Teaching with Real Time Technology

Kathy is a typical senior in a small high school. She has exceptional math skills and hopes to get a head start on college math by taking calculus. However, her high school does not offer calculus nor can they afford to provide the course because only two other students in her school want this class. Fortunately, Kathy and others can connect to a two-way interactive video system (TIVS) that transmits two-way visual and audio communications from a broadcast-teaching site to Kathy's remote site and other remote sites in various locales.

Three years ago my director asked me to teach a graduate education course in Instructional Leadership using TIVS technology, and I was extremely apprehensive. I was a technological dolt who possessed limited technology skills. Since instructing with this technology, I now feel competent enough to offer tips to those who need assistance.

To tell my story, I must specify the equipment in the TIVS classroom through illustration. The room has two 35" monitors in the front of the room. The monitor on the right (1) shows the broadcast-teaching site; the monitor on the left (2) shows the remote site(s). A camera (3) is mounted on one monitor so the remote classroom students can see the students at the broadcast-teaching site. A third monitor (4) and an additional camera (5) are in the back of the room. This monitor displays the students at the remote site(s) to the teacher, and this back camera presents the teacher to these students at the remote site(s). In addition, located on the teacher's desk is a document camera (6) that has the ability to relay overhead transparencies, three-dimensional objects or paper text. Also, the classroom has a phone, fax, and printer (7) as well as microphones on each student desk. Moreover, the classroom has a computer (8) and videotape recorder (9) linked to the system. Finally, a control panel (10) on the teacher's desk allows the teacher to manipulate the entire broadcast system. So, with all this equipment in my classroom, you can see why I was horrified.

Now after years of practice, I can operate this equipment proficiently and teach the TIVS class skillfully. Along the way I learned the following tips and strategies:

  • Hold the first class session at the broadcast-teaching site to familiarize all the students with the TIVS equipment, clarify course expectations, build rapport, share Email addresses, and distribute materials for the entire semester.
  • Direct questions to each student at all sites on the first day using the system so no one feels excluded.
  • Look straight into the camera lens and zoom occasionally to create a sense of being close to the viewer.
  • Address students by their names and be pointed in questioning specific students.
  • Rotate student responses from site to site to create a sense of balance in participation.
  • Ask students from differing sites to offer their reaction to what a student says at another site. This tactic instills the need for the students to listen carefully to each other.
  • Utilize a variety of teaching strategies, such as PowerPoint presentations with discussion, lectures (20 minutes maximum in length) or question-and-answer sessions. Other teaching strategies are discussed later.
  • Focus attention on course content and pay little attention to the technology.
  • Determine in advance how you will assess the students. (I have the remote students come to the broadcast-teaching site for our final exam. Other assessments include writing reaction papers, developing a teaching portfolio, assessing journal articles, and appraising a supervisor.)
  • Develop contingency plans if the equipment fails. Let the students know what to do before any glitches occur.
  • Respond to concerns/problems with the system by having an available technician.
  • Remind students of when and how you can be reached after class hours, such as by phone, Email, fax or voice mail.
  • Require remote students to fax or Email their assignments when due.

Some of the teaching strategies used with this system are the following:

  • Lecture
  • Question-and-answer sessions
  • Discussion
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Videotape presentations
  • Internet site examinations
  • Student presentations
  • Cooperative group work
  • Transparency/hard copy document presentations
  • Group projects
  • Guest speakers
  • Role-playing
  • Debates

The most significant challenges in using the TIVS at the remote sites are (1) the inability to ascertain the quality of group interaction, (2) the frustration and wasted time that exists when the system fails, (3) the difficulty in getting graded materials back, (I send the grade with comments to the student via Email and return their hard copies on the last day of class when we are all together for the final exam.), (4) the perceived impersonal nature of watching television the entire class time, and (5) test management.

In conclusion, the use of TIVS as a teaching tool may have a few obstacles to overcome in the learning process; however, curriculum goals are attainable. The overarching instructional consideration with TIVS is that teaching is teaching no matter what media you employ. Therefore, you must have a well-designed lesson with specific objectives, an exciting anticipatory introduction, interesting activities, meaningful closure, and sound evaluation. Also, the TIVS teacher just like other teachers must exhibit enthusiasm for the topic, knowledge of the subject matter, masterful questioning skills, communication deftness, and time management ability. With these in mind and practice, you too can conquer this technology.

Email: Clint Born