Its 6 months since the world went into turmoil, those who normally taught brass students one to one but wanted to continue working were all suddenly plunged into a new way of doing things. Locked down into our own homes we immediately had to find new ways of working. Along with the updating of safeguarding policies video conferencing was suddenly one of the most important things in the world.
My own journey through this started with Zoom which was one of the easiest video conferencing systems around, send a link and the recipient clicks on it and goes straight to the meeting. In my experience though Zoom suffers from some quality issues, particularly when a larger number of participants that are involved. Zoom by default looks for the most prominent sound and constantly tries to switch from one screen to the other. With a lot of background noise this can make life difficult. I guess that Zoom was designed for meetings where just one person would be speaking at once but compared to Skype and particularly Teams the problem seems quite extreme with Zoom. It is also true that other people’s experience may be different, and some of these issues can be mitigated by changing some settings. My own experience is that Skype and particularly Teams, enjoy much better audio and video quality and are less jumpy, and the benefit with Teams is that utilising channels and files everything can be available within one application, although the free version of Teams is limited in what it can do.
I have also learned not to rely on the laptops microphone and speakers and invested in a decent pair of Sony headphones. These increase the quality of the sound and video even more. Utilising the full function of Teams, like Onenote and Whiteboard is also pretty impossible without a touchscreen but this was solved by purchasing a small graphics Tablet which works excellently by being able to use a pen on the tablet to effectively mimic drawing on the laptop screen.
Working remotely may not be for everybody but I have found it a good experience and the difference between online and face to face teaching is not as wide as i was expecting, although the lag in the video does mean that clapping in time for a student is interesting, and overall it has worked better than i ever thought it would, a view shared by most of the students i teach.
With the new Covid restrictions announced this week it will probably be a while before some of us feel able to teach in other premises, but on the other side it has allowed me to learn new ways of working and get to grips with new hardware and software. Oh well, every cloud has a silver lining.