How to successfully teach Languages via video conference

More and more, schools are harnessing the power of technology to provide their students with Language learning opportunities, that would have been otherwise impossible. Schools are connecting classes to run elective classes that have too few numbers to run independently, or to share the expertise of a Language teacher with other schools that do not have a qualified teacher for a particular language, as well as connecting their students with overseas students.

 Teaching Languages via video conference is most successful when:
* The teachers are highly adept at operating the equipment
* The delivering teacher is well presented, vibrant and energetic
* The delivering teacher has developed a rapport with the students and receiving teacher
* The receiving teacher participates enthusiastically – engagement is contagious!
* The lesson materials are of the highest intellectual quality – visually stimulating and sufficiently challenging
* The lesson includes a variety of activities emphasising student participation
* The lessons are followed up with consolidation lessons in the classroom and learning activities, that students complete independently.

NSW Curriculum and Learning Innovation Centre has released a professional learning resource to support schools considering a blended learning program:

Putting a teacher in front of a camera and linking to a class is not enough. The best lessons are created by a team of consultants, directors, principals, teachers, parents and students working together. A committed team and investing time in professional learning and material development ensure success.

Do you teach via video conference? What do you think is essential for success? Leave a comment below.

2 thoughts on “How to successfully teach Languages via video conference

  1. Nice article Leanne.

    For teachers who are wanting to dip their toe in the water, but aren’t sure how to kick things off, here’s what I found when I was getting started with VC classes:

    – If you can team-teach, you can videoconference. It’s a similar skill-set in terms of classroom management and working with a colleague…
    – Walk before you run…for the first term or semester you might do a lot of ‘show-and-tell’ style presentations. That’s OK while you’re finding your feet…and then you’ll find you’re ready to try more interactive, conversational and game-based activities…
    – Tie the VC sessions to an assessment task or assessable skill for your students e.g. speaking and listening are the obvious ones, but you can also include reading/writing and naturally intercultural learning. It’s a perfectly valid use of class time for students to prepare VC presentations, rehearse and them deliver them in a live VC session, and you can assess their work. They develop language, ICT and presentation skills all in one neatly-packaged assessment task. I find the students engage most if they have a broad scope to choose topics of study in the target language/culture and the VC gives you lots of scope to get out of Powerpoint and into dance/music/food/costume etc…
    – The flip-side of the above point is that if you *don’t* tie the VC session into an assessable item, then they just become a bit of an “exhibition” thing, a bit of a “gimmick” and difficult to justify in terms of the time required for preparation and debrief. Better to have it form a part of your core assessment schedule…
    – Book your VC sessions with your partner schools ASAP at the start of the year so you have the whole year’s program booked in to your school’s facilities & calendars. Then guard those sessions jealously!! Make sure they’re part of the official school calendar or they’ll be overrun by excursions, carnivals, room-changes etc. Enlist your head teacher’s support to “fight” for your VC sessions at exec to keep them from being double-booked with other activities…Make a lot of noise and drama if one of your VC sessions is interrupted by other people’s short-notice changes so that the school and colleagues get the message that Videoconferences. Are. Not. To. Be. Interrupted.
    – Have your students sign a “VC code of conduct” so they’re in proper uniform and manners on the day. You’ll find they will rise to the occasion if you make an occasion of it…
    – Demonstrate the unit to your students on the last lesson before the live session so they can pull faces, wave, make rude noises and get it all out of their system before the real thing…once they’ve had a chance to be silly “off air”, they manage to behave well for the real thing…
    – Be prepared to invest some considerable time up-front in the planning/programming phase. This will be repaid to you during class time if you plan assessment tasks that the students need to work on in class to prepare ahead of VC sessions.
    – Familiarise yourself with how to re-boot your VC unit & how to program its address book. The morning of a VC session, test your login to ensure you have a clear channel…reboot the unit as required! (They tend to drop their links if they’ve been dormant for a while…)
    – Publiscise your VC sessions via the school newsletter, get students to record sessions & take photos for year books, local newspaper etc. Let parents know that you’re doing something innovative!

    Oh, and…happy holidays!

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