Category Archives: Change

Matrix of Videoconference Implementation

The London Grid for Learning has a new blog about their videoconference program. Check it out!

While looking around, I found this awesome Matrix to assess your implementation level posted on Tuesday. It’s specific to their situation (JVCS is the national videoconferencing bridging service); but is still useful to think about your own implementation of videoconferencing. You want to reach a level 1.

What level is your school?

What activities do you think it takes to get a school from level 5 to level 1?

Services I Offer My Schools

Since my visit to another county last week, I’ve been reflecting anew on our videoconferencing program. Today I thought I would share a list of the videoconferencing services that I provide to our schools.


These services are included in their REMC membership.

  • Firewall. Assistance with making videoconferencing work through the firewall: ports used in VC, testing, configuration of the unit.
  • Upgrading endpoints.
  • Bridging: We bridge almost all of our schools’ calls and monitor them to make sure the connection is ok. In many cases the school doesn’t have someone who can be with the teacher during the VC.
  • Troubleshooting: We provide first line of support – help with all those things that can go wrong: cables plugged in wrong, TV on the wrong channel, hooking up the document camera, etc. Usually provided via phone and to the teacher or media aide who is trying to make it work on their own.


Some of these services they pay for; others are included in their REMC membership.

  • Three online classes (which YOU can take too!). Planning Interactive Curriculum Connections (the intro class); 21st Century Communication Collaborations (hand-holding for your collaboration VC), and Supporting Teachers’ Use of Videoconferencing (for coordinators). ($100 or $150 per person depending on the length of the class).
  • Fall VC Coordinator Training offered every fall. This is for new coordinators in my schools. If I know of a change in a school, I strongly urge the principal to send someone to training. ($25 per person)
  • After school over VC workshops as needed. (FREE)
  • Just in time training as needed. Usually the day before a VC, a school calls and needs assistance with connecting the document camera, changing presets, or showing a PowerPoint. (FREE)


These services are included in the schools’ REMC membership.

  • ASK Programs. We offer our own ASK programs, and pay for our schools to participate in other ASK programs. We also purchase the books, (30 copies of chapter books; 2 copies of picture books), and make into kits that our schools can borrow to prepare for the program.
  • Collaborations. We run collaborative projects for our schools; we also support teachers in finding partners for the collaborations they want to do.
  • Other Events. We also offer programming such as Mrs. Claus interviews, Lest We Forget Veteran interviews, and other programs.
  • Content Providers. We create resources to help teachers find content provider programs: Grade Level Guides to VC (which need to be updated!); correlating programs to the Michigan Curriculum Framework, Favorite VC lists, etc. We also offer mini-grants to help pay for content provider programs (see funding below).


These services are included in REMC membership.

  • Grants for equipment. Finding and writing grants to acquire videoconferencing equipment.
  • Grants for programming. Finding funding from various sources to pay for programming.
  • Consulting. Helping schools take advantage of funding sources in their communities: foundations, PTA funds, etc.

Logistical Support

These services are also included in REMC membership.

  • Advertising. Almost weekly emails with different videoconference opportunities are emailed directly to teachers.
  • Scheduling. With few exceptions, all of the schools’ videoconferences are scheduled through us. Teachers just need to say what they want, and give us a range of dates & times they can do; and we arrange the rest. This takes a huge burden off the school staff. For one, we know all the ins & outs & procedures of the different providers. Also scheduling takes a lot of time. This saves our schools time.
  • VC Calendar and Reports. Our scheduling system also provides an online calendar that principals, tech coordinators, teachers, and VC coordinators can view to see the status of their videoconference requests. This system also provides annual reports on the use of VC in each district.
  • Advice. We also provide assistance and advice on solving school issues around using VC: placement of equipment, staffing challenges, assisting teachers when they freak out about their VC, etc.

I think that’s mostly it. What do you provide? Is there anything critical that I missed? What do you think is essential?

Kicking Off Videoconferencing in Your Area

On Wednesday this week, I had the privilege of talking to a group of media specialists from a county in Michigan that has very little access to videoconferencing. We started brainstorming ways they could get access to standards-based videoconferencing, and that got me thinking. What pieces do they need to have in place for a successful implementation. Here’s my initial list. What would you add?

Before any videoconference happens

  • Prep the network. Make sure videoconference will work well. Get quality of service. Iron out any networking issues. Give yourself a couple months leeway to work all this out. More details on this in a new 20 day challenge in January!
  • Test! Test from multiple classrooms if it’s a mobile unit. Try it out at different times of the day, and during different levels of network traffic. Make sure it’s going to work well all the time.
  • Select a VC coordinator. This could be a teacher, media aide, technology integration specialist, or similar position. The most important characteristic for the coordinator is willingness to schedule and the ability to get along with all the teachers. This person does NOT need to be a “techie”. More info about coordinators in our service area online here.
  • Train your VC coordinator. I provide all day coordinator training for my new coordinators, and we spend the majority of the time on the content: content providers, ASK programs, and collaborations. We also spend 30 min practicing dialing and using the remote, and discuss how to hook teachers on VC.

In the first year

  • Schedule a staff meeting demonstration. Do it early in the school year. Connect to a content provider or an author (Janie Panagopoulos is a great choice!) for a taste of what students will experience. Make sure it’s not a “talking head” but an interaction like the students would experience.
  • Require the school to schedule at least five videoconferences. Try to have them with 5 different teachers.

In the continuing years

  • Keep requiring at least five VCs.
  • In the first three years, try to get at least 5 different staff members through in depth training. I require my schools in grant implementations to participate in our online classes. The schools that have had staff participate in these classes are using VC more than the others.
  • Work to make sure the school experiences all the different kinds of programs: content providers, ASK programs, and collaborations. I have some schools that are still scared of collaborations. I can’t get them to do them! But if they have a view of the wide variety of VCs they can do, they are more likely to keep using it.
  • If you lose your coordinator, send another one to training. I make sure principals assign a new VC coordinator soon in the school year so the new person gets trained.

What else? What would be on your list?

Patterns of Busy Videoconferencing Days

Since I had so many videoconferences yesterday, I’ve been reflecting on the patterns of busy videoconference days, and quiet times in the school year.

Yesterday we had 23 videoconferences:

What makes the day before Thanksgiving holiday so popular as a videoconference day?

  • It’s a nice culmination for a unit
  • Kids are ready for something different and new
  • What else?

What makes the week after state testing so popular (lots of Monster Mayhems and ASK programs the last week of October)?

  • The pressure of state testing is off, time for some engaging learning experiences

What other times of the school year are busy and popular?

  • The week before Christmas (Mrs. Claus and other holiday themed VCs)
  • The week(s) of Read Around the Planet (a huge celebration)

What patterns are you seeing?

  • Celebration
  • Holidays
  • Breaks in the routine
  • What else?

As I’m reflecting on this pattern, I’m thinking about what other times of the year I could capitalize on this pattern. Particularly the week before spring break which in our service area, is the last week of March.

  • What are my classes studying then?
  • What might be a celebration of spring?
  • Maybe spring break / spring math problems?

I’m still thinking.

What do you think? Do you see patterns of high use in your area? What drives it? Are you capitalizing on it? How? Alternatively… how are you capitalizing or planning around the down times?

Continuum of Interactivity with Videoconferencing

In addition to a continuum of videoconferencing tools, there are other continuums related to the use of videoconferencing. Today, let’s examine the interactivity continuum…

Interactivity Continuum

Continuum of Interactivity

  • View only isn’t interactive at all!
  • Watching the other class present and not present back is not very interactive!
  • Presenting to each other is a step up.
  • Involving each other in the presentation is even better (by comparing and constrasting with Monster Mayhem, or solving measurement problems with Measurement Riddles, or researching an answer in MysteryQuest).
  • Hands-on activities are even more interactive: content provider programs featured in the pictures are: Magnificent Manatees, Gadget Works, and Butterflies.

Have you experienced this continuum? Where do most of your videoconferences fall along the line? Any other insights to share? Please comment!

Advertising Videoconferences to My Schools

In the last week or so, I’ve been working on switching my email list from a simple forwarding system to an email marketing service called MailChimp. So far, I’ve only been working on my local list so I can start sending my beginning of school-year email announcements. But I also plan to convert over my email lists for MysteryQuests, Lest We Forget, etc. This will make it easier for you to select which information/email ads you receive.

Why the Switch?

I’m switching two main reasons:

  1. Spam: Even in emailing my own teachers, I can get blacklisted for spam because it’s the same email going to multiple teachers in the same district. Mailchimp solves this problem.
  2. Targeting emails more specifically: with Mailchimp, my teachers can select their grade level(s) and subject area(s). This allows me to send 3rd grade information only to 3rd grade teachers, without a lot of extra work maintaining the list. Before Mailchimp, I had a K-5 list, a 6-8 list, and 9-12 list. When I told teachers about this possibility during workshops this summer, they were very happy!

Building the List

I know colleagues (maybe even you?) who can only email to tech directors, principals, and maybe media specialists/librarians. I’ve found people in these positions are often too busy to forward information to teachers. Ideally, you want to be able to get directly to the teachers, while still keeping tech directors, principals, and librarians in the loop if they so choose. My schools mostly have one of these scenarios:

  • A VC coordinator (teacher, media specialist, or media aide) who forwards my email ads to specific teachers or prints the info and takes it down to their classroom.
  • Most if not all of the teachers are on my email list as well as the VC coordinator. The tech director and principal only get involved if there is a problem or if money is needed.
  • A mix of the above.

My best results are from teachers who check their email often. Sometimes “deals” that I send fill up within a few hours of sending it out.

My list currently has 795 teachers! No wonder we’re doing 800-900 VCs a year! I have a lot of interested teachers!

Here’s how teachers get on my email list:

  • Every third year or so I send a paper sign up to principals and they fax it back.
  • I add teachers to my list when they sign up for a VC. (I have never had anyone complain about receiving info about VCs. They only want off the list when they retire.)
  • With Mailchimp, now they can sign up to get my email ads right from my website.

What Do I Send?

  • During September, I send ASK programs for the year, information about our mini-grants, featured content providers, and reminders of our preview calendar with all the projects and collaborations for the year.
  • After that, I send “deals” – i.e first 10 teachers to sign up for this program get it free; or free offers; or upcoming projects like Read Around the Planet. Mostly free things because by October, my mini-grant funding is usually used up.
  • I sent 74 ads last year from September 2009 to May 2010, which is about an average of 2 emails a week.

How Do You Promote VC?

What methods do you use to promote videoconferencing to your schools? Please comment and share! What works best?

Upgrade to our Distance Learning Room

Yesterday and today I’ve been teaching several sessions on videoconferencing & Skype to our annual Berrien RESA Tech Camp. I’ve been super excited because I got to teach with our new upgraded room!

It’s actually not as upgraded as some of you can afford, but I’m still excited!


So first, here’s what it looked like before.

This 60 inch monitor was part of a Goals 2000 Grant installation in 1999. Look at how the colors were bleeding apart in the top right. Very annoying!


Of course, now, this is Michigan, and we’re out of money! So the upgrade was actually driven by the Smart award presentation given to MACUL Educator of the Year winners. The award included a Smart Board, projector, clickers, slate, document camera, as well as all the software. I’ve been so excited because I wanted to figure out how to get desktop videoconferencing working on an interactive whiteboard.

Last Friday, just in time for tech camp, the last piece was finished in the DL room – mounting the Smart Board, building a cabinet for the Polycom VSX 7000. Here’s what it looks like in a “standards based” videoconference with the Polycom just dialed out to my office unit.

(Apologies for the cell phone quality picture.)

Here’s what it looks like in a Skype call with Roxanne Glaser for my workshop today. I circled the Logitech webcam so you could see where that is.

Next I want to figure out how to use a long USB extension cable to mount the webcam somewhere close to the monitor for whole class connections. Although, the more I play with Skype / desktop VC, I think it’s nicer to be able to pick the webcam up and move it around as needed (sort of like manual presets! ha!).

So that’s my new distance learning room. The monitor hanging in the ceiling came out. The pole in the middle of the room came out. It’s a lot cleaner-looking and much more flexible now. Yay! And, now we can do Smart Board training in this room too!

I know, I know. A “real” upgrade would mean upgrading to HD videoconferencing. Well that’s on the list, but for now I’m happy with this!

Hovering Makes Videconferencing Look Hard

Do you know any techs who insist on being “onsite” for every videoconference?

I’m coming to the conclusion that hovering makes it look hard. If the tech has to come out for every videoconference, how can the teacher or media aide feel that they can do it themselves?

The fact is, teachers can use the VC remote on their own!

A teacher in Jazz Workshop uses the videoconference remote.

In the Jazz Workshop, on Monday afternoon, we send participants off to small groups to practice dialing, moving the camera, setting presets, and adjusting the volume. On their own! And they do fine!!

Here is a comment from a teacher participating in the July Jazz 2010 workshop. Emphasis is mine.

There are a plethora of resources to enhance learning with students with videoconferencing.  Why haven’t I used these resources before?  Fear of technology is the response. However, after this workshop, my perception has been changed.  It is easy to use the equipment and find a videoconference appropriate for your classroom.

I came into this class very apprehensive about videoconferencing.  I wasn’t sure I could run the equipment and felt it was going to be over my head. However, I feel I have grown so much as a VC newbie!  I feel comfortable looking for programs, filling out registration forms, and confident in my ability to be a leader in our building.  I am really excited about sharing this information with our school through a staff meeting or allowing teachers to come in and observe during a videoconference.

How do we help teachers move past their fear?

  • Give them the remote!
  • Let them play with it!!
  • Give them short, easy cheatsheets and let them practice in a non-threatening environment (i.e. first when they aren’t in front of kids!)
  • Help them see how easy it us!

What do you think? Do you agree? How do you reduce the fear for your teachers?

Other Ways to Evaluate

This year, I decided I wanted more than numbers to evaluate my videoconference program. So I created two surveys, one for teachers who participated in a videoconference, and another for teachers who did not participate in a videoconference. So far, I have 54 responses and am hoping to get more before the end of the school year.

Here is what I asked my teachers:

If they participated in a videoconference this year:

  • What benefits do you see to your students in using videoconferencing?
  • Which videoconferences do you want to do again next year?
  • Which videoconference(s) were NOT good and not worth your time?
  • Are there any other topics that you wish there was a videoconference for?
  • Any other comments?

If they did NOT participate in a videoconference this year:

  • Have you ever done a videoconference in the past?
  • What videoconference(s) do you wish you could participate in next year?
  • What do you need to be able to participate in a videoconference next year?
  • Any other comments?

I also collected some demographic data: grade level, subject area, name & district.

So far I am getting interesting feedback, and hope that it will give me good data to plan programs and events for next year…

What questions are you asking YOUR teachers?

Evaluation: Comparing Against National Data

Yesterday we talked about comparing our end of year report numbers to last year’s data and between schools and districts.

What about comparing your data to national data?

Graph by nDevilTV

In the spring of 2008, many of you contributed to my dissertation study focusing on videoconference coordinators and the use of videoconference in K12 schools.

When you look at your end of year data, it might be useful to compare it to the data from this study.

Three measures

There are three ways to measure your videoconferences to compare against this data:

  • Total videoconference events (professional development, meetings, and student events, excluding daily courses) divided by the number of students times 100 to get a whole number.
    (Total events / #students * 100)
  • Total student events (projects, collaborations, content providers, etc; excluding daily courses) divided by the number of students times 100 to get a whole number.
    (Student events / #students * 100)
  • Percent of teachers using videoconferencing.
    (#Teachers who used VC / total#teachers)
  • You can add a fourth by adding these measures together.

Comparison Data

In my dissertation study (277 respondents from six countries and 31 U.S. states), the utilization statistics were:

  • Total events/# of students *100: ranged from 0 to 60 with a mean of 4.
  • Student events/# of students: ranged from 0 to 67 with a mean of 4.
  • Percentage of teachers using videoconferencing: ranged from 0 to 100% with a mean of 26%.
  • Total Utilization Score: The three added together: ranged from 0 to 180 with a mean of 35.

So, you can aim for the mean, or you can aim for the highest range. Either way it will give you a feel for how your program is doing in comparison with the respondents to my research study.

Sample Analysis

For the fun of it, I took the data from one of my high use elementary schools. This was a 2nd-3rd grade building with 16 regular classroom teachers. They did 63 VCs this year.

  • Total events: 63/404 students *100 = 15.6
  • Student events: the same. No PD or meetings this year. 15.6
  • Percent of teachers using VC: 14/16 of the regular classroom teachers used VC: 87.5%
  • Total Utilization Score: 118.7 (which is nicely higher than the mean of 35; but not quite as high as the top 180 score in my study).

On the other hand, I have a couple schools who didn’t use it at all this year. So don’t think that all is rosy and perfect in my corner of the world!

What do you think? Is this a fair comparison? Does it weight the percent of teachers using it too much? How does your school compare? How would you measure total utilization?

(and don’t forget, I’m not counting daily full length shared classes because they skew the data)….