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By Paula Jacoby-Garrett
This year has brought on many challenges for educators, regardless of whether we teach remotely or in-person. The new reality for many of us is that our class will be a mixture of some students in the classroom with us and others connecting remotely. Engaging those students can be a challenge, especially giving them a good representation of what is happening in the physical classroom.
This year, approximately 90% of my students attended my class in person; the other 10% were connecting remotely. I was able to connect with remote students via my computer camera but it was difficult to highlight other students in the room or spotlight any activities we were doing as a class.
Our school purchased several Meeting Owls, and I was able to use one in my classroom. The Meeting Owl is a device that plugs into your computer and gives a 360-degree view of the room while providing audio through a mic and speaker system. On the screen, the viewer sees a series of images from the device. The Owl camera automatically responds to the person who is speaking, rotating to highlight that person. The online viewer sees a split screen of the room as a whole, as well as who is talking. If multiple people are talking, the screen will split automatically to highlight multiple inputs.
The speaker picks up sounds from a twelve-foot audio radius. When the Owl was in the center of the room, this was sufficient to pick up sounds from throughout the room.
The device works well with online meeting software such as ZOOM or Google Meets and is a simple to use plug-and-play device. For setup, I simply plug it into my computer and select it as my camera. There is an app you can use on your phone for greater versatility in remote settings but I found it easiest to plug and play it from my computer.
I found the Owl especially useful when doing labs or activities in my classroom. I set the Owl in the middle of the room and attached it to my laptop. I would stand near the device while giving directions to the class, and then when students were working independently or in groups, I could easily move from place to place. Overall, I was impressed with the Owl and use it primarily when students are working independently in the room with occasional guidance from me. It gives the online students a broad look at what we are doing with the look and feel of being in the classroom with us. One drawback I have found is that in a room where many people are talking, the background sound can be overwhelming because of all the voices the Owl is picking up.
The Meeting Owl has won a series of design awards including Time Magazine’s Best Inventions – 2020, the CES Innovation Award – 2021 Honoree, and Inc. Magazine’s Best Work Places 2020 Honoree award. Its cost is roughly $800-$1000 depending on which model you choose. For more information visit owllabs.com (upper image credit owllabs.com, lower image credit Adelson Educational Campus).
The Nevada Department of Education is providing this artifact as a public service and it is provided for informational purposes only. It is not a statement of official state policy nor should it be construed as legal advice on any subject matter, it is neither a legal interpretation nor a statement of state policy. Nevada Digital Learning Collaborative | http://www.nvdigitallearning.org | October 2020