As I mentioned earlier this month, I was invited to deliver a keynote at the 3rd ESTICT (Engaging Students Through In-Class Technologies) conference hosted by the University of Bath on November 17th. ESTICT is a somewhat informal group of educational technologists, and they didn’t have the funds to fly me to Bath, England, to deliver the keynote in person. Instead, I agreed to do a virtual keynote. While I’ve done webinars before, this was my first time keynoting from afar, and I thought I’d reflect a little on the experience here.
One challenge was that the keynote was scheduled for 9:30 am local time or 3:30 in the morning here in Nashville. Since I worried about being coherent at 3 in the morning, I opted to record something to be played for the conference participants that morning while I was fast asleep in my bed in Nashville. Using the screen capture and webcam capabilities of Camtasia Studio, I recorded myself presenting a set of PowerPoint slides. This was the first time I had used Camtasia, but I found it remarkably easy to use for this purpose. Since I ran long during my recording, I even got to try out the editing tools in Camtasia to take out a few minutes here and there. It worked like a charm.
Since I worried that 45 minutes of watching my webcam footage might be a little dull for an opening keynote, I suggested that we use Google Moderator to add some interaction. Instead of recording one long video, I recorded two shorter ones. The first video was about 22 minutes and introduced participants to the use of clickers to encourage deep learning. At the end of that video, I instructed participants to work in small groups to generate questions about teaching with clickers. Each group needed to have a “scribe” who could use Google Moderator to submit those questions online and vote on their colleagues’ questions, as well. (Given the edtech focus of this conference, I felt confident that there would be enough people in the room with laptops and iPads and smart phones to pull this off, and I was right!) I promised to respond to the most popular questions later in the day (1:30 pm Bath / 7:30 am Nashville) during a live, virtual Q&A session.
In the second video (this one about 14 minutes long) I broadened my use of the term “classroom response system” to include various backchannel tools. I also made some connections between the use of classroom response systems and some of the research on student motivation I’ve been exploring recently. After sending the ESTICT crew (Nitin Parmar and Sian Lindsey) links to the videos, I was done with my prep work.
Knowing that (a) I had to get up by 6 to prepare for the live Q&A session and (b) there were conference participants watching my keynote videos at 3:30 in the morning made for a tough night’s sleep! I actually tossed and turned a lot and, at one point, dreamed that the Google Moderator session was devoid of questions when I woke up! However, that wasn’t the case. As soon as I got up, I checked the Twitter stream for the conference (which used the hashtag #estict) and found that the conference participants were generally pleased with my virtual and pre-recorded keynote! The Google Moderator activity seemed to have gone over particularly well.
I replied to a few tweets and quickly checked the results of the Google Moderator activity, then headed into work for a good Internet connection for the live Q&A. We used Adobe Connect for this, and it went well. We had webcams working at either end, and I was able to pull up the Google Moderator results within Adobe Connect and respond to the most popular questions. I gather that the folks in Bath could hear me just fine, but the audio didn’t work quite as well going the other way, mainly because they had me on speakers in the lecture hall there. Other than that, however, the live Q&A seemed to go well.
A few reflections on the experience…
- I was grateful for the backchannel discussion on Twitter during the conference. This helped me feel much more connected to the conference participants. I know that many of them weren’t on Twitter, but several were. Conversations with them before and after the live Q&A session meant that the conversation wasn’t as one-way as it could have been. Twitter also gave me a great way to respond to some of the more popular Google Moderator questions that I didn’t have time to address in the Q&A session, which, I think, made the whole experience even more useful for participants.
- Google Moderator was a very useful tool for this format. It helped give the participants’ small group discussions between my two videos more structure and purpose, and it provided me with a good sense of the questions and concerns that were most prevalent among the participants about teaching with clickers. During the Q&A, I marched down the list, working my way through the five or six most popular questions as voted by the participants.
- Creating videos was more work than I thought it would be, but not for technical reasons. Camtasia was easy to use to record and to edit, so that wasn’t the time consuming part. No, it was the multiple “takes” I recorded before being satisfied with something I could share as a keynote talk. I thought that since I don’t typically rehearse much for my live keynotes, recording these videos would be a one-take kind of thing. However, knowing that my audience knew I could reshoot and edit led me to have pretty high standards for what I was recording. As a result, I spent several hours recording what turned into 36 minutes of footage.
- As helpful as Twitter and Google Moderator were in connecting me with the conference participants, I wish that the live Q&A session had been a bit longer and had featured a few participants asking their own questions into the microphone. We only had time for one or two questions that weren’t in Google Moderator, and the session facilitator repeated those questions into the mic instead of giving the questioners the mic. I realize that I was answering the most important questions because of the Google Moderator activity, so there wasn’t a great need for additional, individual questions, but hearing directly from a few participants would have made it seem just a little more like I was there in person.
Thanks so much to Nitin and Sian and the other conference organizers for inviting me to speak at ESTICT and for handling so much of the tech support before and during the conference. They did a great job and made things very easy for me. And they’re doing great work in connecting educational technologists in the UK around in-class technologies! I encourage you to join their Ning group to stay up-to-date on their activities.
Image: “.8 Apple-esque,” Johan Larsson, Flickr (CC)