Monday, March 31, 2008
Posted by ZUL at 6:16 PM
Part of the evaluation concerned the effectiveness of a new video-conferencing room at Chalmers. The seating is fixed in rows facing a raised platform or dais behind which are two large screens. One screen projects what is happening in the other video-conferencing location(s) while the second screen can be used to show visual aids such as diagrams, text, PowerPoint or web displays, and movies. There is a control console for a technician, and fixed cameras focused on the front and the body of the room. By pressing a button on their desk participants can ask questions or take part in the video-conference. The video-conference facility in
The other was to give an overview of the course, explain how students should set up their own web page, take the groups through some assignment examples and field any questions that the students had. If we consider the first purpose, it is clear that the use of the CTH video-conference room was more problematical than the smaller syndicate room at KTH. At CTH the lecturer was forced to sit at the front where one of the two computers that controlled the system was located. The students sat behind him, in fixed rows, and if they wanted to ask a question they needed to activate their microphone before they could be heard or seen (the camera automatically focused on the person whose microphone was activated). At KTH students and tutor sat in a circle and could see and relate to each other’s body language. They could also ask questions at will. Apart from the above criticism the idea of using a video-conference was sound and a good use of ICT in the course.
Unfortunately, not enough time was allowed for the students to introduce themselves thoroughly or interject with questions. In other words, the session was not interactive enough and consequently the power of the ICT tool at the group’s disposal was underutilized.If we consider the second purpose for using the video-conferencing facility,namely to introduce the course, then the use of this form of ICT was inappropriate.Because of the room set up at CTH the sessions we refocused on the principal lecturer. He took both groups through the course outline and exercises using the large screen at the front to project the Internet site which contained the course compendium, notes and exercises. Ironically, the group in
These sessions were neither a true video-conference nor a normal lecture. Since the principal lecturer had traveled to CTH it would have made much more sense if he had taken the two groups separately. A lecture theatre with data beam projector rand Internet access would have sufficed for this. Once the students had experienced the second part of the course (via their reading, exercises, e-mails and newsgroups) some further video-conference sessions could have been used for genuine ‘conferencing’ about common problems or questions. There were a number of lessons to be learnt from this evaluation exercise. One was that a lot more thought needs to be given to the pedagogical repercussions of any teaching and learning space before it is built and fitted out. Movable furniture, for example, allows for different constellations of student–teacher settings and sends a message that teaching and learning are not one-way processes.
In the following section we suggest a number of ways forgetting the most out of such video-conferencing rooms and the ICT facilities that they contain.The most logical way to use a video-conference room is to connect two groups of people at different sites who wish to see and speak with each other. Alternatively, such a room can be used to connect a renowned expert in one location with a group of student in another. A third possibility is to allow students to view a phenomenon or a process that is unavailable on site (Laurillard 1993: 166–167). 18 M. F. Christie et al.