Using Google Hangouts on Air for a Research Presentation

Using Google Hangouts on Air for a Research Presentation

Although Google Hangouts on Air launched in May 2012, I only recently discovered it when I chanced upon a colleague’s live lecture while scanning my Google+ feed. And what I saw, I liked. Google Hangouts on Air (or HOA for short) broadcasts what happens in a Google Hangout session. In that session, you can choose to have a conversation with people you invite, work on Google docs, or what I thought was the most promising, conduct a presentation via screenshare. The live session is streamed via YouTube and that live stream is automatically saved as a video whenthe broadcast ends.

Google Hangouts on Air

Google Hangouts on Air

Practice Makes Perfect

While the process sounds simple, I had to practise going through the process of setting up a HOA, broadcasting it and checking if the recording of the session matched what I imagined it to be – five times to be exact – before I was convinced I was sure of what to do at the actual presentation. Through the practice sessions, here are some of the pitfalls I encountered:

  • Entering a name for your HOA generates a YouTube link for the live session in standby mode. Hitting the broadcast button makes the video ‘live’. However, if you open the page for the YouTube live session and record at the same time, you will get two sets of audio being recorded. So after checking that the YouTube link has been created, close the browser or tab.
  • There are several options for screenshare – desktop and the various windows that are open. Although it may seem obvious to screenshare the particular application you are using for your presentation, that did not work for me – the slides did not appear to move as I clicked through them in presentation mode. What was more reliable was screensharing the desktop and then activating whichever application I wanted.
  • A mic is necessary for the best sound input. Otherwise the sound quality in the video sounds muffled.

HOA For Real This Time

The use of HOA at my presentation (of my research paper Understanding the Identity of One ELL in Singaporewent fairly smoothly but it was only after the whole process was completed did I realise the finer details of implementation. A few realisations as I watched the playback of my presentation:

  • The screenshare (using desktop) of my powerpoint presentation was exactly what I had on my desktop (presenter mode), but not on the projector screen (full screen mode). Using Microsoft Powerpoint 2013 meant that once the application detects a projector, it goes into presenter mode with the notes of the current slide and a preview of the subsequent slide show at the side of the screen. I didn’t like it but others thought it was cool. Note for future HOA: change the default presenter mode to full screen presentation.
  •  The mic I used was an arm attached to headphones and had a long wire so that I could move around with ease but stay connected to the laptop. While the long wire was helpful for movement, the awkward shape of an arm mic dangling from my neck resulted in inconsistent volume in the recording.
  • I recorded both the presentation and the Q&A which meant a 58 min recording. 58 min is an overwhelming duration for a YouTube video clip. In fact, some friends gave feedback that the video would stall halfway through. Not sure if it’s because the recording is too long or it’s a technical glitch. Either way, I intend to edit the video to include just the presentation portion which would last about 30 min.

More Tech Won’t Hurt

HOA aside, I was also experimenting with the use of Padlet during the presentation for audience members to post their questions, comments, etc. As it was a live audience, I guess few were inclined to post anything since there was going to be a Q&A session immediately after the presentation. A friend who was keen to try out Padlet did a little more than post comments. He posted a related link as well as uploaded a few photos of my presentation to my Padlet wall. I wasn’t expecting photos but this turned out to be a neat way of capturing moments of an event.

Using Padlet during a presentation

Using Padlet during a presentation

Conclusion

The best outcome of my presentation experiment was that the entire event was captured and archived. The YouTube video serves as a reference for me to reflect on how I could conduct a presentation more effectively, on how I could refine my thought process, and provides another avenue for me to share my research ideas with a broader audience. As long as HOA remains free, it will probably become the tool of choice among tech novices like myself to create (and archive) live presentations.

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The Apprentice – a lesson on resourcefulness, respect and responsibility

The Apprentice - A Lesson on Resourcefulness, Respect & Responsibility

In anticipation of a 9 am Monday morning lecture, I started to look for YouTube clips that could rouse the interest of potentially sleepy and clueless students. The subject is Events Management and I wanted a short but impactful clip that could convey the essentials of event planning. Search results from key phrases like “event planning” and “event management” didn’t quite generate upbeat videos that I was looking for. Then I turned my thoughts to reality TV – home of Murphy’s Law – where “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

At first I tried searching for a wedding type of show, hoping to find scenes of disoriented wedding planners trying to make it all work but ended up with more scenes of brides screaming for attention. Then I realized what I needed. I needed drama, entertainment and education all wonderfully crafted together. I needed … The Apprentice. I can’t say I’m a huge fan, only watching episodes sporadically whenever it aired on TV or cable. But whenever I did, I was always impressed at how the show managed to blend real life human emotions with down to earth lessons about what to do and not to do when organizing and executing a business event. So I searched for “apprentice” + “event” and eventually found this video clip:

It’s Episode 12 from Season 4 The Apprentice and has Rebecca Jarvis and Randall Pinkett as the finalists. (Refer to Wikipedia for details.)

From this clip onwards (as one clip leads to one continuing clip after another), I was hooked. All the editing and dramatic angles made this entertainment, but the human drama that played out on screen felt authentic, and so were the nuggets of wisdom that Trump and his associates dished out in the boardroom. I thought to myself, ‘This has got to be the video clip I was searching for!’ The video clips that covered part of Episode 12 and the finale had many great lessons in event planning that were relevant to my lecture. For example, the team leaders and their teams had to overcome unexpected hiccups, deal with different personalities, and stay calm while under pressure.

The main takeaway I had watching how Rebecca and Randal handled their events was that you have to be resourceful. The part of the show that I watched also raised issues such as respect and responsibility. Those are two great intangibles that to me, sound a little too grand for rookies in event management such as my students. But in true American fashion, The Apprentice makes it simple enough to be understood during a prime time TV slot, and entertaining as well!

So what about respect and responsibility? From the segments, I heard a lot about respecting one’s team leader, as well as your boss. If you watch the clips, look out for how the team leaders responded to Trump’s arrival at their events. Responsibility was also talked about, how the team leader is responsible for the outcome of the event. Before I go on with a review of the video clips (which is not what this post is about, and I really don’t want to go into that), let me go back to my main point which is The Apprentice makes good teaching material, or at least, a starter for group discussion.

My challenge is that because there are so many great scenes, I have to be selective about what to screen in class. I did contemplate a video viewing session on its own but I think that needs a little more thought. What I’ve decided to do in the end is to select a clip that has enough discussion points. I don’t need to show all the clips to show how the problems were resolved because: i) the students can watch the rest of the clips on their own; and ii) the point of the lesson is for them to think about what they would have done in those circumstances. I played the Apprentice video clip (less than 8 minutes) towards the end of the Monday morning lecture. I thought the students were fairly attentive and responded to the questions quite well.

Encouraged by this small success, I will consider using  Apprentice video clips for future lectures.