I spend a lot of my time in our school’s computer lab teaching students the ins and outs of how to get the most out of their tools. Often, I have to demonstrate how to perform different skills on the computer and I have found that there are three ways to accomplish this.
The first is to somehow describe perfectly what you want the students to click on or do. This is very difficult, mostly because it involves describing clicking one icon of hundreds, usually by saying something like, “Click on the little arrow pushing a bunch of lines. That’s your increase indent button.” I avoid it when I can because often, it means having most of my students getting hopelessly lost.
The second is to have a projector in the room. This is slightly better, but it still means that your students’ attention is in two places, on their own screen and on yours, and they can’t always see the projection screen.
This leads me to the best option of all, which is screen sharing. There are whole classes of programs that usually operate over networks that allow you to do this, basically either take over a whole lab of computers or demonstrate to whole labs. Many of these programs require installation on a host machine and viewers installed on every other computer in the lab. Many of them are also very expensive because they try to do too much. They demonstrate, administer, oversee and share files throughout your lab—basically making you the all-powerful overlord of your lab (moo who ha ha).
We have such an installation in one of our computer labs, and I would not mind having it installed on all my machines, but price and the complexity of the install get in the way of that. However, I recently came upon a great solution for teachers, a service called join.me.
Join.me is not the first screen sharing service out there; others such as GoToMeeting have been out there for a while. Others might note that setting up a VNC or remote desktop system has always been an option as well. But join.me is extremely easy to use. I timed a machine and it took only 40 seconds to get to the site, run the helper program, and start sharing.
Install is a snap; run a small host viewer on your demonstration machine and it gives you an Internet address for anyone who would like to see what is on your screen. That’s it. Your students just type in that address and they see your screen from their browser.
Included in the free version is the ability to send your files and chat with your students. The pro version gives you a personal address and the ability to have students switch with you and present to the rest of the class. So far, I have used it to demonstrate to my class, but the control sharing feature would also allow students to ‘come up the board’ and interact with the screen that everyone else is seeing.