Videoconferencing Out on a Lim

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

Thursday, March 31, 2005

VC with Congressman Fred Upton

This morning St. Joseph High School hosted Congressman Fred Upton and shared the videoconference with Decatur High School and Lakeshore High School via videoconference. High school students asked questions about many topics including energy, No Child Left Behind, social security, funding for adult education in Benton Harbor to address the low literacy rate, and steriod use in sports.

Mr. Upton has shared his time with our local schools annually in the videoconference format since 2000. He is especially skilled at giving succinct answers and using illustrations that help students understand the issues. For example, when discussing oil drilling in Alaska, he shared his preferred restriction for 2000 acres used for drilling. He compared that to the size of the Western Michigan University campus to clarify the numbers for students.

Videoconferencing with legislators is a great way to bring real-world connections and substantive conversations into the social studies curriculum! Students certainly enjoy the opportunity to ask their legislators questions about day to day issues.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Learning about IP VC

Today I'm thinking about the challenges of switching to IP videoconferencing as one of my districts is working on that today. Coming into this job with an education background, I've learned a lot from experience, talking to people, and reading on the net.

Some resources that I've used in learning are:
  • Firewalls are our Friends This site has step by step instructions for making a Polycom work with the Cisco Pix or Novell BorderManager firewalls. Very helpful to share with techs!
  • Videoconferencing Professionals Online This community has lots of people with high level technical knowledge. I've learned some of the words I need to use as well as the issues that we are running into and how to solve them.
  • OARnet has this site - How to Become a Videoconference Hero in 7 Easy Steps. I wonder about this one though. Is it possible (realistic?) for K12 to have a network as strong as they recommend here? Maybe in k12 we're just more tolerant of pixelation? I feel quite happy with what we've been able to do with our IP videoconferences, but we don't meet the high standards listed here.
There are many more good links about IP vc on the TWICE website. Also the University of Wisconsin has great information to get started with understanding IP videoconferencing.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

VC with A Teacher at War

Yesterday I was reading my Edutopia magazine and ran across an interesting use of videoconferencing - to connect to a teacher called up for military service. The article is called Mr. Miller Goes to War and you'll find the reference towards the end of the article or below highlighted in this quote. Emphasis is mine.

"I don't think the kids really made the connection [with the war] until we did the Veterans Day program," says Paul Argyle, principal of West Jordan High School, in West Jordan, Utah. When biology teacher Ed Willis, a U.S. Army Reserve colonel at the end of his military career, was sent to Iraq, he emailed the school that the experience was, for him, "surreal." To keep Willis connected, Argyle regularly sends him a "wellness report." And if answers are slow in coming back,Argyle will write, "I haven't heard from you. Pop me a note."

The school continued the annual Veterans Day events that Willis had started years earlier but added something new: a videoconference call from Willis and a few fathers of students who were stationed in Tillil, Iraq. "This was a reality check," says Argyle. "It reminded the kids that freedom wasn't free, that what you enjoy in our country comes at a price, that there are people who are willing to go and take care of that for you. It brought it into their neighborhood."

Monday, March 28, 2005

A Podcast on Videoconferencing for the Deaf

Two weeks ago at the MACUL Conference, TWICE hosted several videoconference sessions. One of them was presented by Greg Marten and Jane Mose, Lenawee ISD, on Positive Growth: Integrating Videoconferencing into Classrooms of Hearing Impaired and Deaf Students.

David Warlick happened to be on the shuttle at the same time as Greg and made a podcast about Greg's session. Very cool! Nice to see exemplary and unique uses of vc featured!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Welcome to Berrien County ISD Videoconferencing

This blog will be about one distance learning coordinator's experiences, curriculum thoughts, and technology rants related to k12 videoconferencing. As of this writing, I coordinate videoconferencing for 24 Polycom units in 18 school districts in southwest Michigan. We've been doing videoconferencing since 1999. You can read about our program online here: Southwestnet Distance Learning.

I have a teaching background and bring that curriculum knowledge to videoconferencing. This background helps me look at VC from the teacher's perspective. From that perspective, I've created several tools that are useful for assisting teachers with finding quality VC content. One is the annual "Two Page Selected List"... I do two versions - one for my local teachers posted on my distance learning website and including information on how my teachers register with me for VCs - and one for everyone else to use posted on the TWICE website (look in the top right column). We'll look at other tools later...

In addition, I have a knack and love for learning new technologies so I am also the "techie" for our distance learning program. I run our MCU bridge; assist our local distance learning coordinators with using their Polycoms, and interact with our network guys on the issues related to IP videoconferencing. All this I've learned as it has come my way - from colleagues, from our wonderful SBC helpdesk, from and any other source I can find from which to learn! So in my blog, I'll also be commenting on the technical side of videoconferencing

I also am serving as TWICE president this year (2004-2005). TWICE stands for Two Way Interactive Connections in Education. TWICE is Michigan's videoconferencing organization. We started in 2001 when several of us, mostly at the ISD level (Michigan educational service agency term) decided we ought to be collaborating and sharing great resources.

So, come back again and see what I'm learning, creating, or thinking about related to videoconferencing in k12 education!