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Teaching on camera? The four questions you need to ask yourself in preparation

1. Where do I see my students?

In times of offline teaching, this question was superfluous – now we should ask ourselves it regularly before and during class. In order to be able to communicate with the online students, we have to see them and ensure that we are in eye contact as permanently as possible. Where do we see the online students? Are we projecting them forward on the screen? Do we only see them on one screen? Is this screen or laptop set up so that only we can see it or the students in the classroom too?

2. Where do my students see me?

To put it more precisely: through which camera or cameras do you see us? Again, this question is of paramount importance if we are to keep our online students engaged. The particular challenge is that the place where we see the students and the camera through which they see us do not have to be the same. For example, an externally connected webcam can be positioned in such a way that it has the teacher and the blackboard in view, but the students can be seen on a monitor standing on the side. However, when we as teachers seek eye contact with the students, the camera shows us in profile. Have you spoken to someone who just keeps showing them their profile? Not ideal, especially not in the context of connected teaching. We must therefore always be aware of where we see the students online and where they in turn see us. This is the only way to maintain permanent eye contact and thus increased commitment.

3. Where do I hear my students?

Again, there are several ways we can hear the students through the loudspeaker in the laptop or an external loudspeaker? In this case, all students can hear their classmates connected online. Is this intended and beneficial for the classroom? Or does the teacher only hear the students, for example via a Bluetooth headset? Or are the students finally muted? The question is important because the teacher may need to respond to questions or comments from online students. Perhaps this is not wanted at all and the teacher has guidelines that the online students should communicate with him by hand signals or in chat (in this case the que3. tion of where we can see our students becomes even more important)

4. Where do my online students hear me?

This is probably the most important of all connected teaching questions. Understandably, if students cannot hear the teacher or their classmates well, their attention will decrease dramatically and frustration will result. It can therefore hardly be emphasized enough: the greatest challenge for successful connected teaching is not video but audio. So how can we ensure that online students can always hear us clearly? One solution here is certainly good technical equipment, such as powerful conference microphones that are placed in the middle or the front half of the classroom (because the teacher may have the largest part of the speech. Such powerful conference microphones can easily cost $ 600-1000). Furthermore, they are usually connected by cables and must be ensured that they cannot be stolen.

Alternatively, a webcam can be an interesting solution. Most webcams today have built-in microphones, some of them quite powerful. If the teacher is nearby the competition speaks and ideally again directly into the webcam (which ideally is also aimed at him (see above) shouldn’t cause any major understanding or sound problems. But what if there is a discussion in the class between teacher and students or among the students? Here is the answer: We should first take the simple technology (like the microphone of the laptop or the webcam) and try it out. Can the students follow the discussion sufficiently well online? If this is not enough, another option is to connect an additional microphone to the laptop, which can be placed on a tripod and positioned in the middle of the classroom. Such external microphones, some of which are quite impressive, cost between 20 and 250 US dollars.

We have tested numerous microphones and will publish the test results here shortly. According to our results, however, all microphone solutions within a reasonable financial framework have their sometimes considerable limitations. In other words, it will be difficult to find the solution to this most difficult question of connected teaching in technology alone, “How can my students hear me? “To find the answer can only be a human solution. Or, in other words, how well is the teacher prepared to conduct a connected class, which tips, tricks and best practice he knows how he as a teacher – almost like a moderator – can accompany a connected class in such a way that everyone is easy to understand and the student engagement is high from start to finish.

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