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eTwinning Flashmeeting VC Pilot Report
Flashmeeting (FM) is simple one click webcam video conferencing tool. It runs in a normal web page. The only requirement is a webcam, microphone (normally integrated into the webcam) and macromedia flash 7 or greater plug in. It is ideal for education in that it is simple to use, low tech, highly effective, yet safe and secure. Users have to be authorised to be able to book a vc session and they then invite others into the conference by sharing the URL address.
Conferences can be recorded for later use, review or replay. The tool incorporates the facility to text chat, share url’s, and even to vote on a topic or issue during the conference. This webcam conferencing tool is suitable for teacher or pupil live meetings, one to one, small group and multi location video conferences. It can be projected and viewed on a classroom whiteboard.
Since the start of the ‘eTwinning’ action in January 2005 schools had been showing increasing interest in a video conferencing solution to use in their partnerships. Conventional video conferencing uses expensive equipment, needs a high grade network or a dedicated isdn line in a fixed room. This is beyond the network capabilities within most European countries even if the costs of equipment could be met by schools.
The eTwininng portal does suggest the use of external webcam conferencing tools such as Yahoo Messenger, Net meeting and Skype. Schools however are normally ‘blocked’ from using these for e-safety reasons as they are not deemed secure for in school use.
At the Annual eTwinning event in Linz in 2006 the webcam conferencing tool ‘Flashmeeting’ was introduced to the CSS team as a suitable solution ‘fit for purpose’ for eTwinning schools.
Negotiations took place between European Schoolnet , the Centre of New Media and E2bn who host the service on behalf of schools in the UK. An agreement was reached to run a free pilot of the Flashmeeting video conferencing tool between March and August 2006.
24 eTwinning schools and 6 EU Central Support Staff were identified by CSS and were registered for the ‘Flashmeeting’ vc trial.
A blog was also set up for users to share experiences and for feedback.
In September 2006 the Pilot schools and individuals were asked to complete a questionnaire seeking their views and comments on its use in their projects and staff collaborations. Twelve responses were received. Feedback received was favourable. Six schools had used the tool on a regular basis in their ‘eTwinning’ Projects. During the four school months these schools had on average taken part in 10 conferences each. 5 schools had participated in 4-9 conferences. It was usual that conferences took place between 2 partner schools although one ‘eTwinning’ partnership involved 3 schools in regular vc collaboration. The majority of vc’s involved pupil to pupil collaboration and usually small groups. However teachers had also used the tool for planning meetings and discussing project progress.
The pilot was extended for the rest of the academic year 2006/7 and any school or education personnel involved in the ‘eTwinning’ action is welcome to join the trial.
As of February 2007 there are now 92 ‘eTwinning’ schools / individuals registered as users of Flashmeeting. The majority are staff in schools, others are, educational staff at CSS, NSS or staff within a European country requesting a Flashmeeting account to promote its use for ‘eTwinning.’
The breakdown of users in each Country are as follows:
In addition to the above there are 100+ Flashmeeting accounts set up for other schools and individuals across Europe plus another 100+ International accounts. These accounts were created as a result of requests direct to the Open University or the Flashmeeting website.
“I like listening and talking to children from different countries because you find out about their hobbies and interests. You learn its important to listen and take turns at talking”
“When we vc we know there’s other kids here and they’re our age and we get to know them. We try to speak clearly so we are understood. Its very different from speaking to our classmates in French. This is real. We have to plan what we are going to say. I have to practise my French more so that I don’t feel silly.”
“I can learn how they say some words ….. It’s great to learn how to say words in another language”
“We sang Christmas Carols to each other. We sang in French and their school sang in English. It was hard but real fun. I wish we could do more of this linking with kids in other countries”
“Our kids confidence to speak to others adults and children has improved . They love it!”
“The pupils are captivated. They absolutely loved it. They learnt in a real way. It’s more motivating than learning from the teacher or from books.”
“After the vc the pupils wanted to find out more from books and other research methods.”
“VC has helped our kids make fantastic progress in their confidence and its spilling over into lessons, its spilling over into their enthusiasm for learning”
“After our vc sessions pupils were getting involved in class like they never had done before because it suddenly brought reality to topics being covered in the classroom. The difference is enormous and instant -real learning a willingness and keenness to find out from others.”
“Its great, its cheap, easy to set up, low tech, kids love it and learn in real ways.”
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