FROM TEACHERS AND LIBRARIANS
HAVE HOSTED AN ONLINE CHAT
One teacher told us she was glad there was a Skype test run and
that they had exchanged cell phone numbers with the author beforehand
because during the test run, they learned their school district
computer filter would not allow the school to call out on Skype
but they could RECEIVE Skype calls, so they had the author call
young adult school librarian who had 50+ middle schoolers and
young adults at her chat recommended that 30 to 40 minutes might
be better than a full hour chat for such a large group. She went
on to add that this does depend on the ages of the students.
Another school librarian realized that the webcam should be rather
close to the screen so that the students will know where to look.
else suggested that, if scheduling allows, it might be a good
idea to telephone the author about 15 minutes before the chat
to resolve any last minute issues so the children don't have to
sit and wait for it to begin.
schools have each student take a turn at sitting in front of the
computer monitor to give him or her an intimate moment with the
author to ask his or her question. Others, especially those with
Smartboards or ActivBoards and those who have small groups and
wide computer screens, have the students sit around the computer
monitor for the Q&A part of the program.
school who has become a favorite with a couple of Balkin Buddies
authors had this advice:
my opinion the most important things to do before a visit are:
Practice with the author on the phone or during the test run and
also, before the chat, practice with the students a couple times;
Depending on student age and experience with video conferencing,
they need to practice with basic protocols, such as use of voice
intonation and volume, group comments vs. individual comments,
extraneous noise in the room;
Prep the students with info about the author and his or her work.
Because the *live audience* feel isn't there for the author, these
visits become much more two way. The format doesn't lend itself
well to the author doing all the talking. It needs to be a much
more collaborative setting because the audience will get restless
if they aren't engaged in some way. Breaking up the visit with
Q & A or a simple activity seems to work well.
Have the students research the author on the internet, etc. If
they find out more about the author's work, background, and even
other interests, especially those that relate back to books, the
students are more likely to come up with questions that will elicit
some fascinating responses that might never have come up otherwise.
educator had this to offer:
Make sure you remember any time zone changes when planning the
virtual visit (e.g. east coast vs. west coast).
For younger audiences, make sure that the students are familiar
with the author's work prior to the visit. Spend some time talking
about the pictures and some questions that they might ask on the
day of the visit.
Set up a time (at least a week in advance) to work out any technical
glitches. If you can do this with someone other than the author,
it will make the test run with the author go more smoothly.
It's important to use the same equipment for the trial run as
for the real thing.
Hook up with the author at least five minutes before the actual
visit time -- so that the audience won't get restless.
We set up our space so that the students were facing the screen
and the webcam faced the students. It seemed more like the author
and the students were *looking at* each other.
YOUR SKYPE CALL KEEP DROPPING? TRY THIS: It's better
if both parties (e.g., the author as well as the school) can be
jacked directly into the internet instead of WiFi. And the computer
you're using should have no other programs open. You should even
close Explorer and AOL. Leave ONLY the Skype line open. With other
things up and running, calls may drop every 2 to 10 minutes.
teacher had her students do trial runs of Skype sessions with
other people (teachers' and students' family members, for example)
before their test run with the author to get familiar with the
another school: The tech run through was helpful because it made
us realize we needed to bring in extra lighting so [the illustrator]
would be able to see the children's faces. We had 40 children
in front of a Promethean Board screen and they were able to hear
and see just fine.
yet another instance, a university used Adobe Connect for its
own distance learning technology. They used this so the author,
who was in one state, could talk to the professor, who was in
another state, and the students, who lived in yet another state
and were all sitting in their own homes. This gave the chat an
intimate quality that was nevertheless shared by all. So if you're
in a university and have something like Adobe Connect that you'd
like to use instead of Skype or iChat, be sure to let Balkin Buddies
know, as it might be a better alternative for you.
teacher has some great ideas:
I could make one recommendation to teachers it would be for them
to consider using a format similar to what we used today: Students
will get a more personal and affirming touch to their time with
the author if they can forward their questions to the author in
advance, and then hear the author call each student by name when
answering their questions. We can never do too much to boost our
also helps to personalize the chat when we (teachers and/or students)
look into the camera when it is our turn to speak. It gives the
appearance of maintaining eye contact and stregthens the personal
from a librarian who hosted a recent chat:
---If possible, check your equipment the day of the chat.
---Unless your wireless internet operates consistently, make sure
you are connected to the network through a cable.
---Additional speakers (not the computer speakers) should probably
be used with a large group.
---A microphone that can be passed around could be helpful.
---Discuss the author with students before the visit and make
sure they have questions to ask.
---Discuss with the students the technology that is being used;
some might be familiar with it, others might not, but discussing
it with them means they will all be prepared for the chat format.
librarian suggested having a back-up plan in case the technology
stops working. Having the kids have a book on hand to do some
independent reading was one recommendation
everything went wrong with the school's equipment and the class
couldn't Skype with the author at all. So they had a long telephone
conference with him instead and everyone was happy.
If you are using external speakers, make sure they're at a good
distance from the computer. Otherwise, it makes a strange noise.
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ENOUGH BANDWITH:
If a lot of other people (for example, classes, patrons, or conference
presenters) are using the internet at the same time, it may interfere
with your chat. Your organization must have enough bandwith to
accommodate everyone. If it doesn't, we suggest you schedule the
chat for a time when few other people in the facility are using
more tips and suggestions come in, we'll pass them on.