Maureen’s first virtual school visit: ‘ I’ve finally done it!’

Maureen ready to begin her first virtual school visit

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.

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Overcoming technophobia to share CAFOD’s work in schools

CAFOD Education Volunteer, Ruth Sinclair-Jones, shares her experience of her first virtual visit to a secondary school.

Ruth, ready and waiting to start her first virtual school visit

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!

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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. 

Book a CAFOD Virtual Visit for your School by emailing southwark@cafod.org.uk