P/T Conference via Skype

First let me just say that I got up early enough this morning to make it to Starbucks to make this post. Didn't seem like I was every going to post to my blog again lately.

A couple weeks ago my teachers and I had the pleasure of hosting a parent conference through Skype. I have permission from the family to share that experience. I will not be sharing the content of the conference but how it came to be.

Let me first say that I can't even imagine having my husband deployed to Iraq right now. That alone would be more than I could handle. To have 3 kids on top of that is a whole other set of issues. During one of my conversations with the mom she mentioned that they Skype her husband often. I just tucked that piece of info into the back of my mind. At one point I received an email from Dad in Iraq. I thought that it was important that we all talk so I suggested we have conference via Skype. Here some highlights/pointers if you ever need to do this:
  • I emailed dad my contact information and asked if he could add me as a contact over the weekend so I could be sure that everything was set by Monday morning when we met.
  • In my email I said I would be available 15 min. before the official conference so we could work on settings. He didn't add me over the weekend but at the designated time he added me as a contact, I accepted, and he called right on time.
  • Iraq time was 7:30 PM and our time was 10:30 AM
  • My laptop was set up on a cart with a webcam hooked up and sitting on top of the laptop. I didn't want to place my laptop too far away from the table becaue I knew it would be hard to hear if the camera was too far away and I didn't have a mic hooked up. We had to use the built in mic in the camera. Ther was limited view but I aimed the camera on the mom and her family.
  • Yes, the mother brought her mom and her brother to the conference. Keep in mind she is trying to raise 3 children while her husband is in Iraq. I have enough trouble raising just two with my husband home more than he is gone:):):)
  • Sound - Here is where we had the most trouble. Dad could not hear very well so I had to sit by the camera and pretty much yell all the information to him. One other teacher would talk loud enough he could hear her but not very well. It sounded like we were all yelling the whole time but we had to. It was not a negative yelling.
  • Paperwork - I would like to email the paperwork in advance this time. I read all the paperwork or explained it as we were going. I think I have enough notice this time that I could email the paperwork in advance so he has it in front of him.
  • Snowball Mic - I am actually going to try to use my Snowball mic this time. It has a long enough cord that I could place it in the middle of the table and he will probably be able to hear better this time.
  • Training on the spot - The teachers didn't realize there was a little bit of a time lag in the sound. Not huge but a couple of seconds. You can't really have a "conversation" you have to talk and then stop and wait to make sure the person on the other end heard you or has any questions. I didn't clarify this very well with the teachers before the meeting but will next time.
My advice: Keep in mind that this is the first time I have done this. Other teachers have done this alot or at least more than me and probably have better advice. My main advice is to get contected on Skype 15 min. before the actual conference is suppose to start. I also tested all my camera views that morning by calling my IT on Skype and having her watch me around the room to see where she could see and hear better. That helped a lot.

Highlight of the conference: After we were done I called for the student to come down so he could talk to his dad. He was so excited. He thought he was in trouble at first when he saw all of us but we left the room and just let them talk for a while. I also think that is why mom brought her family so they could all talk to him.

There are way too many ways to include parents that are unconventional that we need to take advantage of.