Maureen Birkett has been a CAFOD primary schools volunteer for over 12 years and she shares with us her recent new experience of making her first virtual schools visit this term.
Well I’ve finally done it! After months of listening to the distant talk of ‘virtual visits’ I finally got the email:
“One of your schools has requested a virtual visit.”
Not wishing to be daunted by this I immediately took up the challenge and made, what was to be, my first mistake. I instantly bombarded the school for information and admitted I had not actually done one before. Communication suddenly went dead but I had learned my lesson.
Join with students around England and Wales as we pray and reflect together in our Advent national assembly for schools.
We’re all very busy getting ready for Christmas. This year, we may not be able to do the things we usually do, like visit all our families and friends, and spend time in each other’s houses. But while we remember some of the difficult times we’ve all lived through this year, we also look forward to the coming of Jesus – the light of the world.
The assembly is on Thursday 10 December, with the primary assembly starting at 9.30am and the secondary assembly starting at 10am. In this assembly we will meet some people around the world who have spread light and hope this year, and we will reflect on what it what it means to share the light of Jesus to help make Christmas special for everyone.
CAFOD Education Volunteer, Ruth Sinclair-Jones, shares her experience of her first virtual visit to a secondary school.
I am a natural technophobe, so after I’d signed up for virtual school visits I wondered what I was letting myself in for!
I’m familiar with Skype and Zoom – but Microsoft Teams and screen-sharing were completely new to me, and the idea of speaking live to an audience I could neither see nor hear – but who could see me – felt very strange.
And this session would be a whole hour long, without a break, so somehow I had to make it lively and find ways for the students to engage with the material and interact with me.
The Chaplain, who had invited me, was really helpful and we had a planning meeting using Microsoft Teams so I could see how it looked, learn how sharing screens worked, and agree how we could use the chat function for interaction with the students during the presentation.
Planning my presentation took longer than usual, partly because I felt I needed a tighter script than I would normally have. In a live session of this length I would have broken it up with some discussions in pairs, feedback, Q &A etc, but in a virtual environment, with the students joining from their own homes, this was going to be more of a flowing presentation – with some student feedback in chat. And the session was going to be recorded and shared more widely too – so it had to be good!
On the day there was no going back – I was live on Microsoft Teams and that was that! The technology worked, the slides and films livened up the presentation, and the hour passed really quickly.
It is definitely harder to speak to an invisible online audience, and to keep up that sense of enthusiasm for a whole hour without being able to sense or respond to the audience reaction – but now that I’ve made my first virtual visit – and even enjoyed it! – I’m looking forward to more virtual visits and keeping the connection with schools in this way until we can visit face to face again.