Videoconferencing Out on a Lim

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

Friday, December 16, 2005

New Easy URL for Polycom-BCISD Content Database

The Polycom-BCISD Content Database has a new easy to use URL when entering from the Polycom site:

Easy to use & share! Try it!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

VC Islands 2.0

It used to be in the "old days" with videoconferencing that educational organizations, consortia, states, etc. put in videoconferencing islands for shared classes. The main use of videoconferencing then was sharing high school and college level classes and usually an organization just shared classes within their network.

We've made great progress in moving away from these VC islands and doing more collaborative, creative activities with videoconferencing. Now we participate in events like Megaconference, Megaconference Jr., connect to content providers, and create collaborative videoconferences.

But with these new activities, we're running into VC Islands 2.0: The next generation of videoconferencing islands, if you will. These new islands are created by special dialing schemes and the never-ending challenges with firewalls.

Lately I've been working on test calls for Read Across America, along with our wonderful Verification Partners. I also just began serious work on the implementation of the 2005 USDA RUS DLT Grant we were awarded last week.

It's amazing to me that many vendors still don't get it! We really do want to connect easily to ANYONE! And that generally just means a plain old simple IP address or ISDN number. None of this alias stuff or dialing extensions (which I've seen for both IP & ISDN connections). Very annoying! Not all units can connect. Not all bridges can connect to these extensions. Why they even recommend this type of dialing scheme to K12 education is beyond me!

Admittedly I'm not a network technician, though I've learned more about the network than I ever thought I could. So I don't know everything about how these things could work. I just know that I want to connect to my VC colleagues around the world as easily as possible! No extensions!

Enough ranting. Get to work! As my colleague Kevin says.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Camden Children's Garden

Today Eagle Lake Elementary, Edwardsburg, is connecting to a new content provider we haven't connected to before: Camden Children's Garden. The 2nd grade students are learning about soil.

The presenter, Betsy Payne, engaged the students right away in questions and answers about soil. A little video clip showed the worms in the soil. As you can see in the picture, they have an attractive background for the presenter. The program includes many different types of visuals which makes it very interesting.

The students also made predictions about an experiment demonstrated by the presenter and then watched to see if their predictions came true. This helped to increase their understanding of how much water soil can hold.

Camden has a nice set of programs tailored specifically to several different grade levels. They also offer their programs in Spanish or English! We'll be connecting here again for sure!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

ASK: The Ultimate Gift

Today we're doing an ASK program with author Jim Stovall on his book, The Ultimate Gift. This program is provided in partnership with several organizations as follows:
In addition to reading this report, you may wish to review the Polycom Press Release on this program. We are delighted and thankful that Polycom is sponsoring this event and others like it!

We also thank Oklahoma State University for providing a videoconference room for Jim Stovall to connect to the students.

In preparation for this event, students have been writing responses and stories for the various gifts presented in the book. They also followed the ASK process in journaling and preparing quality questions for the event.

The classes participating in this session include:
  • Algonquin Middle School, MI
  • Bayless Intermediate School, MO
  • Mad River Middle School, OH
  • North Middle School, SD
  • River Valley Middle School, MI
The program started with Jim Wenzloff, Macomb ISD, giving a welcome and reviewing the procedures for the program.

Following this, Jim Stovall began with a welcome message with his background and experiences with life and especially on writing books. Then we began with questions from each school, rotating with two questions from each school. Some questions included:
  • If you had to pick one gift, which one would you pick and why?
  • If you had to add another gift, what would it be?
  • Have you thought about expanding each gift into its own book?
  • What problems in your life inspired you to write?
  • When you became a writer, was that your first dream, or did you have another dream before you wanted to be a writer?
  • Do you think the lessons in the Ultimate Gift are directed toward a specific age group?
  • In the book there is a blind man with a wonderful sense of humor. Is this character similar to you?
  • In your movie, the Ultimate Gift, who would you like to play the character of Jason?
  • When you were younger, did you have any books that were inspirational to your life?
  • In the book we read about friendship. Do you have a friend who means a lot to you?
  • In the book, Jason wrote about what he'd do on the last day of his life. What would you do on the last day of your life?
  • Which gift do you think the world needs the most of?
  • At the beginning of each chapter, you have a quote. Why did you choose to begin the chapter that way?
  • Of all the characters you created, which character did you like the best & why?
What a wonderful interaction with the students and the author! It's incredible how friendly and accessible he was to the students.

We are doing this event again, March 6, 2006, and we have room for one more class to participate! Details here.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Flight: The Four Forces

Today Lighthouse Education Center students are connecting to NASA Live. This is our first connection with this provider. The students are doing the program, Flight: The Four Forces.

As part of the program, students are making several different types of paper airplanes (vehicles) and learning about the way they fly. I love how the presenter says, "The airport is closed" (or open), so that students know when they can test their vehicle.

In addition, students asked career and flying related questions of the presenter who has flown 40 different types of aircraft. He has over 5000 hours of flight time and has landed aircraft both on water and land.

We really enjoyed this program and will definitely be connecting to NASA Live again in the future!

Monday, December 05, 2005

ASK: Traders in Time

Today we have a full day of ASK programs with Janie Panagopoulos, author of many books about Michigan history, among other things. E.P. Clarke Elementary, St. Joseph is hosting, the Berrien County ISD is bridging, and TWICE is sponsoring the cost for member schools participating.

Janie's stories are so interesting and funny. She has so many interesting stories to answer the students' questions. Here are some of the questions I enjoyed today:
  • In the book the two boys argue all the time. How is it that two people who didn't get along ended up working together? Have you ever worked with someone you didn't get along with?
  • Why did you choose boys as the main characters?
  • Of all the food in the book, which do you like the best?
  • One student started his question with, "I like Michigan history a lot better than I did before I read this book."
  • In the book the Indians paddled without lifting their paddle from the water as a silent paddle. I think I know what you mean, but can you explain it for me?
  • How did the turtle rock get to the big tree in the forest?
  • We both loved your book. In our class we had to rename the chapters. How did you decide on the chapter titles?
  • Do you think people will ever be able to travel in time? And what time period would you travel to?
  • How do you write to meet the needs of your audience?
The questions today showed clear evidence that the teachers had worked hard with the students on writing good questions, thinking about the writing process, and understanding the Michigan history content.

The Polycom Ghost

Last night I spent a couple hours at E. P. Clarke Elementary setting up for our ASK: Author Interview with Janie Panagopoulos today.

We had a funny experience with their Polycom VSX 7000. We had set everything up easily for the classroom layout. You can see in the picture we have the students facing the author (off screen to the left) and the microphone is in between the author & the student asking her a question.

We set the presets and then discovered the alert about the remote battery being low. (Isn't it great that the new Polycoms report this! Someone was thinking when they invented that feature!) As we were finishing changing the batteries, we were talking and joking, and someone set the remote down and we heard a weird voice from the Polycom. We looked at each other and we all thought the other person had said something. It was very funny, as such things can be late at night when we should be sleeping instead of working!

Then I looked at the Polycom and it was on the dialing screen and with three extra nines at the end of the IP address we had just tested with. So I hit the 9 and it was exactly the sound we had heard. Nine. In that "Polycom voice." We all laughed hysterically.

Do YOU have a funny Polycom story?!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Two Favorites

Today we had two great videoconferences with two of our favorite content providers.

New Buffalo Middle School students connected today (and this past Wednesday) to COSI Toledo to learn about the states of matter, in the program Heart of the Matter. Even though the students were a bit shy and didn't want to talk, the interactive program drew them into the experiments and activities designed to help them understand the states of matter.

This afternoon we have 2nd graders connecting to the Columbus Zoo and they are learning about nocturnal animals. Students are doing hands-on activities and looking at different animals while they learn what senses and adaptations animals use to survive while they are awake during the night. I can hear from the kids' reactions that they are really enjoying the program!