Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Interesting Virtual Experience

Today the entire middle school went to the auditorium to watch the live, streamed back-to-school speech given by President Obama. An interesting phenomenon occurred.

As you can see by the photo below, for the quarter-hour before the speech, the stream was live from a school auditorium in Philadelphia. The camera in that auditorium was situated behind the first couple of rows of students, so, without anything else on the stage at that point, there was nothing to do but watch the students in the audience. They were talking, pointing, using their cell phones to take photos, and just acting like "regular" kids. The students sitting near me asked me why those students could have cell phones in school (since they could not) and mentioned how, with the students on the screen and with our audience flowing down to the screen, it looked like we were there in person, too!

The interesting thing occurred as President Obama was introduced. The students in the auditorium in Philadelphia stood up and clapped and cheered, and the students in our auditorium did the same! When President Obama introduced the special guests in his audience, our group of 500+ students clapped right along with the audience on the screen.

It was mind-boggling to me that the students truly felt as if they were participating in the event in Philadelphia. They acted like they were there. The virtual video stream, to them, was not even evident, and they were an attentive audience, on their best behavior, as if they were present at the event in person.

I know the camera angle before the event helped make the students feel as if they were there in person. Someone at the White House gave some thought to how the event would appear to the virtual connections, and did a great job at making us all feel as if we were there!

I have to give this some more thought, but it truly was amazing to me to see the students so engaged in a virtual event. (And the speech was great, too!)