation.

My presentation was entitled Telling a New Story: Collaborating with Students (and Teachers as Students) to Develop Their Digital Voice (My lecture notes can be found at the wiki maintained by Sheryl for her class. I encourage you to visit this site to view some of the projects that I was highlighting for the class). You can download and view the presentation.

I started out with a Google Earth flyover from the College of William and Mary to North Shore Country Day’s campus so that the students would have a visual and spatial sense of where I was located. I then wanted to show them a Windows Media presentation that I put together using Microsoft’s PhotoStory 3 which would show a picture of myself, the buildings on campus, and candid shots of students working in classes, in our dramatic performances, and at our Science Olympiad regional. In order to create a connection with these college students, I tried to introduce them to two of our recent alumni who they may have heard about, Brendan Leonard, who had a nationally syndicated show on ABC Family which was popular with students their age during the summer of 2003 and Pete Wentz, who is the bassist of the band Fall Out Boy, with whom I used to play soccer against him during our high school’s pre-season conditioning as I was getting in shape to coaching our Middle School boys soccer team. It was during trying to show the video that the problems began. I will be posting the movie on the support wiki.

After providing some of the back story of who I was and why culturally why North Shore was in a unique position to be able to integrate technology towards the aim of curricular innovation, I wanted to share with the students an Inspiration diagram that I created this summer which summarizes the tension between instruction on how to use the tools that is essential for students to experience, especially for elementary school teachers and the use of the tool for communications that support the integration and implementation of technology to create content and collaboration for a world wide audience. These ideas are not mutually exclusive and there should be balanced with students being exposed to both skills building towards the goal of content creation and collaboration. However, some schools and administrators struggle with the issue, as it is easier to be accountable and assess student learning if the focus of technology instruction is weighted towards skills building as these skills are more discrete and measurable. Another factor of this tension is dealing with the limited amount of time that is typically alloted for technology in some schools. I know that I do not always get as much time to work with students as I would like. Within the next week, I will re-create this graph in one of the new mind-mapping software packages and share it so that you have access so that you can visualize this tension. Whenever I create a pdf of the document, since it is so full of information, it is always too small to read.

Now that the stage had been set, I was going to highlight the work that I have done with our 11th grade students. In the history class, I have collaborated with our History teacher, Kevin Randolph, on incorporating more elements of visual literacy into the history curriculum. I was going to share the cycle of projects that they have worked on, from a PowerPoint presentation (known tool), to a visual exploration using still imagery and sound (Vietnam Project), to an audio only project (Sound Poem). I selected examples that they students were unable to access and I will be adding to the support wiki. I also will be posting an excerpt of an interview I have done with Kevin Randolph on this space and it will be accessible via iTunes.
I was then going to share a unit that I have worked with our Middle School teachers/advisors for their global awareness unit. I trained them on how to use the simulation software from Real Lives. I also worked with teacher to introduce them to blogs to have students create the back story for their characters and how we used Google Earth to allow the students to see the distribution of different sims that they generated. While we usually share only success stories, on the surface, this was not a successful implementation, as the blogging did not take off, but working on this project inspired our 8th Grade Humanities teacher to take a look at new tools and this spring, we are trying out peer editing using Google Docs and are going to facilitate an exchange, using a wiki, with a classroom in China.

The piece de la resistance was going to be a project that our 5th Grade teachers integrated into their Mayan civilization unit this winter. After exposing 16 4th and 5th graders and the 5th grade teachers to Google Sketchup, I worked with the two lead teachers, Annie Gentithes and Libby Ester on a plan to allow students to research Mayan cities and then to recreate different temples and structures using Sketchup. Once each student completed each of their models, we then combined them to re-create the village. One item that I need to finish is to associate the village to a location on Google Earth and then load these villages into the Sketchup Warehouse so that others can use these models themselves. By associating these models with Google Earth, we are able to overlay the ancient on top of the current, which allows students to see the differences, as well as to be able to “walk” through the village to get a better sense, a 3 dimensional sense of what the village may have looked like. I also had an audio excerpt planned of our 5th Grade teachers and their experiences first learning Sketchup, where they were reminded of the struggles and frustrations that their students may experience when learning a new skill. I will be posting this audio later as well.

I wanted to finish up directing the students to the my blog posting on the different type of global collaborations, both passive and active, and how they can begin to get involved.

That was the intention.In practice, I was trying to resolve problems, one which was a caused by my computer, which crashed at the end of the class and while trying to manage my frustration that my plans were not working. I know that I was presenting on auto pilot and according to Sheryl, I did a great job articulating the projects, painting word pictures so that the students in Virginia could visualize them. I guess this is no small feat, especially when I know my attention was on trying to get the presentation to work like I wanted to. I look forward to listening to the presentation to see how many “rules” I broke while presenting, my overuse of the word thing rather than being more descriptive and the “umms”.

What I have learned is that when you push out video in Elluminate, that each student would have had to start their own player. Elluminate also does not like Windows Media Files. Having this experience, I am sure that I would have had the same problem with my audio files as well. I also found out that I could not share Google Sketchup unless I had a model pre-loaded.

I also learned that teaching in this environment is difficult. Because I was projecting my screen for some teachers who were stopping by, I had to change the resolution down from my wide screen to 1240 x 1024. Because of this and the way that windows stacked up, it was difficult to be able to watch the reaction from the participants, track the questions in the chat window, while trying to troubleshoot and present. Now knowing the limitations of Elluminate, I would have had different examples and handled the experience differently, in a way to better manage the virtual space. I would then, hopefully, be able to be able to follow the feedback in the other windows better.

I hope that I was able to inspire and show these pre-service teachers a number of different examples that they will be willing to adapt and try in their own teaching. I know that the process of putting this presentation and presenting in a virtual space was exhilarating. I was exhausted at the end. Please be sure to check out the wiki to view the examples and hear the audio and I hope that I have inspired some of you as well.

2 thoughts on “The Frustrations and Exhilaration of my Virtual Presentation

  1. Hi Vinnie, Sounds like you had a few challenges with your elearning service. I’m from Yugma and we just recently launched a new elearning/web conferencing service that is specifically designed to be very easy to use and reliable. Also we’re very inexpensive. We also recently launched a university program whereby we are donating many free accounts to qualifying universities. I encourage you to check us out and see if it is a good fit for you.
    Karel Lukas

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