Sunday, January 27, 2008

Need Suggestions on Best Way to Let Homebound Participate

We have an amazing student who is finally home after months in the hospital. On Friday, her class visited her. She has a long ways to go before she can return to school. In the meantime, we'd like to have her take part in one class per day. I'd appreciate suggestions on how best to do this.

On her end, she has a computer with a web cam and a tech savvy father. On our end, we will get whatever we need to make this work.

Some factors to consider:
  • We want the student to have as rich an experience as possible.
  • She will be able to see and hear and speak, but she is not able to type or use the mouse on her own.
  • She is an elementary students and her class is a mostly self-contained so we only need to set up one classroom with AV equipment.
  • The classroom has a data projector and the teacher's computer has a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. The computer's sound can be broadcast through wall speakers. The classroom also has a PA system with an amplifier and a wireless mic.
  • We are installing Skype, and hopefully I will soon have a Yugma account. We have web cams and video cameras.
  • There is an aide in the classroom who can run the camera. She can switch the focus from the teacher to the whiteboard to the students as needed.
Concerns I have:
  • I don't know if our web cam (or any web cam) has enough focal depth to be able to see the whiteboard or to refocus on people at different distances.
  • A video camera would probably be a better choice in terms of focal length and picking up voices across the room. However, I don't know if our computers or their computers could handle the data stream.
  • The teacher would like her to be able to read the whiteboard at times when it is crucial to the lesson.
  • This needs to be stable. If it is bogging down or crashing, it will get in the way of instruction.
Our first thought is Skype. We are going to play with it with a web cam. Maybe it won't be too limiting. Another thought is Elluminate's vRoom. It allows for 3 participants, so the student, the teacher's computer and another student in the class could all be on. The teacher could use the whiteboard feature. She has a data projector and a wireless mouse and keyboard so she could use those from the front of the room. It will also handle the video. The teacher can make herself and the student both have the microphone so she can talk with the teacher and the class. The teacher could use this option for tutoring after school as well.

Will either of these work? Do you have a better solution to suggest? Any ideas on how to tweak either of these options for optimal performance? Please let me know. I dearly want to make this work and make it work soon.