Videoconferencing Out on a Lim

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

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Worm Farms in MI & NY

Today we had a really fun connection between Mr. Heppler's 2nd grade class at Hollywood Elementary, Stevensville, MI and Ms. Daugherty's 4th grade classat Spencer Van Etten Elementary, Van Etten, NY.

The two classes shared their worm farms with each other via videoconferencing! Both classes had the equipment moved into their classroom, so this was trulya classroom-to-classroom connection.

The teachers had emailed each other ahead of time to plan the videoconference,and had shared information about their classes ahead of time.

The videoconference began with a song from Michigan, Nobody Likes Me, followed by each class sharing their worms on the document cameras at both locations.

Worms in Michigan.

Worms in New York.

Worms in New York.
The students at both ends shared how they feed their worms, how they keep track of them, how they grow flowers with the composted dirt, and types of worms. The students at both ends shared the knowledge they'd gained throughout theyear, and asked thoughtful questions of the class at the other school, comparing their experiments.

Each class also shared the books they were reading. The New York students shared a few scenes from the book How to Eat Fried Worms. The Michigan class shared some favorite pages from the book Diary of a Worm. The Michigan class also shared a chant they learned from their student teacher in the fall, Herman the Worm.

One of the benefits of bringing videoconferencing into the classroom was quickly evident during the videoconference. The New York class shared their worm bulletin board, which had interesting facts about worms they had found on the Internet. The students read the facts from their bulletin board display. If you look carefully you can see the ground, the grass, and the worm tunnels in the bulletin board display.

The Michigan students learned that the longest worm in the world is 22 feet long. Their class is studying measurement, so now they are going to try measuring out 22 feet within their classroom. Oh the connections made in a teachable moment!

Clearly there are important benefits to having videoconferencing in the classroom. The kids are in their environment. They make connections quickly with what they have been learning. It seemed to take less time for the students to adapt to the technology. It's just like the laptop programs going on around the country - in Michigan -the Freedom to Learn project. Getting access to technology in the classroom, where the students are, makes a huge difference in the curriculum integration process.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Kids Can Handle It!

Today we had the last MysteryQuest USA of this year. I am always struck by the patience and flexibility of the students in participating in this event! We had some interesting challenges this time - the class in Wales, Alaska had a power outage and were connected for a while via their generator; another class had a problem with their PowerPoint and had to finish their presentation later in the program; and we had a few connection issues with some of the sites (as usual it seems!). Try to connect 8 different sites all with different equipment and it gets interesting!

But while the adults participating in (and running) the videoconference may be stressing out about the technology - the kids are totally engaged in the task - finding out where everyone is located! They are patient with each other. Patient with the technology. They get great practice with their communication skills - speaking clearly and slowly. They are willing to do their part again without complaining when something happens so that we can't hear them. The kids just roll with it! And what do they remember when it's over? The fun they had... where the other classes were located... how neat it was to see the kids in Alaska...

And now the question is, who else can we connect with? The world is entering into the classroom in amazing instructional experiences!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Videoconferencing and Blogging with Poet Rita Dove

One of the best reasons to use videoconferencing is to connect to people who would be difficult to bring to your classroom otherwise.

Today's ASK videoconference with United States Poet Laureate Rita Dove, Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia was an amazing experience.

The program was a collaboration between SAXophone, providing registration and coordination, Berrien County ISD, providing coordination, Macomb ISD, providing ASK training and event facilitation, Broward County Schools, providing bridging services, and Polycom, providing funding.

The ASK reading and journaling process culminates with incredible thought provoking questions from the students. Here are a few samples:

On the poem, Maple Valley Branch Library, 1967:
*Why did you use the word rhapsody in the line about historical dates?
*How did the librarian in the poem treat you, and why did you call her improbable?"

"What was the process you went through to write the poem, Lady Freedom Among Us?"
"You said in the poem we should never forget her. What other things in the world do you think we shouldn't forget?"

Besides journaling, preparing questions, and writing their own poetry, students participated in a poetry blog. Students shared in-depth thoughts and questions, as well as their own poetry in response. Here's a sampling:

A clip of a poem in response to Maple Valley Branch Library, 1967
The Books have whispered many things:
"You can eat an elephant...if you take small bites."
"You can win soccer game at a time."
"You can help life at a time."
"You can end a war...if you take small steps."
All between the bindings of books. by KJ
A response to Rosa
I love how with "Rosa", Rita Dove creates very vivid images with very few words. This poem relates a hugely important moment in history, but instead of using elaborate detail to make the oft-told story seem new and real, Rita manages to do just that by picking out certain choice images that quickly give you a sense of who Rosa was and what that moment on the bus was like. by LL
Read all the student thoughts and poems at the Poetry by Rita Dove Blog.

At the end of the videoconference, Rita commented that she was very excited about the blogs and the students imagination shown in the posts. She also commented that she was asked several questions that she hadn't been asked before. "Poetry can help you realize that you're not alone on this planet and others have similar thoughts and fears. Read! Read! Read!"

Thank you to everyone who made this event possible, and especially we appreciate Rita Dove for taking the time to talk to high school and middle school students in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota.

Goals for Videoconferencing

In my online class on using videoconferencing, Planning Interactive Curriculum Connections, I ask the participants in the first week to share their goals for using their videoconference equipment. Here is a response from Carol Scott, Media Specialist, Mustang Public Schools, Oklahoma. One of the best set of goals I've seen for elementary videoconferencing:

I hope:
-for every class to videoconference multiple times throughout a year
-to secure funding to provide a greater number, and type of programming
-that at least one class will develop an ongoing collaboration with a distant class
-that in addition to content, each call helps students learn geography, culture, social, tech skills
-to help students gain global awareness and friendships
-for my students to become competent, compassionate, cooperative leaders.
Thank you, Carol, for setting the bar high! These are excellent goals for every elementary school wishing to use videoconferencing effectively in the classroom!

What are your goals?!

Monday, April 25, 2005

Love Those Costumes!

Today I facilitated another MysteryQuest USA. We had a great group of kids from Michigan, Missouri, Wisconsin, New York, and Texas. We had to weather a few technical glitches, but the students did very well. Rachel Villanueva's class from McAllen, Texas did an exceptional job with their clues and guessing the locations of the other classes.

At the end, we had a bit of extra time, so I gave the students a chance to ask each other questions and make comments on the other presentations. One of the most common comments on other presentations was, "I liked your costumes." While students are creative in many ways to give their clues, it's the human visuals that are always the most fun! In last Thursday's MysteryQuest, my favorite costumes were the aliens giving clues. We had so many technical difficulties that I can't remember now which class it was.

So here's a few tiny screen shots from today's videoconference:

Students from Brown Elementary, St. Joseph, Michigan, tell about the first European explorers to discover Michigan.

Students from Brown Elementary, St. Joseph, Michigan, in a canoe describing the Native Americans in Michigan.

Students from Garza Elementary, McAllen, Texas, share clues about the three major celebrations in Texas.

While it's cool to use PowerPoint for presentations, students love to see the other students on camera - especially in costumes, singing, and being creative to share information!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

That Newbie Feeling

I've been doing VCs since 1999 and it's gotten to be a comfy easy thing to do! Well, now we are getting a new Tandberg MCU installed and I'm back to that newbie feeling. Realizing again how complex this technology really is! Waiting with baited breath to see if it works. What a celebration and elated feeling when it connects!

I think it's good to be reminded of this now & again. I'm teaching an online class on using VC and there are several people new to VC in the class. There really is quite a leap of understanding and experience to jump into the VC world. It's a scary thing when you haven't done it before. When things don't work the first time, it takes a courageous, persistent soul to try again! But if those of us that make the connections work can manage to give teachers a successful experience, then just watch the learning potential unleashed!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Global Value of VC

Yesterday a colleague offered me a possible project collaboration with a country in Asia. Obviously to make it work, we have to address some time zone issues! It will definitely mean students coming in late for a videoconference on one or both ends of the videoconference. So then last evening as I was mowing, I began considering what kind of connection would make it worth getting up early for? or coming back to school in the evening for?

What would I want students to get from a collaborative exchange with students from another country?? I want them to understand what it's like to live in another area. I want them to realize people have value from all different cultures, points of view, experiences. I want them to feel connected to the world around them - pulled out of their selfish little worlds and into an understanding of global issues. What kind of experience would help them gain this new understanding & empathy for others? I want them to have more than just tolerance of other cultures, but appreciation for the value that other points of view bring to an informed dialogue. Is that possible for high school students? is it possible for elementary students?

Maybe it is possible.... The Becta document on "What the research says about videoconferencing in teaching and learning" includes this:
Collaboration with schools where the pupils come from different cultures leads to the development of multicultural relationships and understanding, while enriching traditional activities (Cifuentes& Murphy 2000).
What type of collaborative events/projects/activities would result in the development of multicultural relationships and understanding? ....

Another angle to think about it is the curriculum..... certainly teachers at all participating schools have established curriculum to cover. The school is a K-12 school - so there are possibilities at each level. A simple "how do others live" type connection for K-3 ish? The Museum of TV & Radio has a great program called Around the World. Maybe we could do something similar comparing how others live? What is the same & what is different? Or what about writing/alphabet/simple reading for both schools... it would be fun to have students teach each other a few words and letters in the respective languages....

Many of our schools have global issues classes at the high school level. I'd love to see the students address a global issue. Something big. Difficult. Almost unsolvable. Poverty? They could find out about poverty issues in their own countries and share. Then each class could research another country's poverty issues. What would be common among all four countries? What would be different? What solutions might students think of? Students could ask big questions about the issues....

For middle school I can't help but think of my MysteryQuest program. If it weren't for the timezones - what a blast to have a school presenting their actual location somewhere in Asia! Would the students figure it out by accent, skin color or dress? Would they suspect? or would they think it was just another very diverse class from New York City? The possibilities are intriguing! What would be their reaction when they found out? We'd definitely need a follow-up connection for students to ask each other questions and interact. They love that part!

Am I just really geeked by kids connecting to other kids?! Yes I am!!!

Friday, April 15, 2005

Students Ask Questions of Senator Levin

Just finished one of my favorite annual videoconferences that we do. Students from Buchanan, Coloma and New Buffalo High Schools interviewed Senator Levin on current issues. Clearly the students had given much thought to their questions and included facts and information they had researched when asking their questions. A few highlights include:
  • On a daily basis what are your duties? How much time is spent in Michigan vs. D.C?
    Senator Levin shared how he comes back to Michigan for events on weekends, to visit his family here and enjoying travel throughout the world on various trips, such as a recent trip to Iraq.
  • Several questions were asked regarding ANWR, the gas prices and other such energy issues. Students asked questions about hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and there was discussion of balancing security needs and environmental issues. In addition, students asked questions about the pollution in the Great Lakes system.
  • Students asked questions about jobs going overseas and Michigan's unemployment rates. Senator Levin shared his thoughts on the problems of not taxing overseas profits for U.S. companies and the need for a tough trade policy with countries like China, which impose tariffs on U.S. products.
  • One student asked about the tension between Senator Levin's support for raising the minimum wage and support for small businesses.
A very valuable experience for students, indeed! Videoconferencing brings the real world into classroom studies, again!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Gadgets & the Rainforest

Today we had two fun science connections. 3rd graders from Stewart Elementary, Lakeshore, connected to COSI Columbus for the Gadget Works program. This videoconference is one of the best available out there! Students learn all about simple machines, take apart gadgets such as the happy crab and chattering teeth, and watch the BellPopper machine at COSI. The kids sure enjoyed the program and they thoroughly learned all about simple machines. Great program! Worth the expense!

In addition, we had 7th graders from Coloma Middle School connect to the Buffalo Zoo for The Rainforest Experience. Students learned about the layers of the rainforest and saw video clips and live animals - including a python! The python was quite energetic and wiggly. Rebecca, the presenter, put him on the document camera to show his scales, etc. He kept trying to crawl off.

So it was science day in VC land here in southwest Michigan today.... tomorrow is social studies day. Check back again to see where we're going next!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Career Videoconferences

Today I'm sending via email to my schools a list of career videoconferences. The Berrien County ISD Career Technical Education program is paying for a few videoconferences for Berrien County middle school and high school students this year. I've selected these programs for their ability to be scheduled during the teachers' class period and because I'm mostly familiar with the quality of the programming. Next year I'll probably share these types of lists via blog instead of email. We'll see what my districts prefer.

COSI Columbus' Electronic Experts $110 with TWICE discount. (Can't be scheduled anytime, but still usually very good quality expert interviews.)

These can all be scheduled within a teacher's class period as long as the provider has that spot open in their schedule.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Research and Resources on VC

Last spring my student worker collected the research links and articles of the NECC presentations on videoconferencing. We just finished putting it into a bibliography format online on the TWICE resources page: Bibliography of Articles, Books, and Research. It's another useful collection of reading on videoconferencing.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Articles on VC

Today I found a few new articles on Technology & Learning's online magazine archive and the Educator's Outlook archive. I added these articles to the VC Field Trips & Projects article bibliography on the TWICE website. I also found a couple articles on teaching via vc and another on Virtual Supervision - a unique use of VC that I hadn't seen before.