Videoconferencing Out on a Lim

Experiences, curriculum thoughts, new resources, and technology comments related to K12 videoconferencing.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Moving My Blog to WordPress

Well, I've been wanting to move my blog for a while. I wanted a tool with categories... so my reviews of content providers, program lists, etc. are easier to find! So I've switched to WordPress. My other reason is that WordPress is more "school friendly" since it doesn't have the "Next Blog" link that can take students off into never-never-land. So update your links & subscriptions please!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Nothin' Like a Good Template

Today one of my 4th grade teachers wanted to meet with me to plan a videoconference on Lighthouses in Michigan. She's done Michigan Week and Read Across America, so she knows the "exchange" format. She's also done Where in Michigan, and understands the MysteryQuest format.

So as we discussed the possibilities, it was clear quickly that these had given her an idea to do a MysteryQuest: Lighthouses.

Having a template format ready to go really helps teachers who want to try their own planned videoconference! And having experience with an "official" project like MysteryQuest or Read Across America helps teachers see the possibilities for creating their own projects!

That makes the headaches, challenges, and trials associated with these big projects all worth it!! (I'm in the middle of matching "leftovers" for Read Across Amercia. Fun fun!)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Math Mysteries from the United Kingdom

Here's a little videoconference report from Sturgis, South Dakota. Recently a class there participated in a math mystery called The Milton Mansion Mystery from the Athena Excellence in Cities Education Zone.

Here's the program description from Athena:
Join the famous detective Sherbet Holmes in his quest to find out who stole the Milton Mansion Diamond. The pupils are ably guided through the investigation by Advanced Skills Teacher Jaz Dhillon. At key points in their investigation pupils get to meet the famous detective who enlists their help in order to piece together the evidence and to identify the culprit, their motives and their modus operandi.
The teacher commented,
I felt the results of the project to this point meet or have exceeded my expectations. ... I feel this should be an on going part of the course work for sixth grade and possibly be developed into something more with students from each site communicating with one another. It also fits nicely in a across the curriculum activity for the sixth grade. ... I would be very open to using VC'ing again and on a yearly basis. The opportunities that it allows for the students and instructors is endless and life-lasting.
This sounds like a really cool program and one that I'm hoping our schools can do soon! Remember when you're scheduling videoconferences with the United Kingdom that they are 5 hours ahead of EST; +6 for CST; +7 for MT; +8 for PST. So you might need to be flexible and thoughtful in scheduling this one! Click this link: Athena Excellence in Cities Education Zone for a list of all their programs as well as scheduling details.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Exploring Shakespeare

This morning we're trying out another provider we haven't visited before -- The Indiana Repertory Theatre. They've been doing distance learning for quite a while and I could tell from the beginning that this would be a good program. St. Joseph High School English students are participating in the program, Exploring Shakespeare. The presenter and teacher interacted quite a bit via email and phone before the program to tailor it to the teacher's curriculum.

The program began with great conversation and interaction to set the students at ease. Then the presenter read a monologue "boringly" as if she was reading homework. Students had a hard time figuring it out. Then she read it again with expression and a prop. Students quickly figured it out.

The program included students trying different scenes in Shakespearan English and modern English. This helped students understand the emotion behind the Shakespeare scenes.

Discussion included comedy vs. tragedy, plot devices, writing style differences between comedy and tragedy.

Another exercise included a "Red Rover" argument exercise where students read sassy lines between Petruccio and Kate from the Taming of the Shrew. The students really got into the program.

Discussion also included how and why Shakespeare used verse and iambic pentameter.

This was a great program. I think it's the first time I've seen a high school program where students are getting up and moving around. Nice interaction between the provider and students and also between students during the program. Definitely worth it for Shakespeare classes!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Today we're trying out another content provider we haven't connected to before -- The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We have a class from Lighthouse Education Center participating in the program, Rock and Roll Reactions: Records, Radio and the Birth of Teenage Culture in 1950s America.

The program started with pictures of various music groups and the students had to identify them. Great opener as the students who were sitting with crossed arms quickly started answering questions and interacting.

What a great way to learn about history and what it was like to live in the 1950s. A nice set of pictures, video clips, and audio clips helped students understand that decade.

This would be a great program for Black History Month because it also shows the history of racial segregation in the music industry and what life was like just before the Civil Rights movement.

Students really enjoyed this program. At the end, the teacher told the presenter that this was the best program they had attended out of 4 or 5 different videoconference field trips. So, you should try out this provider if you haven't connected to them yet!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Welcoming a NY VC Blogger

I'm delighted to share with you that another of my VC buddies, Andrea Israeli, is blogging about videoconferencing in the New York City Public School System Region 4.

Got Videoconferencing? is her new blog, begun January 16. I can see already that I'll be learning how to do a Poetry Slam! I have a high school media specialist who has been interested in this idea for a while now and we just haven't gotten it off the ground. I'm glad to be learning from another pioneering colleague!

Welcome, Andrea, to the community of K12 videoconferencing bloggers!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Ice Age Geology

Today we're doing our first program with a new content provider, the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal. Sixth grade students from Patrick Hamilton are doing the Ice Age Geology program. Jason Dennison used to be distance learning coordinator at the Milwaukee Public Museum. He's doing the presentation today. I like to judge videoconferences by the students' posture during the program. These kids were leaning forward and clearly interesting and engaged in the program. Jason included many questions, discussions, and other interactions during the program.

Another way I judge VCs is by the visual content. Since it's a visual medium, we expect to see some good things! Jason included many visuals to explain morains, straiations, and other evidences of glaciers. I especially liked the rock simulation shown where he showed how the glaciers make the different types of morains.

It was great to see also how well prepared the students were. They were aware of the content and had thoughtful questions to ask the presenter.