Videoconferencing Out on a Lim

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Next MysteryQuest: Science??

Yes, I'm still reading The World is Flat and thinking about implications for my work in videoconferencing. Consider this!

If President Bush is looking for a similar legacy project, there is one just crying out -- a national science initiative that would be our generation'’s moon shot: a crash program for alternative energy and conservation to make America energy-independent in ten years. (p. 283).

Could the MysteryQuest format be adapted to a big problem like this? It's certainly engaging and one that affects high school students who are driving! Whenever we do VC interviews with our senators and representatives, our high school students always ask the gas price question. So they certainly care -- and caring about the problem is the first step towards being motivated to work on a solution, right?!

What would this look like for a high school class? The World Environment Day project by Global Leap seems like a good start on this issue. But we need more of these videoconferences! We need them more often! We need them to be global - or at least with two countries participating in each one.

On p. 380-381 are several more "big problems" that might be possibilities for high school science VCs. The Grand Challenges in Global Health project addresses big problems such as

creating effective single-dose vaccines that can be used soon after birth, how to prepare vaccines that do not require refrigeration, how to develop needle-free delivery systems for vaccines, ... how to create a full range of optimal bioavailable nutrients in a single staple plant species, how to create immunological methods that can cure chronic infections.
Rick Klausner, who runs these programs for the Gates Foundation, explained the goals of the program, make a moral appeal to the scientific imagination ...We wanted the Grand Challenges to say these are the most exciting, scientific things that anyone in the world could work on right now... and to actually direct some of the foundation's resources to see if we could do it.
And finally chapter 12 describes how the author's Dell computer was made. Very fascinating picture of the supply chain and work flow process around the world.

The basic design of the motherboard and case ... was designed by an original design manufacturer in Taiwan. We put our engineers in their facilities and they come to Austin and we actually codesign these systems. This global teamwork brings an added benefit - a globally distributed virtually twenty-four-hour-per-day development cycle.
Wouldn't it be fun to have a partner class 12 hours away and do a smaller scale design project like this together?! What a learning experience for all the students involved!

I think I need to talk to our science consultant and some of our high school science teachers..... This won't be an easily developed format, but will be worth it I think. Do you have any ideas??!! Share a comment!

I've finished the book now, so this is the last of the "Flat World and VC" blog entries. In August I'm spending quite a bit of time on the BCISD Field Trip Database, so I'll be writing about what's new in the VC content provider arena. It won't be long before school starts and we start scheduling VCs like crazy!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Group Work at a Distance

Ever since the Keystone Conference last year, I've wanted to try out an idea I learned from Carol Fleck and Kim Perry, two teachers who videoconference together on a regular basis to team teach a class. Their presentation at Keystone was titled, Together in the Trenches: Two Teachers Share the REAL Story of Daily Videoconferencing. One thing they shared was how their students work together in groups. To make the two classes into one class, they have groups that are made up of students from both sites. They rotate through using VC, phone, and web communication tools to communicate for group work.

This week with the workshop we're doing with Lamar and Paris ISD in Texas, most of the groups consist of teachers from each of the three sites. We've been rotating between using VC and chat/discussion group spaces. I highly recommend this format! It was certainly challenging for the participants to meet via a chat after doing a VC, but the incredible value of planning a project with teachers that you can actually do the project with! Here's quote from one of the reflection blogs:
I think that the best part is that you can actually implement what you are planning, because you are already partnered with people from other areas. :)
The participants have been great and flexible in using the various technologies to work with each other - even to the point of giving up some of their VC time to another group who needed it more!

So I encourage others of you doing PD to partner up with another site like we did because of the amazing value for the participants in the class.

Flat World Implications for Education

  1. p. 244 Quoting Bill Gates: Our university system is the best ... Our university system is competitive and experimental.
    p. 245 Coupled with America’s unique innovation-generating machines – universities, public and private research labs, and retailers – we have the best-regulated and most efficient capital markets in the world....
    Seems clear from this we must encourage students to attend college!

  2. p. 256 Quoting Sean O’Keefe, “Our mission of understanding and protecting our home planet and exploring the universe and searching for life will not be carried out if we don’t have the people to do it.” We must encourage students to study science, engineering, math, and technology. I can make a tiny ripple in this great need by encouraging teachers to participate in videoconferences with NASA and creating and facilitating other engaging, challenging science and math experiences.

  3. p. 258. Students deciding on a career in engineering or science in middle school today won’t complete advanced training for science and engineering occupations until 2018 or 2002. If we need more people in these areas, we need to be inspiring middle school students now to consider math, science and engineering careers. Even more compelling is this quote from p. 275. Because it takes 15 years to create a scientist or advanced engineer, starting from when that young man or woman first gets hooked on science and math in elementary school, we should be embarking on an all-hands-on-deck, no-holds-barred, no-budget-too-large crash program for science and engineering education immediately.
    I know I can only make a tiny ripple. That ripple is probably this: what VC experiences can I provide/encourage that will inspire students?

  4. p. 261. A professor lamented that other than two of his students, they lacked the creativity, problem-solving abilities and passion for learning that would make them worth hiring. How can I make a little dent in students’ creativity, passion for learning and problem-solving skills? I think MysteryQuest makes a tiny dent in this area, but much more needs to be done!
  5. But it’s not just the creativity skills they need! Basic skills are crucial too! p. 264. Those who think that the more rote learning systems of China and Japan can’t turn out innovators who can compete with Americans are sadly mistaken. Quoting Bill Gates, “I have never met the guy who doesn’t know how to multiply who created software. . .”

    This seems to contradict what Weinberger shared in the opening keynote at NECC, which I missed since I was still flying in. From the NECC Daily Newspaper I gleaned the idea that Weinberger didn’t think kids needed to learn facts like basic math facts and the state capitols because they can look it up on Google. See blog entries by Andy, David and others....

    I think I’m leaning towards the idea that creativity is built on basic knowledge... which way do you lean?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

MysteryQuest Beaches

So this week I've also been team teaching a workshop with Bennie Tschoerner, Paris ISD, and Ken Conn, Lamar Consolidated ISD in Texas.

Today we learned about the MysteryQuest project - and did the first professional development version of MysteryQuest...... MQ Beaches! Each of the three sites was assigned two areas of the world and shared two presentations with clues about a beach in that area of the world. It was a lot of fun! We had very creative presentations pulled together in just under an hour - with visuals, props such as towels, sunscreen, and flowers!

Feel free to use this same format and materials in PD you are doing at your site! The websites for the student versions of the MQ formats are: MysteryQuest: World Geography, MysteryQuest USA, and TWICE's Where in Michigan?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

New Ways of Doing Business

Still reading The World is Flat! p. 177.

Introducing new technology alone is never enough. The big spurts in productivity come when a new technology is combined with new ways of doing business.

It took several decades for electrification to kick in and have a big economic and productivity impact. Why? Because it was not enough just to install electric motors .... the whole way of doing manufacturing had to be reconfigured.

Hmm. Sound familiar about the use of educational technology? Learning to be transformed, not just integrated?!

Are we taking advantage of all the new communication tools available to education? Videoconferencing, blogs, Moodle, web conferencing, email, etc.? Why is it such a challenge to use them? How did we use communication in the classroom before these technologies? Only within the classroom! Now we can connect almost anywhere in the world! Does our understanding of knowledge and knowledge creation need to change from top-down to collaboratively developed before we can truly see the possibilities for communication technologies in the classroom? What will it take to combine these new technologies with new ways of doing learning!?

p. 236. The way to succeed is not by stopping the railroad line from connecting you, but by upgrading your skills and making the investment in those practices that will enable you and your society to claim your slice of the bigger but more complex pie.

Hmm. How are you upgrading your skills?

Monday, July 18, 2005

Does Access Mean Advantage?

Here’s a question for you! If kids have never seen a VC, are they disadvantaged because they can’t imagine talking to someone through a TV, computer, or cell phone? Does access mean advantage?

I’m still reading The World is Flat. P. 169. “Young people are using our mobile phones today as two-way video-phones,” explained Tamon Mitsuishi, senior VP of the Ubiquitous Business Department at DoCoMo in Japan.

Japanese kids are VCing with their cell phones! And some of our students have yet to see a VC! What does that tell you?

I’ve noticed that when kids see a videoconference, sometimes one of the students will say, “I want one of these at home!” Well the answer is, in your lifetime you will have one at home! And you will have one on your cell phone too! We must increase students’ imagination and help them to see the possibilities of the world around them!

Friday, July 15, 2005

Interesting VC Possibilities

While reading The World is Flat, I’m noticing some unique uses of academic skills in the real-world work place. It would be wonderful to arrange/create/organize a VC for students on these topics/issues. Here’s a sampling:
  • p. 128 Describing the Wal-Mart supply chain: Call it the Wal-Mart Symphony” in multiple movements – with no finale. It just plays over and over 24/7/365: delivery, sorting, packing, distribution, buying, manufacturing, reordering, delivery, sorting, packing....
    Immediately I thought of the elementary economics curriculum in Michigan: supply and demand, scarcity, opportunity cost, producers and consumers. Where could we find someone to explain this supply chain to students? Where everything comes from etc? Or could a classroom-to-classroom project be developed based on this?
  • p. 147. How is math used in supply chain planning? UPS maintains a think tank ... which works on supply-chain algorithms. This “school” of mathematics is called “package flow technology,” and it is designed to constantly match the deployment of UPS trucks, shipos, airplanes, and sorting capabilities with that day’s flow of packages around the world.
    So intriguing! This think tank employs mostly math and engineering degrees, including several Ph.D.’s Hmm. How could this fit into a high school math curriculum? Would it help tantalize students to enjoy and be intrigued with mathematical challenges?
  • p. 155. Another intriguing math possibility. Google now employs scores of mathematicians working on its search algorithms. Would kids see it as “cool” to work for Google? Something to make it worth learning and enjoying math? I wonder if any of Google’s mathematicians would want to interact with high school students over VC?

Monday, July 11, 2005

New Technologies in Schools

In the section on running with the gazelles and lions in Friedman’s book, The World is Flat, (p. 114-127) I started thinking about some of the frustration that’s been growing in me on how the latest ed tech technologies are changing so fast! How can a teacher keep up? And is it worth spending time on one technology, such as handhelds or iPods, for a year or two and then move on to the next latest and greatest thing?

I had been leaning towards... no! But in the middle of this section, it occurred to me that maybe it is actually very good to expose kids to different kinds of technology as often as it changes. We should teach them new things and explore new technologies and ways of teaching & learning as often as we learn it. So that both we and the students get used to changing quickly! The students will need to learn to learn all their lives. So we should start them on this learning track by modeling continuous learning ourselves!

On p. 131, I read,

Wal-Mart became number one because this little hick company from northwest Arkansas was smarter and faster about adopting new technology than any of its competitors.

To me, the lesson here is to encourage students along the same lines! If they learn what the technology can do – i.e. with VC we can communicate with other people – then we should ask them – what else do you think we could/should do with this technology? Clearly to keep the competitive edge, we and our students need to keep imagining positive, constructive uses of the tools and resources around us!

So I hope the next time I feel a bit tired about the latest thing and the work it will take to learn it and integrate it into the curriculum, I remember the benefits to my students. Increase in technology skills. But more importantly, increase in learning skills!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Global Business Uses of VC

So, I’ve been slowly working my way through The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. I know others are blogging on this too, but I’m interested in the business uses of videoconferencing, and other applications I see from the book for VC use in schools. I’m still not finished the book, but thought while I’m sitting in the airport waiting to fly home from NECC that I’d write a bit about what I’ve learned so far.

I am always very interested in how videoconferencing is used in the business world, because I think it informs our use of VC in education. So here’s some examples of VC from the book:

Infosys, he said, hold a virtual meeting of the key players from its global supply chain for any project at any time on that supersize screen. So their American designers could be on the screen speaking with their Indian software writers and their Asian manufacturers all at once. p. 6
Hmm. What kind of project could middle or high school students do with global colleagues that would simulate this type of collaborative work?!

Some of the Indian accounting firms even go about marketing themselves to American firms through teleconferencing and skip the travel. p. 14
Hmm. How about brushing up on your interview-via-vc skills?!

There are videoconferencing facilities on every floor of Boeing’s Moscow office, so the engineers don’t have to rely on e-mail when they have a problem to solve with their American counterparts. They can have a face-to-face conversation.
Hmm. I wonder how they resolve the time zone issues that we struggle with in K12 global VCs?

More next time....