Videoconferencing Out on a Lim

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Pics from Read Across America 2005

I just finished posting the pictures from Read Across America 2005 to the TWICE website. They are sure fun to see! Notice all the ways that vc rooms are set up around the country and all the creative ways students presented to their partner classes. Check them out and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

New VC Projects Online

Just finished up another successful session of Planning Interactive Curriculum Connections. You may be interested in all the new projects created by participants in the final week of the class.

You are also invited to join the next class, August 1-26, 2005. You'll have a wonderful experience connecting and learning with other participants from all over the U.S.! In the words of one participant checking out this week,
"It has been a wonderful class, more than I could have ever expected. And to all my classmates, you are icicing on the cake. While expecting to learn something about videoconferencing I never expected how much I would gain by learning about the greatest part of all -- getting to know the partners who would be at the far end of the vc. Thanks for all your thoughtful comments on each of our topics, the great solutions and suggestions for making this technology a success for our students."

Friday, May 20, 2005

5th Grade Goes to Guatemala

Today Hollywood Elementary connected to four children in Guatemala. Students on both side shared what they like to do, their age and grade level, and their favorite activities. One student at Hollywood showed his pet guinea pig, Squeaks, which caused many giggles on both sides of the connection! After taking turns introducing themselves, kids at each side asked each other questions such as what is your favorite music, favorite sports, and favorite holidays.

One of the things that was hard for the Hollywood students to understand was how two of the kids in Guatemala don't go to school. One boy works in the field with his father growing spinach, and the another girl works with her mother sewing and baking tortillas to sell. They asked several questions to understand the poverty. They also learned about the dresses that are worn to represent the various communities in Guatemala. Each town/community has it's own special style of dress.

Students in Guatemala asked, What do you eat? What are your favorite colors? What kinds of jobs do people do there?

Students also planned to continue the conversation via email after the connection.

So... why should we connect to students in other places....? How else can students really understand cultures and how people live in different areas? How else will they gain an understanding of the world around them and realize the responsibilities that come with privilege?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Megaconference Jr.

One of the premier worldwide events for K12 Videoconferencing is Megaconference Jr. Today's event was exceptional! The presentations from students around the world were informative, interesting and creative. Student facilitated multipoint videoconferencing was a great learning experience for all involved! Participating in Megaconference Jr. is a great way to learn good VC etiquette, both by examples of good etiquette and observing not-so-good examples. :)

Most schools participate by having classes rotate through the various presentations. Once the schedule gets posted, then local coordinators can encourage teachers to stop by the VC room for the presentations that are interested/relevant to their content area. Some classes get up really early in the morning to participate: Hawaii checked in at 4:00 a.m. their time for the first roll call.

Consider participating next year in Megaconference Jr., a wonderful celebration of videoconferencing and innovative educational projects around the world!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Going Mobile!

This morning I'm so excited about the possibilities now that some of our districts are "going mobile" with their Polycoms. Up until April we were using V.35 to connect fixed distance learning rooms at the high schools in our two counties. Now that we have new IP infrastructure installed here at the ISD, we're converting all of our districts to IP. So far, that has mainly meant the high school distance learning room is now connecting via IP.

But two districts, Bridgman and Lakeshore, have taken the leap to converting their Polycom to a mobile unit. Pack up the Polycom, take it to the middle or elementary school, plug in power, network cable and an existing TV or data projector in the building, and voila! They are up & running with IP VC in this building! (Ok, there's a few little IP address settings to fix too.)

I'm just delighted with the possibilities. Lakeshore has already tried their first connection truly classroom-to-classroom with the Worm Farm VC I blogged about earlier. Bridgman is taking 3 middle school classes to COSI for Gadget Works on June 2.

Getting transportation over to the high school has been a major barrier in both of these districts for using VC in the curriculum. It's a pain to schedule a bus and deal with the cost of the bus (even if it is small). Then there's the lost instructional time in getting to the HS. It's just tons better to have the equipment in the building. Or even better in the classroom! And the middle school issues of being able to schedule the program during the class period and for several sections of the class are now reduced to just the cost of repeating the program. If we can select/create good free programs, we can now have great VC experiences for all sections of a middle school class!!!

One big step forward for using VC in Berrien and Cass counties! I'm excited about the increased use I KNOW will happen next year!

So... note to Polycom & Tandberg. How about a feature where you can select the IP settings for the unit from a location list and it automatically changes it?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

ASKing about Michigan History

Another set of ASK programs today. These sessions are hosted by Muskegon ISD, coordinated by Diane Zoellmer. Today we had two fourth grade classes from E. P. Clarke Elementary, St. Joseph participate in two sessions with Author Janie Panagopolous, focusing on the book Traders in Time. Tomorrow Three Oaks is focusing on the book Train to Midnight and New Buffalo in the afternoon on Journey Back to Lumberjack Camp.

Here is a sample of the students' questions:

*In chapter one, how come you picked two boys for the main characters instead of two girls?
*Why did Maggie live in the middle of nowhere in the midst of the woods?
*Why do Indians get married so young?
*In chapter one, why did you choose a warrior turtle for the rock?
*Does bear grease really help you stop from getting blisters?
*How did you come up with the title, Traders in Time?
*Do you get some of your ideas for characters from real people, or are the characters made up? If so, which characters in Traders in Time are real people?
*In chapter one, why does Chris call Nick a wimp?
*How does LeClaire know that when the water level rises the sun is going to come up?
*Who is your favorite character and why?
I love Janie's answer to this question. She impersonates McDougall and tells how he comes to her in her dreams threatening her about getting the book done!

Students learned about the writing process, Michigan history, the process of historical research in preparation for writing historical fiction, and the publishing process.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

A Twist on Simple Machines

I'm sitting in our distance learning room with the 5th and 6th grade class from Trinity Luthern just across the street from our ISD. They are busily working on a hypothesis for the chattering teeth sent by COSI Columbus for the Gadget Works program. It's these kids first videoconference and they are awed by the whole thing! Of course, as I've said before, Gadget Works is one of my all time favorite videoconferences.

I'm also reading through the posts in my online class, Planning Interactive Curriculum Connections. Eileen Smith, from Marysville, MI, shared another way to do simple machines with videoconferencing. A neat idea to get kids involved in teaching too!

Another connection that we made was between two fifth grade classes that were studying Simple Machines. The classes had to create a simple machine. They then wrote down their directions (without pictures) on how to re-build the machine. The directions were sent to the other classes. Once the other class received the directions, they built the simple machine without any further assistance for the creators.

The conference was to show the class the simple machines that were built from the written instructions. The students were demonstrate the simple machines and explain what machines were included. The creators were evaluate the simple machine and tell the team builders if they got it correct or if they did something wrong. It was a very fun project. The students have a good time. It was time consuming and we had limited materials are our end, but it fit nicely with our curriculum.

I love this idea! It could be used with many other topics besides simple machines too. What could your students teach another class?

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

ASK: Addressing Homelessness & Domestic Violence

Today we had three sessions of ASK videoconferences with local experts in homelessness and domestic violence. Macomb ISD has pioneered the ASK process, and Jim Wenzloff and Arnie Comer have helped us get our own ASK programs going here in the Berrien County.

ASK: Monkey Island
This was our second year of talking with a panel of local professionals providing services to homeless people within our county, arranged and coordinated by Buzz Calvert,Career Education Consultant and McKinney-Vento Homeless Project Coordinator here at the Berrien County ISD. Buzz brought in three panelists for students to interview:
  • Susan Struwin, M. A., Director of Adult Services, Child and Family Services of Southwestern Michigan, Inc.
  • Pam Gabriel, Dept. of Human Services, Benton Harbor
  • and Holly Pomranka, Residential Services of Southwest Michigan and Chair of the Homeless Resolution Network.
Students had read the book Monkey Island, and prepared thoughtful questions to ask during the videoconference interview. The ASK process results in deep thinking and in depth questions that often surprises the interviewees. Here's a sample of questions from today:
  • What is the worst situation you've seen with a homeless child?
  • How do you help someone back on track with their life?
  • How did you get started helping the homeless?
  • Do people at the homeless shelter get along with each other?
  • Do the people at the homeless shelter have to do chores?
  • How do homeless shelters take care of education for the homeless?
  • Not using any names, describe the saddest situation you have experienced.
  • Why do we treat homeless so badly?
  • If Clay's mom found his dad, how do you think Clay and his dad would do?
  • What's the most rewarding experience for you in your job?
Congratulations to Niles High School and Hull Middle School for careful preparation and great questions shared during the videoconference. Our presenters were impressed with your hard work.

Buzz Calvert commented, "This process is really about getting the students engaged in reading the book." And Susan Struwin believes, "This is a good way for students to learn about services available for homeless & all residents in Berrien County."

ASK: Cracker Jackson
After two sessions of Monkey Island, and a bit of lunch, we had another ASK session with Becky Carter, Program Manager, Safe Shelter, Inc., our local women's shelter. Students from Upton Middle School & Lighthouse Education Center read the book, Cracker Jackson, and prepared good questions. Here's a sample of their questions:
  • Why would a woman not leave her husband if he beats her?
  • Do you ever get women come to the shelter who are only verbally abused?
  • How does having a child affect the relationship between the abuser and the abused?
  • Who can the family talk with to get help?
  • What do you think should happen to the person who beats someone?
  • If you're a teen and you're in a relationship, what should you watch out for?
  • Why would you hurt someone you love if you don't want to be hurt yourself?
  • What can kids do if there is abuse in the home?
Another great day of VCs here in Berrien County. Students thinking deeply on important issues; asking intelligent thoughtful questions, and guest presenters experiencing the miracle of communication technology!