Tag Archives: Collaborations

Exciting Changes in the VC Industry

Did you see these blog posts yesterday?

And, in other news:

All these changes raise several questions:

  • If schools want to connect to content providers and other classrooms globally, what should they buy?
  • If content providers want to upgrade their current systems or start providing programs for schools what should they buy? (Seems to me a LifeSize Passport might be an interesting choice for the ability to send high quality content to both H.323 advanced videoconference systems and to Skype. But does it have enough inputs for all the great visuals content providers share with us?)
  • Do all these changes make it so that teachers need less or more support figuring out how to connect to whoever they want to bring to their classroom? My gut is they need more. What do you think? Seems like full service support providers such as Whirlidurb can make this much more seamless for schools. The array of choices and options is getting dizzying!
  • If you were going to use videoconferencing for full length courses now, what kind of videoconferencing would you choose?

Your Turn

What questions and potential changes do you see from these developments? Please comment!

How to Expand a Collaboration: Poetry with England

Note: This is a real post; even though it’s April 1. 🙂

This week we’ve had 14 classes in England and Michigan connect together to share poetry! We’ve had performances, recitations with actions and motions, and even costumes! What a celebration of words! Thank you to Heather Hadfield for collaborating with us!

Note the technology is used to connect the students and to see and hear each other; but print materials are very important! Love the book and the map in this picture!

How to Run an Extended Collaboration

I thought it might be helpful for you to learn how we set this up so that you also can do more collaborations. I’ve used this strategy for many collaborations in the last few years. It’s one of the ways we provide programs to our schools.

Step 1: Preparation

  • Pick a partner: I started with someone I knew who also supports several schools using videoconferencing.
  • Pick a curriculum topic: We picked a topic that is in our curriculum and theirs: poetry.
  • Pick dates: This one was fun because our spring break is April 4-8; England is off for Easter from April 11-22; then they are off again for the royal wedding. We didn’t want to wait till May, so we picked this last week before our spring break. It was a little off because our schools do poetry in April, but we still had interest.

Step 2: Get Organized

I really prefer a wiki for this type of collaboration so that all the information is in a place where all the partners can access it. In 2009, I standardized all my project websites to make my work flow more efficient (anything to get more VCs!).

We worked together to set up a wiki with these essential components:

Step 3: Advertising and Registration

Next, Heather and I advertised to our teachers and schools.

  • Registration: When one of us found an interested teacher, we entered all the details on the scheduling page.
  • Pairing: If the teacher matched with one already listed, we matched up the pair.  If not, we made a new pair table on the page.
  • Confirmation letter: After a pair was complete, I used our confirmation letter template to send an email introducing the teachers to each other and giving additional directions.

Heather and I both subscribed to changes on the wiki, so we knew when new registrations came in that needed to be partnered.

Both of us reached out to particular schools and teachers to finish all the pairing.

It took us about two weeks to get every interested teacher matched.

Step 4: Test Calls

Sometimes when I do this type of collaboration, I’m collaborating with a region that we already know. Then we skip test calls entirely! This time though, we tested.

  • Set a date & time window: We picked a Friday morning my time; afternoon in England. Heather made sure the schools had their equipment on; I tested dialing out to them.
  • Skype: We talked on Skype. This removed the international phone calls from both sides; and made it easy to troubleshoot any issues that arose. We did have a few things to solve – mic cables, muting and unmuting, etc.

Step 5: Videoconference!

Finally, make the actual connections. We still stayed in touch this week.

  • Skype:We used Skype to solve any connection issues – and to communicate when the schools were up & running.
  • Feedback: We also shared with each other – mostly via Skype and email – any feedback or comments from the participating teachers.

Your Turn:

Have you done collaborations like this? What tips and tricks do you have to make it go smoothly? Please comment!

Career Interviewing Collaboration Idea

From the files and archives from our old website, I found this collaboration idea. It was written in our first year or so of doing VC in 2000-ish. Sharing here to archive it. Maybe you can build on this idea for your career classes?

Teacher Author of This Lesson Idea: Lisa Brady
School: Galien High School
Course: BST Core
Grade level: 9
Topic: Interviewing (a component of Career Planning)

Background: At Galien BST is team-taught by two teachers. We do very little with the interviewing portion of career planning. We sometimes will video tape the students interviewing with us. They are expected to dress as they would if they were on a real interview. They don’t take it very seriously—they know the two of us too well. We would like to have them interview with someone they don’t know and to see/critique others being interviewed.

Implementation: Students at participating schools would create a business and job opening to be advertised. They would need to create a background for their company, a job description, and then interview questions. Students at the other school would have to look at the job openings, fill out applications and submit resumes and letters of application, and then interview with ‘the boss’ from the other school. They would be expected to dress appropriately.

Additional comments: The research students do earlier could be used to develop their company. Applicant students would have to taylor their resume for the job they apply for.

Timeline/organization: Initial meeting to introduce companies/bosses-these should be prepared ahead of time with copies sent to the other school so students can look at them. After some intervening time, then we would have the interviews.

Issues to discuss/plan with participating schools:

  • Would we do this for every student?
  • Would each student develop a business/job opening and a job application/resume/interview (to be on both sides of the process)?
  • To do all students would require this to go on for several days. It might be better to somehow limit it to have it for 2 -3 days with maybe 3-4 interviews per day. Perhaps students could develop their business in small groups; although the interviewee would be alone but could be interviewed by a panel of interviewers.
  • Would we allow for a follow-up critique live or written; same day or later?

21st Century Communication with TWICE

Cross-posted with the MACUL conference blog.

Here are the resources and links featured in my session at MACUL, 21st Century Communication with TWICE.

We connected to Eagle Lake Elementary in Edwardsburg, for a feature of Where in Michigan; the ASK programs, and Read Around the Planet.

Next we connected to Mars Elementary, in Berrien Springs, for a feature of the Holiday Hoopla Snowman Swap.

Finally, we reviewed the TWICE Discounts with Content Providers / Field Trips, and the CAPspace website.

Read Around the Planet with Wales and Allendale

Cross-posted with the MACUL conference blog.

Karen Mosier is hosting the first session in the TWICE room this morning (W2-66!). The session is on Read Around the Planet, TWICE‘s signature global reading celebration.

A class from Allendale Michigan, is connecting with the Nant Celyn school, in Torfaen, Wales to show how a Read Around the Planet connection happens.

St. David's Day Parade Cardiff from Wikipedia

Both classes shared introductions about their communities.

Then the class in Wales described how they celebrate St. David’s Day. One of the students recited her winning poem from the poetry competition; and other students shared their poems as well. In one transition, we heard from the teacher:

Bear with us, we just had a bit of stage fright.

Of course educators and students can be encouraging for each other, even over videoconference!

The class in Wales sang their national anthem for us also!

The Allendale class shared math problems inspired by the book Math Curse.

They had prepared VoiceThread math problems; however, they discovered that the audio wasn’t clear enough, students talked too fast and too soft for the Wales students to understand. So they read the stories live instead.

During the connection they decided to email the math problems so the students in Wales could solve them. This is common during a Read Around the Planet connection – that the teachers end up negotiating further future collaborations based on their first connection.

Read Around the Planet celebrated the 10th anniversary this year. Hope YOU participate next year!

(And if you’re at MACUL and participated in Read Around the Planet, go to the Presenters’ booth and ask for the RAP star Read Around the Planet ribbon!)

Monster Mayhem and VC Tips with Whirlidurb

Cross-posted with the MACUL conference blog.

The last session in the TWICE room today at the MACUL 11 Conference was with Roxanne Glaser of Whirlidurb, sharing how to participate in Monster Mayhem along with excellent tips for quality videoconferences.

As usual, Roxanne modeled excellent presentation and teaching strategies! While we experienced a Monster Mayhem collaboration from start to finish, we also learned five important tips:

  1. Make a sign to show your location.
  2. Use a document camera.
  3. Fake it! if you don’t have a document camera.
  4. Arrange your students’ seating.
  5. Create a space for the students to speak.

We saw examples, then we reviewed from the handout, and then we divided into teams to do all 5 during the VC! I’m sure everyone remembers now!

Roxanne explaining the 5th tip: setting up a place for the speakers to talk – zoomed in & location sign.

Another example of student speakers location.

Roxanne puts us to work!

Roxanne’s version of Monster Mayhem (the original VC version) is where each class makes a monster – usually 3D – and then works in groups to create the other class’ monster. During the videoconference, students look for similarities and differences and analyze the descriptions to see where the writing or following directions could have been improved.

If you want to learn more about similar videoconference opportunities, sign up for Whirlidurb’s mailing list!

Stories from the Classroom: Our First Year of Videoconferencing

Cross-posted with the MACUL conference blog.

It’s Thursday afternoon and Danielle Letter is hosting a session in the TWICE room called Stories from the Classroom: Our First Year of Videoconferencing. We are videoconferencing with a class in Bridgeport-Spaulding and they are sharing about all the videoconferences they’ve done this year.

Guess Who

First the students explained about a project they participated in – the class connected to a class in Canada. Each student had written descriptions of themselves and they had to figure out who was who from the descriptions. Danielle had posted this in CAPspace to get a partner. Here’s a snippet of the collaboration and you can read the whole thing here.

Students will begin preparation for their connection by drawing their face using principles of Art. After the drawing is done, students will write a short descriptive piece about their art detailing their characteristics.

On the day of the connection students will gather in groups and each teacher will show one drawing. After reading the description, students from the connecting site will guess which student created the drawing and writing. Finally classes will have time to get to know each other through questions and answers.

Native American Beads

Next the students shared about how they learned about Native American Beadwork talking to an expert at the Hartley Outdoor Learning Center. They learned all about Native Americans and created their own bead necklaces.

Monster Match

Next some students described about their Monster Match project. They connected to a class in Pennsylvania. Each student drew a colorful monster and described it. During the session two or three students from each class describe their monster while everyone tries to draw it. You can read the full description of the collaboration in CAPspace here.

Experiencing It!

After the students described their videoconferences, we got to experience them with the students.

For Guess Who, we saw a self-portrait that student had drawn, and then listened to the characteristics. Then we picked the student from a group of 5 students. After that the group of students introduced themselves. We did this several times. Here’s what it looked like. Students were lined up and we were guessing which student:

Then the students shared why they liked distance learning:

  • We get to see people on camera from other places.
  • We get to see different objects (from the Native Americans session).
  • We learn lots of new stuff.
  • 100% more fun than a paper!
  • We get to learn about other states and countries.

After this, we tried out the Monster Match. One of the students gave us directions and we followed as shown:

After this, the audience asked the students & teacher questions. Great interaction and the audience was enthralled and engaged during the whole session. One of the 1st grade teachers in the audience said this was the best session I’ve been to because I got to color! Great work, Danielle Letter, TWICE President!

Around the World in 80 Clicks BYOL Resources

Welcome to my MACUL BYOL participants! The session is called Around the World in 80 Clicks (with thanks to Silvia Tolisano).

Here is the link to many Skype resources.

Handouts were:

Collaborative VCs Wiki with lesson ideas

Assignment: Please use the comment feature below to document your plans for using Skype in your classroom.

  • What ideas do you have?
  • Where do you want to connect?
  • What do you want to learn from/with another class?

Designing Quality Projects MACUL Hands-On Session

Here are links to resources and projects mentioned in my Designing Quality Videoconference Projects hands-on session at MACUL 2011.

Featured Projects

Collaboration Examples

TWICE Resources

Other Collaboration Tools

Good luck with your future videoconference collaborations and projects!

Read Around the Planet Lesson Plan

Finishing up my 21st Century Communication Collaborations class, with some great lesson plans created by the teachers. One of the participants, Kristen Dow, from Mars Elementary, Berrien Springs Public Schools, used her Read Around the Planet videoconference as her project in the class. Her lesson plan is a great example of how to tie the Read Around the Planet videoconference to what you’re studying in class! Enjoy:

Title: Read Around the Planet – Sharing the poetry process

Description: Students will share poetry and the writing process with a partner class. Students will increase awareness of the simple process of creating a free-verse poem by sharing their own writing experiences.

Grade: 2

Subject: Reading/Language Arts

Outcomes: To expose students to a variety of writing genre, including various ways poetry is written. Students will experience another type of writing as they go through the process of learning to create a free-verse poem. Students will be able to choose a subject, create a web, and place words appropriately to create his/her own poem.

Prep. Time: 3-4 weeks depending on how much time a day/week is devoted to writing.


  1. Poetry books
  2. Poetry notebook. (we make one with construction paper and lined writing paper.)
  3. Close Your Eyes poem. (attached)
  4. Poetry Suitcase take-home letter. (attached)
  5. Small bag or suitcase for items.
  6. Droopy dog poem, alligator poem, hamster poem.(attached)
  7. 2-3 favorite poems of teachers along with objects that represent that poem.
  8. 5 items for Poetry Museum.
  9. Goldfish or Fireworks poems (attached)
  10. Chart paper and construction paper.
  11. Crayons, markers, and/or colored pencils


1. Gather various poetry books from the library. Have books available for students to look through during independent reading time. Share poems, reading them and discussing the way they sound, do they rhyme, how do the words look on the page, etc. Do this for approximately one week. During this time have the students mark a poem they really like with a post-it note. Run these poems off. These should be placed in their poetry notebooks. Students should cut/paste them in and write why they liked the poem.

2. Begin to introduce three types of poems. Start with Droopy Dog and notice the way it has a rhythm to it. You can clap, or snap while saying it. Practice poem and say it together creating rhythm. (1 day writing lesson)

3. Introduce poems that help you visualize something. Read students Alligator poem. Have them listen a few times, closing their eyes once. Immediately send them to their seats to sketch what they “see” in their minds. Give only 10 minutes for sketching and coloring in. You can do this with another poem that sets up visuals on a second day. (1-2 days lesson)

4. Introduce poems that bring out a feeling. Read Hamster and talk about the way it makes the reader feel. Review the three types of poems. (1 day lesson)

5. Introduce the Poetry Suitcase. Share the items you brought in and read the corresponding poem. I always pretend I put on my “Poet’s Eyeglasses” for the first time that day. I tell the kids they help me use my imagination and see all the different possibilities in an object. They help me look at the objects I take out of the suitcase and think of lots of different things the poem could be about. (1-2 days writing lessons)

6. Introduce Poetry Suitcase letter. Students take home a copy of the poem they chose for their notebook and parent letter. Give 3-4 days for them to practice reading poem at home and to collect an item for the poetry suitcase. As students bring in items, the suitcase gets filled with their poems (I keep a copy of their favorite poem too) and their objects. Throughout the coming days we take objects out and talk about them through poet’s eyes and students read their poems.

7. Poetry Museum – during one of our lessons we set up a poetry museum of 5 different items (I used a small solo cup, a straw, salad tongs, a turkey baster, and a holder for corn-on-the-cob). I place each in a different spot and number them 1-5. We then use our notebooks and number 1-5 and walk around the room silently looking at each object and imagining what it could be; even if we know what it is we look at it through Poet’s eyes. We then come together and share. It is amazing the great ideas that they have! They get so creative! I end this lesson by having them circle the idea they like the best. (1 day lesson)

8. Copy Close Your Eyes poem in your notebook at beginning of lesson. Practice reading and talk about the way the words have been chosen to sit on the lines. It is the “music” that the poet chose. The way he/she wanted it be read. We look at the Goldfish poem and talk about it and how it sits on the lines too. Practice reading it. (1 day lesson).

9. Have students partner and use the Fireworks poem to take the words and place them on lines so that they make “poetry music”. Share all the various ideas and then read/share the actual poem. (1 days lesson)

10. Choose one idea from the poetry museum and put it on the chart paper. As a class, make a web of everything about that word that you can think of. Then take the ideas put them in phrases and place them on lines so that they make the poetry music! You have a class poem!(1 day lesson)

11. Now it’s time to write your own. In the poetry notebook have students take the idea they circled and make a web of ideas. Then take those ideas and using phrases make a poem! It’s amazing the poems that come out of that first day. It’s the prep. work ahead of time and the poetry examples that make this work so great. Teacher types poems and children illustrate their work!


As the video conference approaches, teacher and students plan who will share. The three types of poems, rhythm, image, and feeling will be shared. The class poem and 3-4 individual poems will be shared. Introductions about our community and weather and school should be put on poster board. Students can work in pairs. Questions for Q & A should be developed as a class and assigned to individuals. Students from other countries should partner to make and color flags that represent their country.

Students are responsible for posters and flags and questions. Teacher is responsible for poetry process and assigning parts.

Our media specialist tests the connection and gets all of the equipment ready for our use. We display the posters on a document camera and she gets presets ready so that we not only view the whole class, but also the speakers up close and their posters.


Debbie Bryant came up with the idea of the student’s from various country’s making the flag that represents his/her country. She used it for her VC and it worked out great.

The above lesson plan is far more than just what happens for the VC, but with this lesson it is really in the pre-work that poetry is taught. What we share in the VC is a culmination of this 4-6 weeks project. It is a fun writing lesson, very much enjoyed by the children. It is based off of the Lucy Calkins writing program that our school uses. The poetry museum and poetry suitcase are add-ons to the Calkins poetry book.

Poems used in lesson:

Close your eyes.
Don’t peek.
Close them tight,
tight so it’s
dark, dark
Till you see something
in sight.
Close your eyes
don’t peek.
and see a poem.

Droopy Dog
Drippy dog, droopy dog,
Sloppy, slurpy tongue,
Playing in the puddles
Just for fun.
Chewing all the people’s shoes,
Chew, chew, chew.
Watch your tinkly, winkly toes,
So it doesn’t chew you.

The Alligator
The alligator chased his tail
Which hit him on the snout;
He nibbled, gobbled, swallowed it,
And turned right inside-out.

My hamster died on Saturday
I touched him. He didn’t squirm.
He died without telling me.
My hamster died on Saturday.

Goldfish flash gold and silver scales.
They flick and slip away under green weed-
But round brown snails stick to the glass and stay.

Gold and silver scales;
They flick and slip away
Under green weed—
But round brown snails
To the glass
And stay.


Dear Parent(s),

Attached you will find a poem that your child selected as a “favorite” from a collection of poetry books we have been reading through. As a part of our study on poetry, we talk about images and visualizing. I put together a “suitcase” with items in it that represent some of my favorite poems. We then selected items from the suitcase and I shared the corresponding poem.

This week it is your child’s job to practice reading his/her poem and to select an item from home (or make one!) that he/she feels best represents what the poem is about. We will then put the object into the suitcase and take objects out, a few a day, and try to guess what the poem is about. It will be your child’s job to read his/her poem!

Please send the items in no later than _________________and have your child be prepared to read his/her poem by that date too. We will spend the week looking through out poetry suitcase! It is sure to be lots of fun!! Thank you for your help!

Mrs. Dow