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KNEX + Zoom for teachers and grandparents
At a time when many families worldwide are having to remain at home, KNEX and Zoom work very well together, allowing children to enjoy home-based interactive activities with their teachers, or with grandparents who are not able to visit them.
They make an ideal combination, because:
a) KNEX is the most flexible construction kit available, allowing thousands of different models to be built from a medium-sized set of parts.
b) The powerful video conferencing app Zoom is used by schools worldwide, but is free of charge for sessions involving only two remote locations.
This document has been written by Andy Shercliff of the KNEX User Group, a grandfather who enjoys regular Zoom Club sessions with his grandchildren.
The main objective of a Zoom Club is to provide the children participating with enjoyable interactive activities.
Secondary objectives include:
a) Selecting activities that have an educational value for the children participating.
b) Giving grandparents the pleasure of carrying out interactive activities with their grandchildren.
c) Allowing parents to get on with other tasks whilst their children are taking part in a Zoom Club session.
Equipment and working area
The Zoom Club will require each set of participants to have access to:
a) Computer (PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone) with Zoom installed.
b) Screen that is large enough to display both the remote participant(s) and also a large, clear picture of the activities that they are doing. Smartphones will need to be able to cast to a larger screen.
e) Main camera.
f) A second camera (optional).
The working area for sessions should comprise a desk or table large enough to hold the materials to be used, and the activities being carried out.
Suggested sizes for the working area are:
a) A single participant - 60cm (2 feet) wide by 60cm (2 feet) deep
b) Two participants 120cm (4 feet) wide x 60cm (2 feet) deep
Please note that, for the remainder of this document, we work on the assumption that one grandparent is carrying out Zoom Club sessions with two grandchildren, as this is our main area of expertise. However, we believe that the approach we propose is equally applicable to online teaching, and would welcome your feedback on this.
Positioning of the main camera is critical to the success of sessions. It should be placed high enough up, and far enough away, that the remote participant can see both the activity being carried out, and the children/grandparent themselves.
The main source of light in the room should be somewhere behind the main camera, so that the faces of the participants are illuminated.
If a second camera is available, this should be positioned closer to the work area, and at right-angles to it, allowing close up views of model-building.
Once the equipment and working area are set up, they should be tested, to ensure that camera positioning, audio quality, lighting etc are satisfactory.
Consideration might also be given to having an outdoor working area (in the shade) in addition to the indoor working area. This could then be used in fine, warm weather.
With regard to the KNEX set to be used in Zoom Club projects:
a) General-purpose KNEX sets (eg a 70-model set) are ideal for Zoom Club projects, but if these are not available, any medium-to-large KNEX set will work nearly as well.
b) If possible, the grandparent(s) should have access to the same KNEX set as the children. This will enable them to fully participate in model-building.
c) Where possible, the KNEX parts should be stored in a compartmented tray, allowing any part to be found without having to rummage around in a tub of mixed parts.
Zoom Club projects
If any of the participants have not used KNEX before, it will be helpful if they:
a) Build a few models using the instruction book provided in their KNEX set.
They will then be ready to start enjoying Zoom Club projects.
The following notes may assist:
a) Projects that are opening-ended generally give greater enjoyment and educational benefit than projects where the children are simply following instructions. For instance, design and build your own KNEX castle is better than build this KNEX castle from instructions.