Teachers Review Technology in Education | By Isabel Rempel (BOLT student)
Computer Based Technology Adobe totes itself as “the global leader in digital marketing and digital media solution.” (Adobe website’s fast facts) As distance learning educators, we are always on the lookout for solutions to encourage our up and coming leaders. Adobe Connect’s software (which is totally Adobe Flash based) offers opportunities for teachers and students to connect via the internet. As a teacher, I have appreciated its features that facilitate instructing and sharing information and I have also been totally frustrated with this product. I’ll share in this visual critique the
thumbs up and the thumbs down that I’ve found in Mrs. Rempel’s Classroom, curtsey of Adobe Connect. It’s Easy to Get In! (mostly ) Adobe Connect’s login for your classroom is easy to enter where the teacher is known as the ‘host.’ It is a two-step process which some might find irritating, but this is because in the second click, you have the option of having more than one meeting room to choose from. In the “My Meetings” tab you can enter meeting information which you can then email to your participants. This handy invitation feature is to let your students know the specifics of an upcoming class. There are also various resources that you can utilize. There’s information on how to get started and how to use the different features. It is simple to navigate in this area and the info given is fairly easy to follow.
Then on the student’s end, it is also an easy procedure to enter class once they have the link. The host must grant give the student a status of being a ‘participant’ or a ‘presenter.’ The ability to see one another using the Webcam due to the video feed is also a tangible way to connect with students (although you have to be mindful that there is usually a few seconds lag time). Adobe’s name of participant is really misleading. For an Adobe participant is really ‘a bump on the log’ because students do not have access to any tools that allow them to engage fully with the material presented – only to view and make comments in the chat box. To be able to truly participate, the host must bump up the status of the participant to ‘presenter’ – more to follow on how this status can be a problem.
It’s Too Easy to Get Bumped Out!
A major frustration is when you lose a class in a twinkling of an eye. On several occasions when teaching junior high language arts, my entire class has been bumped out of the classroom. There is no forewarning that your students will become “null” (thankfully the caption doesn’t also include “and void.”) There’s a panic button called “trouble shooting” that you can press, but I find the solutions complicated. The typical no-brainer solution is having students log out completely out of the program and then log in again. Sometimes this happens several times in one session. On a positive note, I’ve never have had this issue when I’m working individually with a student.
It’s A Wonderful Sharing Tool!
The best feature of Adobe Connect is being able to connect to students by sharing. It gives a drop down menu that features: Share My Screen; Share Document; and Share Whiteboard. You can upload PowerPoints that are your lessons. Adobe Connect handles PowerPoints well and is effortless to operate. Uploads you did in the shared documents are always accessible once you exit the classroom. If you don’t want to see the same info on the screen again when you enter the classroom the next time, you must remember to clear it before exiting class (this step can be an inconvenience).
Adobe has several different templates of how you want to arrange your classroom (the layouts are seen to the right of the screen). This flexibily is beneficial because you can highlight what’s important for your teaching needs. The teacher can involve students many ways as presenters. The whiteboard gives a clean slate where teachers can interact with students. Teachers can have students work on various language art skills, do math equatations – the teaching opportunities are endless. Students also enjoy drawing on the whiteboard. The tools given are quite simple to use and adequate to create some beautiful student masterpieces! I have often had my students play “Pictionary” to reinforce a concept that I’m teaching. Playing games have helped facilitate a team spirit.
It’s Not Wonderful When Presenters Take Over!
In a perfect world where there are no classroom management issues, then Adobe’s status of presenter with all the privileges would not be a problem. Adobe does not allow the teacher to know who is drawing or who is navigating the PowerPoint forward (or backwards). So it is impossible for the teacher to send a private text to ask the culprit to stop those distracting and disruptive actions. Sometimes a student does not mean to derail a class, but is simply being curious by playing with the various features and then doesn’t know how to get the presentation back on track. Nor can certain privileges be taken away unless all privileges of using the whiteboard are taken away and that’s done by downgrading the presenter to a participant status. I don’t find that an effective solution. The not knowing which presenter is using the tools hampers the teacher’s ability to solve the situation appropriately. The other classroom challenge is that there can be more than one speaker at a time which makes it difficult for the teacher to differentiate who is actually speaking. If the designers could simply have the presenters’ name light up would be an easy way for the teacher to see who is talking. (I really appreciated how BlackBoard, a competitor’s product only allowed one speaker at a time to coverse). I don’t think Adobe designers had the young inquesitive learner in mind when utilizing their product in an elementary/junior high classroom.
All Things Considered…
I would definitely recommend Adobe Connect when teaching very small groups since the drawbacks are not as frustrating. The heart of their product “Share My Screen” is a valuable tool when engaging students, and especially rewarding when working one-on-one – where wonderful learning can happen.
About the Contributor
Isabel Rempel is an elementary/junior high distance ed teacher at Alberta Distance Learning Centre since 2006. She appreciates working with students and their families from Alberta and beyond using Adobe Connect and Skype. She is presently taking an online university course about online learning so she can enrich her teaching.