Our Guest Blogger this week is Simon Trembath, Digital Learning Coach, Cardross PS
We were very excited when we found out that we were fortunate enough to receive a Polycom video conferencing unit earlier this term. As an isolated school 550km north west of Melbourne we began to have visions of all the amazing things that we could achieve with this fantastic piece of technology. When the magical day arrived and the unit was installed we all gathered around and marveled at the clarity of the screen and the ease at which we could move the camera. But then we asked the question “who should we call?” It was something that we grappled with for quite a few weeks.
During this time our Principal started to use the unit to conference with nearby schools (approx. 50km away) that also received a unit. This proved to be a fantastic use of our Polycom as it allowed our Principal to connect and collaborate with other schools without having to leave our school saving massive amounts of travel time. However, classroom teachers were still were not using the Polycom unit effectively with students. We tried a test call to Japan to practice maneuvering a camera on the other side of the world and looked in on random lobbies across the world. The kids loved it but there was not a lot of real learning going on. After discussions about how we could utilize this with our students we were fortunate to be involved in a professional learning opportuntity that showed us how we could get our kids truly involved with the use of our Polycom.
One of the key websites that we were directed to was www.seeshareshape.com.au. This website is run by Electroboard who many schools would be familiar with if they have Smartboards in their school. Electroboard has a dedicated team of presenters who create amazing learning opportunities for students using video conferencing as tool to connect teachers and students from all across the country. On the site teachers have access to a calendar of events, which outline the topics that are going to be covered and connects the event to Australian Curriculum standards.
Our experiences with these sessions have been amazing. All of our students from grades P – 6 have since been involved in a number of these sessions. They have connected with schools from across the country and had the chance to work with some great people. Recently our grade 4 – 6 students worked with well-known Australian author Rod Clement. The students had the opportunity to talk to Rod about his writing process and were so excited when they received a set of signed books from Rod’s publisher Harper Collins. This opportunity would not have been possible without our Polycom unit. This experience is just one of the many that our students are now enjoying. Our Polycom unit has become a hot commodity in our school and it is always in demand. Staff have also used the Polycom unit to engage in professional learning opportunities. We recently connected with world renowned educational researcher Yong Zhao through a Bastow Institute event. To have our whole staff listen to Yong and discuss education with him was a truly amazing experience and the best part was it cost our school nothing! If we all have to travel to Melbourne to take part in this event it would have cost our school thousands! Thank you Polycom.
We certainly don’t think that we have got it completely right yet, but we think that we are heading in the right direction. The Polycom unit is enabling our students to view their education as that which extends beyond their own school walls. In a lot of schools I see Polycom units tucked away in staff rooms or places that aren’t accessible for a whole class. This is unfortunate, so here are my tips for increasing your Polycom use in your school:
- Have your unit in a prominent place where a class can comfortably sit in front of the unit.
- Undertake professional learning so that all staff know how to control the Polycom
- Visit www.seeshareshape.com.au and check out the Virtual Excursions page.
- Have a Polycom timetable in your staff room so that double bookings don’t occur.
- Involve your students in looking at the opportunities and try to connect it to what they are currently working on in class.
We have implemented this within our school and we have found it very successful. The Polycom unit is an excellent piece of technology so be sure to make the most of it.