Connecting classrooms via video link has been found by many teachers to add an extra dimension, an enthusiasm and real audience, to complement learning in a classroom setting.
Whether that’s a face-to-face video call to another classroom in another part of the same local area (perhaps primary schools where pupils will work together in a similar geographical location, maybe connected by the same high school to which most pupils will attend), or to an acknowledged authority with specialist knowledge or skills who could inspire learners.
Teachers using a live video link to connect classrooms can, to some, seem something quite ordinary and commonplace, and to others is still something which generates a worry about perceived technical complexities. Not so long ago most schools would have been unable to even consider a video call simply because of lack of suitable equipment, infrastructure or bandwidth. Now, where there is good bandwidth, there are often several options available to make video-conferencing possible with relative ease.
Although the occasional use of video-conferencing may appear to be, in itself, a reason for using it as a skill to be learned, as with any digital technology it will only be of great value in the learning process if there are clear learning outcomes from the experience planned by the teacher. So a music teacher or instrumental tutor working from afar via video link with a learner elsewhere will have their focus on what is to be taught and what the pupil is to learn, rather than on the video link being seen as a one time gimmick. That applies whether the class members are asking questions of an author, or a museum collections specialist, or an engineer – it’s not the novelty of using a video-conferencing tool which has to be at the centre of planning, but what will be done in the video link conversation.
What tools can I use to video-conference?
There are a number of tools available to link via video, whether online conferencing tools, mobile device apps or installed software on desktop computers. Schools will generally often find that specific tools have been configured for their networks as video-conferencing involves access to network firewalls/ports. And this may be different in schools or for other users in another geographical location. Therefore it would always be good to check in advance of any planned activity what can work best in any particular situation.
This post concentrates on two tools for video-conferencing which are available to all Scottish schools via Glow, though there will be other web tools, desktop applications or mobile device apps which could be used.
Skype for Business, formerly called Lync, is part of Office 365 available to all Scottish schools. Note that for Scottish schools using Skype via Glow this is available for staff accounts only (they can invite pupils to a Skype meeting but pupils cannot set up a meeting themselves). If a school wishes to use their Glow account to connect with a body outwith Scottish schools then a staff member can log in with their staff Glow account and simply add an external email address (rather than require to have a partner Glow account set up for that external body).
Skype/Lync is one of the suite of tools included in Microsoft Office 365 through Glow.
How to use the Glow Skype/Lync Video-conferencing tool:
1. Log into Glow
2. On the RM Unify tiles click on Office 365 (Calendar)
3. Navigate to the date and time on the calendar when you want to have a video-conferencing session take place – double-click on the space in the calendar for that date and time.
4. Enter a name for the video-conferencing session beside the title “Event” e.g. Event: Video-conference with all classes
5. Next to the title “Attendees” type in the Glow usernames of those with whom you will be video-conferencing (select the user from the prompt which then appears.
6. At the top of the screen click on “Skype meeting” then “Add Skype meeting”– that will enter the necessary links into the body of the calendar entry at the foot of the screen (don’t edit or amend that, though you can add a message or notes before or after the links and text)
7. Now click “SEND” at the top left of the screen – that sends an email to the participants whose Glow usernames you have entered into the Attendees box.
8. When it comes time to present the meeting (actually it can also be done at any time) participants click once on date in calendar – and click “Join”
9. Click on “Join Using Lync Web App”
10. Enter your name (or class name if it’s a class participating – it’s the name which will appear on screen for everyone else to see) then click “Join the Meeting”
11. First time you may need to click “Run” at the foot of the screen (it may remember that next time you use it). “Allow” any plugin as required
12. Click on the video camera icon to broadcast video (or leave off if you are simply watching a presenter).
13. Click on the microphone icon to control whether audio is broadcast or muted.
NB In the event that you or a previous user on that PC has used an installed desktop version of Lync you may need to force the use of the Lync Web App. Here’s the “fix” to do so (there is no simple button to do so):
1. Open a web browser window
2. Copy & paste the URL for joining the meeting that you received. Do NOT press ENTER
3. Add the following to the URL: “?SL=1” (without the quote marks)
For example, if the URL to join the Lync meeting is:
Change it to:
What to do if you are broadcasting to others who do not have a webcam
If a “viewing-only” user does not have a webcam connected then ensure a headphone or microphone is plugged into the audio socket otherwise Lync may not permit a user to view a meeting
There is also a mobile device app available for users of Skype/Lync which can be used on smartphones or tablets.
Web version of Skype
The web version of Skype may be used via an Internet browser to access Skype https://web.skype.com. More can be found about this facility from Skype’s own blog: http://blogs.skype.com/2014/11/14/please-welcome-skype-for-web-beta/
Adobe Connect is one of the suite of tools included to Glow users, referred to as Glow Meet within Glow.
How to set up a Glow Meet video-conferencing session using Adobe Connect through Glow:
1. You will require to have a Glow username and password to access this tool. Log into Glow at https://glow.rmunify.com. Scroll through the tiles on RM Unify until you find the tile called Glow Meet (for Hosts). Click on the tile called Glow meet (for Hosts). Note that you may see prompts to update software on your PC if updates or add-ins are required – accept these prompts.
2. You will require to have been granted host rights to be able to create a new meeting. Click here for details of how to request this if, having clicked on the Glow meet for Hosts tile, you do not see “Create New Meeting” button at the top left of the Glow broadcasting window which opens. Click on “Create New Meeting” button if you are setting up a meeting. If you are accessing a previously set up meeting then you click on the “open” button beside the name of the meeting previously created).
3. Enter a name for the video-conferencing session beside the title “Name*” e.g. Falkirk PS Glow Meet. Enter a short version of this in the box marked “Custom URL” – this will be the web link you share with others. This will require to be unique so be aware the system may prompt you with an alternative URL. Leave all other settings as they appear without adding or making changes. Click the “Next>” button at the foot of the page.
4. This will display the “Select Participants” screen. At the bottom left click on the “Search” button. In the search box which will then appear above the Search button enter the Glow username of others to whom you wish to assign access to this meeting. Since you can also grant access during a meeting to people who have the link this can be left to be only for those with whom you may share administration of the video-conferencing session, or presenter during the session. You can find usernames of others by going back to the RM Unify tiles webpage and finding them by searching on via the RM People Directory tile. When the sought username appears on the “Select Participants” page then click on the “Add” button at the foot of the page. Your new user will now appear on the right-hand panel “Current Participants” for the meeting you are creating. You can assign the appropriate role level of permissions to each user by clicking on the username on the right-hand panel, then clicking on the “Permissions” button. Once complete then click the “Next” button.
5. On the “Meeting Information” page which then appears, highlight the URL which is displayed (such as the example https://meet.glowscotland.org.uk/falkglowmeet/), right-click and copy your meeting URL. This will mean you will require to share the link to the Glow Meet with other users by sending it via email or adding it to a page others will be able to access.
Using Glow Meet Adobe Connect
1. Click on the link to the Glow Meet which you previously created (or which you shared by email with others, or shared on an online space elsewhere which others can access). First time you may need to allow any plugin as required or updates to software.
2. If you are the host of the meeting you will be able to accept the prompts which will pop up as guests to the meeting request access. You can assign different roles to participants by clicking on their name and choosing to enable their webcam, or microphone, or to increase their rights to be presenter (or joint host). You can change these rights again in the same way.
3. To broadcast your webcam click on “Start my webcam” and “Start sharing”
4. To be heard by others you will need to ensure you have clicked on the microphone icon along the top of the screen (you can mute it by clicking on the same icon – this will then show a diagonal line across the microphone icon. Note that other users will not automatically have this option unless you have enabled their microphone, or they are presenter or host.
5. To check audio settings (always worthwhile doing this in advance of a meeting) then click on “Meeting” on the top-left menu and then “Audio Setup wizard” and follow through the steps.
6. Click on the video camera icon to broadcast video (or leave off if you are simply watching a presenter).
7. Click on the microphone icon to control whether audio is broadcast or muted. Note that participants will not automatically have the option to switch on their microphone. All participants will be able to send text messages using the “Chat” window.
8. At the end of a meeting, to finish the meeting, and to disable future access to participants without a host opening the meeting, then click on Meeting – End Meeting
To Record a Glow meet in Adobe Connect
1. To record a Glow Meet in Adobe Connect click on “Meeting” – “Record Meeting”
2. This will display a message to all participants that the meeting is being recorded, and a red circle at the top-right of the screen, until the recording is stopped.
To View a recorded Meeting
1. Go to the Glow Meet (for Hosts) tile on the RM Unify tiled screen.
2. Click on “Meetings along the top of the screen. Note that only hosts will be able to view this.
3. Click on the link to the Meeting you created
4. Click on “Recordings” along the top of the screen
5. Click on the link to the recording of your meeting. The page which is then displayed will show a “URL for Viewing” – this will be the link you should copy and share with others, wither by email or by adding to an online space accessible by others to whom you wish to share the link.
1. Don’t try to share video which is hosted elsewhere by sharing your desktop – instead share the link to that video in the chat box so that others can watch it straight from the link.
2. Try out your PC setup before a proper arranged video-conference session by ensuring your webcam has been plugged into the PC beforehand, that it is recognised as the webcam and the microphone. Check your speakers all work – going through the “Meeting” – “Audio Setup wizard” is essential for all taking part, in advance of the pre-arranged meeting.
Further information from Education Scotland to support the use of Glow Meet Adobe Connect can be found here: https://glowhelp.wikis.glowscotland.org.uk/Glow+Broadcasting
More than just video
Adobe Connect is more than just conferencing by video – you can share uploaded files (such as a Powerpoint presentation, which a presenter can then guide viewers through); there’s a chat facility to get text message feedback throughout a presentation (and that includes the facility for messaging between individuals or to the whole group); there’s a polling tool to seek responses on specific questions (and this can include multiple choice, many choice responses and free text responses); there’s a facility for quick yes/no responses; and hosts of meetings can vary rights of participants as they enter the room or at any time in the meeting so that microphone and/or webcam can be enabled; there’s a “raise hand” tool to give the opportunity for participants to attract the attention of a presenter (it presents a pop-up box to the presenter); there’s a whiteboard tool to draw or share ideas in visual form; and there’s the option to share the desktop of a presenter to demonstrate something such as how a piece of software on the host PC works.
Available on Mobile Devices
There’s mobile device apps available to provide the facility for participants using mobile devices to access Adobe Connect meetings – this may open automatically when clicking on the shared meeting room web address (URL) or simply by copying that web address and pasting in the URL box within the app.
How can I make a video link more engaging for learners?
Many teachers around the world have shared about creative ways they have used video-conferencing tools. Some will use Skype while other will use another tool. The ideas are generally always transferable to any video-link tool – the learning activity is central to the use of the tool. So, whichever tool you use, the following may provide inspiration for how you could use a video link with your class.
Skype in the Classroom – Microsoft has produced a superb site for supporting teachers looking to user their Skype tool in an educational setting. It provides training in how to make it work, ideas for how others have used it at different ages and stages, as well as across the curriculum, provides a forum for teachers sharing ideas or finding connections for their class project, and has topical links to fit in with events happening in current affairs. Microsoft also have a page of tutorials on using Skype/Lync.
Mystery Skype is described as “an educational game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype. The aim of the game is to build cultural awareness, critical thinking skills, and geography skills by guessing the location of the other classroom through a series of yes/no questions. It is suitable for all age groups and can be adapted for any subject area.” The post by Jonathan Wylie “Mystery Skype – a curriculum for schools” describes how it works and provides links to a host of resources to support teachers making use of Skype whethevr the age, stage or curricular area. Mystery Skype Excites Fifth Graders is a newspaper article describing the use of Mystery Skype by teacher Brad Luce.
Five Ways to use Skype in your Classroom – an article by Kathy Cassidy which describes five ways to use Skype, specifically looking at how it supports literacy, mathematics, mapping, as well as bringing in expertise across the curriculum – and just for a bit of fun!
6 Creative Ways to Use Skype in the Classroom – a post by Kristen Hicks on the Edudemic site which describes different ways in which video links can support learners in a variety of contexts. The post also includes links to additional resources which would be helpful when making use of Skype.