Blended PD - Reaching ALL Audiences

This past week, I took part in a discussion on Twitter about how to best curate and provide math resources for teachers. The Mathtastic PD series I wrote about in response garnered a little bit of interest, partially because it was delivered in a blended style - each session was designed around engaging participants both in-person, as well as remotely, at the same time.

In the original post, I mentioned how it was important to us to create GOOD, effective, remote PD. 

As someone who lives in a somewhat rural part of the province, and a two-hour drive from my board office, I have been on the receiving end of a lot of virtual presentations. And there's nothing worse than a fuzzy, poorly-mic'ed presenter whose slides aren't legible because of the camera angle. Well, maybe that one time I joined in the conversation via my Google Hangout connection and spooked the facilitator, because it was forgotten that I was even "there."

So, at the risk of just stating common sense, if you are planning some remote or blended PD, here are some things to keep in mind:

Provide ALL materials in advance. This might be a separate handout people in the room are receiving, or a PDF of the slide deck. If working in an online platform, links to slide decks or files - in advance! not just after the session! - make it so much easier to follow along.

Acknowledge your remote participants. This can be as simple as the presenter regularly making eye contact with the camera (and hence, the audience on the receiving end of the video feed) as he/she naturally scans the audience. Placing the camera in front of the speaker (similar to where an audience member might sit, and not off to the side) might make this easier.

Even better, occasionally checking in with remote participants to ask their feedback/thoughts or see if they have any questions goes a long way to making sure everyone feels included. For large-scale presentations, a shout-out by the presenter to communities joining remotely is always welcome!

Provide remote participants with a way of contributing. This might be a backchannel to the conversation or a way to "raise a hand" to ask a question of the speaker. Whichever you choose, make sure it's actively monitored. With Mathtastic sessions, we bring everyone together to participate in collaborative reflection pieces, where we can all benefit from each other's learning.

Be aware of sound levels. Where possible, have a good quality microphone available to pick up the presenter's or group's voice. If someone in the room quietly asks a question or contributes to the discussion, ask them to speak clearly, or paraphrase what they've said so that everyone can hear. 

Keep your camera on. It might save bandwidth to not transmit video (and if there's a huge lag, this might not be an option), but it's very hard to follow along with a discussion/conversation with audio only, particularly in a discussion involving several voices.

Test the connection in advance. Make sure the software/app of choice works, that the sound will be clear, and that the camera is at a good angle to see what needs to be seen. If you have a presenter who likes to wander, make sure they know to stay within view of the camera (this might mean taped "boundary" marks on the floor!).

What have I forgotten? Are there other ways to value the voices (and time) of those of us who often have to join in remotely?


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