The more the merrier?

This week I had a go in a multi roomed video conferencing tool called Bigmarker with three
other teachers from Dunedin, Raumati and Hamilton. I’ve used skype a few times, with family, other teachers, one to one with students and this year we skyped our four senior classes with another class in Australia. This was the first time I had been involved in video conferencing with multiple windows – multiple people. It was quite a shift!

It has a nice list of features…
– multiple participants
– upload documents / slideshows / presentations
– ability to draw and highlight on uploaded files during conference
– mute, raise hands when you want to speak, create a moderator etc
– chat function – even private chat function.
..and here are a list of pros and cons I sent to their support team about our experience.

Pros
– uploading docs / presentations.
– being able to switch presenters
– seeing all attendees
– the whiteboard function
– the ability to maintain a pretty good connection even with our third world connection capability (I did a speed test after our call and my upload speed is 1 mb a sec (yes, that’s what broadband speed I out up with at the mo)
– the hands up function (even though we were all moderators in our set up)

Cons
– a bit echoey, especially at the start – you probably have some tips to fix that? We tried some headphones and turning our speakers down.
– all being moderators (which we gather meant that we could all speak at one time, and if we set up with 1 moderator he/she would determine who’s speaking?)
– the fifty words you have to write in the set up. Could people arrange a conference without writing a big paragraph about what it’s about. I understand the intention, just commenting that I found that a bit of a drag – especially if you’re wanting to set up a conversation between colleagues – quite a hassle.
– shared screen was all pixelated and you couldn’t make it out – due to the slow broadband?

Potential
– we’re pretty keen to try it with some other teachers – around a discussion topic.
– next year we might be keen to have several classes discuss a controversial topic and even have groups of students collaborate on a project through bigmarker.

Overall – very impressed with its possibilities and their response was really promising. They replied that some new features are in process and about to be rolled out – this may fix some of the issues with the screen share feature. (They also suggested headsets as an echo fix for now)
Very exciting tool with loads of applications for use in the classroom! Watch their space!
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