Tag Archives: Change

A New LifeSize Express Arrived Yesterday Afternoon!

Yesterday afternoon we were privileged to receive a grant through Views On Learning to receive a new LifeSize Express system, plus a really cool Ergotron cart and 50 inch display.

Views on Learning, Inc. (VOL) is a registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation established to provide our Educational Broadband Service (EBS) schools with distance education opportunities that meet the requirements of NCLB and improve student learning.

Thank you to Jeff Gangloff and Les Turner of Views On Learning for coming to install our new HD videoconferencing system! We’re excited to partner with Views on Learning to bring engaging learning opportunities to more students via videoconferencing. I’m looking forward to facilitating the Jazz workshop this summer from this system too.

One of our elementary schools was also able to receive a grant through Views on Learning. You can read more about that here.

Hooking Teachers on Videoconferencing

The perennial challenge of videoconferencing is to get teachers to use it! They have so many good reasons to resist using it! If you’re just getting started, here are some ideas to get past that first block.

Select a Couple Teachers

Think about who you could start with. Pick someone who:

  • Willing to try something new
  • Flexible
  • Based on content/what’s available

Ask Teachers Questions

As you try to find videoconferences that meet curriculum and teacher interests, ask your teachers these three questions from Linda McDonald.

  • Ask what about the critical target objectives based on testing data.
  • Ask about areas of curriculum that teacher think are important but don’t seem to have time to teach.
  • Ask which content students struggle understanding.

Plan on a Progression of Support

Start off with a very high level of support, and then slowly teach your teachers additional skills so they are more independent.

  1. In the first year, or at least for the very first videoconference, do everything for your teachers. Register for them, give them prep information and help them know how to prepare, remind them a few times before the VC, connect for them and run the camera / remote for them.
  2. As soon as you can, teach your teachers how to do their own registrations.  Keep assisting with connections  and using the remote.
  3. Next, start handing the remote to the teachers and have them mute/unmute, move the camera, and use presets during their VC. Help them set the presets before the VC.
  4. Finally, teach them how to dial on their own too!

Through all of this progression, staying available to assist is critical for the sustainability of the use of videoconferencing in your school/area.

Your Turn

What about you? What tips do you have for hooking teachers on videoconferencing their very first time? Think of the last teacher you got started with VC. What was it that caught his/her interest? Please comment!

TxDLA: Inspiring Teachers' Use of VC

Here are links and resources for my first TxDLA presentation today (Inspiring Teachers’ Use of Videoconferencing):

Other blog posts on working with teachers:

Feel free to comment or ask questions!

Day 20: Why We Use Video Conferencing in K-12 Classrooms

This post continues our 20 Day Challenge to understand the technical aspects of videoconferencing, particularly the section on dialing.

Each January, we write these 20 Day Video Conference Challenges to share our experiences with others. In the early days of video conferencing, it was cumbersome and expensive. Today, we can have excellent H.323 quality connecting a variety of endpoints to different MCUs and other endpoints to create a smaller world for our students.

We have seen the power of effective curriculum video conferencing can have on student motivation and success. If the technology is not properly set up or does not work properly, that creates a barrier to implementation and educators who already have so many things that they are responsible for are going to be less likely to attempt to reach outside their classrooms.

Using advanced video conferencing technologies, we can create exceptional learning opportunities for students in rural schools, suburban schools and inner city schools. Each has a unique need that can be bridged with a quality curriculum video conferencing solution.

Here are links to assist you in continuing to Talk Like a Techie. It has been a learning experience for us as we researched and wrote this challenge and we hope that it has helped you in learning more about video conferencing.

Day 13: How to Dial with a LifeSize Remote

Day 11: How to Dial with a Polycom Remote

Day 12: How to Dial with a Cisco-TANDBERG Remote

Firewall Traversal Units
Day 7: Working With Your Firewall Traversal Unit

We also encourage you to review the past 20 Day Challenges:

If you have ideas or suggestions for future 20 Day Challenges, please comment! Or if you think we missed something from this technical challenge, we’d love to hear from you as well!
Team-written by Janine Lim, Shane Howard, and Roxanne Glaser. The opinions expressed in these posts are based on our collective video conference experience connecting classes across multiple networks to connect them to zoos, museums, experts and other classes during the past 10 years. This series of posts reflects our usage and understanding, not that of any vendor or manufacturer. No one is paying us to write these. We are just sharing what we have learned.

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?