Jul 22 2020

How Audiovisual Equipment Boosts Remote Learning

With AV tools such as cameras and microphones, educators can create engaging learning environments, even from a distance.

When Westfield Washington Schools in Indiana unexpectedly shut its doors in mid-March due to COVID-19, high school chemistry teacher Kevin Morse had to find a new way to deliver his hands-on curriculum.

Although he’s had to adapt lesson plans and assignments for e-learning days before, teaching students remotely over a longer period of time was a larger mountain to climb. “I realized that we weren’t trying to get through a few days,” he says. “We were trying to engage students and really continue learning moving forward.”

Keeping students engaged virtually is one of the most cited challenges of remote learning, particularly in high-poverty schools. According to an ongoing EdWeek Research Center survey, 44 percent of K–12 educators say their students’ current level of engagement with schoolwork is much lower than what it was prior to school closures.

And while digital tools such as learning management systems and videoconferencing software quickly became essentials in this new educational landscape, some say adding other solutions to the mix — like audiovisual technology — can help educators encourage long-term student participation and interaction.

With AV Tools, Remote Learning Is More Engaging

With the shift to e-learning, Morse says it was important for his district to provide options for asynchronous learning, which allows students to learn at their own pace and gives teachers more flexibility because lectures don’t happen in real time.

So, Morse started recording and sharing bite-sized videos of himself doing chemistry experiments from his kitchen or children’s play area using his phone and his laptop’s built-in webcam. “I didn’t want to be limited to what I could find on YouTube. I still wanted to have the experiments we had planned and designed for our students,” he says.

But he also saw potential in creating higher quality videos — ones that gave students a more detailed look at the experiments he conducted as he taught them stoichiometry. He started using a professional pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera and controller from Panasonic, allowing him to stage a lab activity more efficiently and creatively.

“Students are actually seeing the color changing and the bubbling,” Morse says. “Then, I can easily zoom out with the camera to the whiteboard behind me where I do calculations and explain the process of the reaction they just watched.”

Educators can also leverage professional displays and projectors in online and blended learning environments. “When it comes to learning in the classroom today, lessons are more successful when students play an active role,” says Hamid James, product manager of PTZ camera systems at Panasonic. “To maximize learning and productivity, clear, bright visuals with minimal noise and distraction are essential.”

Interactive displays with multitouch and whiteboard capabilities can promote advanced collaboration between students and teachers, James says. If classes are in-person, projectors allow educators to vividly present content with the right brightness and image quality from a safe distance.

Also, using external webcams and headsets with microphones can foster better interactions in absence of in-person contact. Madeleine Mortimore, education technology innovation manager at Logitech, shares with EdTech that an external webcam lets students show themselves and their work during synchronous learning. Meanwhile, headsets with microphones can help students stay focused and ensure their voices are heard, leading to increased participation and overall student confidence.

DISCOVER: Learn how to participate in videoconferencing without a computer.

3 Tips for Teaching with AV Tools

To make the most out of using AV equipment for remote or blended learning or in a socially distanced classroom, consider these tips:

  1. Identify your goals. While there are plenty of tools that can help educators create more collaborative and engaging learning environments, it’s important for them to understand how the technology might help them meet specific goals. “For example, if a teacher is looking to live stream a lecture in a large classroom setting, they’d likely want to invest in multiple cameras that can be controlled robotically, mounted throughout the room and easy to control,” James says.
  2. Think about location. For many educators, making the transition to online learning will likely involve a quality livestream or recording. But beyond the technology needed to record and share those videos, teachers should also find an optimal space to film with proper lighting. “When selecting a place to record, avoid locations with low light or too much backlighting,” he says. “Framing is also important, and the camera should be positioned at the teacher’s eye line, and they should be in the center of the frame.” James adds that sound quality is also critical, so teachers should record in a space that has the least amount of echo possible while using an external mic or headphones with a mic.
  3. Start small. Some educators may feel overwhelmed with the abundance of devices, software and other resources available. For Morse, taking small steps helped make teaching with new technologies more manageable. He advises teachers to start with one tool and think about all the different ways they can use it to deliver their lessons. Then, if there’s a certain piece that tool isn’t able to address, or if there’s an opportunity to further improve lessons, educators should start exploring other technologies to add to their toolkit and complement their teaching strategies.

“In the spring, we were adapting and bringing new tools because we were in survival mode,” Morse says. “As we enter the next school year, we want to approach it beyond just surviving and think of how we can make learning really successful.”

Jovanmandic/Getty Images