Tag Archives: videoconferencing

Day 17: Top 5 Basic Network Troubleshooting Tips

This post continues our 20 Day Challenge to understand the technical aspects of videoconferencing.

No Internet, No Videoconference. A phrase we often say to the teachers and educators we support. So in today’s post, let’s look at some basic things to check when you can’t connect anywhere.

1. Is the Internet working in the school/district?

Power outages, cut cables, big storms. You never know what will take out your Internet connection. If you don’t have Internet anywhere in the school, your videoconference isn’t going to work either!

2. Is the Ethernet cable connected and in good condition?

  • Follow the Ethernet (Internet) cable from the videoconference system to the wall Ethernet jack. Is it plugged in? Is it mangled looking? If the cart rolls over the cable too many times, the cable might not be functioning properly.

3. Is there activity on the link or status lights?

  • Check the link and status lights next to the spot where the Ethernet cable plugs in on the videoconference system. Are they on? Are the blinking? If not, you’re not plugged into a live jack.
  • It’s a good idea to label the correct jack in the wall. Double check with your district technical support personnel to make sure that it is the correct one.

4. Can you call outside your school/district/network?

  • Have a list of test sites handy.
  • Call to one or more test sites and see if you get audio and video.
  • Make sure both sites trying to connect are able to connect to a test site.

5. Did you give the correct IP address?

  • Note to network/VC people: set up the endpoint so that it shows it’s public IP on the front page. It’s not the end user’s fault if they take the IP off the screen to give out their number and it’s a 10. internal address!
  • Make sure you know your own IP address. It is usually listed on the front screen of your videoconference system.
Finally, double check your NAT or firewall settings to make sure they are configured correctly.


Your Turn

  • What tips do you have to share for troubleshooting your videoconference?
  • Any other common problems you’ve run into? Please share!

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.

Day 20: Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Well, here we are at the end of another 20 Day Challenge for videoconferencing. Let’s review, reflect, and look to the future…


  • In the first week, we focused on Read Around the Planet, with tips, tricks, and suggestions for a quality experience.
  • We spent a few days on responding to projects posted by others, and how to manage “exploding” projects that get out of control.
  • We talked about how projects can bridge the gap between idea and actual implementation; and examined the different aspects of running your own projects.
  • Finally, we spent some time on best practice for collaboration and managing your work load.


Here are some questions to get you started on your reflection:

  1. What did you learn in the last twenty days?
  2. What is one tip that you plan to implement yet this school year?
  3. What is your next step?

It has been a learning experience for me too! It is always helpful to reflect, review, and improve my practice. My take-aways are:

  1. Time to review my habits to streamline and clean up my procedures!
  2. Best practices for using wikis to manage projects.
  3. All the tips for managing email: Day 8, Day 14, Day 16, Day 19.

What about you? Feel free to comment!

Looking Down the Yellow Brick Road

So what is down the road in your future? Where will you apply your learning? Where will you keep learning? Here are some suggested new paths:

Participate in upcoming spring projects

Deepen your learning

  • Review the templates in the Projects Booklet. Is there a format that you could tie to your required curriculum? Do it with 4 -6 teachers to apply what you’ve been learning.
  • Beef up the interaction in your upcoming Read Around the Planet sessions. Don’t just “present” to the other class. Get them involved. Review the interaction tips in the RAP Teacher packet; review the series on applying research based instructional techniques to your videoconferences.
  • Look around you. Find a partner to team-organize projects between your schools. Learn with and from each other.

Finally. Please comment and tell us what you learned during this challenge!

Day 19: So You Think You Can Multitask?

Once you get involved in the videoconference world of collaborations and projects, your work life speeds up tremendously. The more people you meet and the more connections that you begin making, the more you will do. Connections multiply quickly. Many things are grabbing at your attention: Twitter, Facebook, meetings, reports due, trainings to conduct, test calls, teaching, supporting teachers, etc. Add to that the 24 hour news cycle and your family and life becomes crazy busy.

If you’re interrupting your family life and you are consistently not finishing tasks and missing deadlines, turn off your email and read through the following articles to make your own action plan.

The Myth of Multitasking

Debunking The Myth of Multitasking from Dave Crenshaw. Crenshaw explains the difference between “backtasking” like watching TV while running on a treadmill vs. “switchtasking” like trying to talk on the phone at the same time as composing an email. He proposes the following as solutions to regaining your sanity.

  • Take control over technology—Every device you own has an OFF button. Don’t be afraid, turn them off so you can think. If you are having phantom beeps and vibrations from your phone/device, you have it on too much.
  • Schedule what you can schedule—Set regular times in the day to check your voicemail and email. Careful when you peek into the Inbox. It will suck you in and six hours later, you will still be at it.
  • Focus on the person—When you switchtask when dealing with a computer, you simply lose efficiency. But if you switchtask on a human being, you additionally damage a relationship. Be present, listen carefully, and make sure everything has been taken care of before moving on.

How To Chart for quality over quantity Check your email at 10:00, 1:00, and 4:00. No evening or weekend email.

The Myth of Multitasking The great info is in the comments. Explaining how subtasks make up a complex task and it is not really multitasking, but subtasking.

The $10 answer from Google about the research supporting NOT multitasking

What happens when you go from one project to 5 projects? Love this post from way back in 2006.

How Can This Improve Your Life

  1. Organize test calls at a specific time of day or day of the week.
  2. Standardize responses for test calls or other frequently performed emails.
  3. Understand background tasking vs. switchtasking. Quit switchtasking.

What Tools Can Help With Productivity


Before you groan about another login and password, go to their site and watch the intro videos. Here are some of the reasons I am using it.

  • Paul can use it on a Droid. Janine can use it on her Touch. Pretty much any device connected to the cloud.
  • You can tweet to Evernote!
    1. Follow @myen
    2. Link accounts
    3. Send public tweets, DMs, or Twitpics. Awesomeness!
  • Import Google Notebook into Evernote. Since Google killed Notebook, now I can too!
  • Share folders with friends!
  • No more emails to myself from myself!

RSS and iGoogle

I subscribe to Google alerts, wiki updates, Google forms, blog posts, etc via widgets in my iGoogle homepage with tabs for different projects and it is the dashboard of my digital life. Think of how to create an organized filter of relavent information.

Do you still contend that you can effectively multitask? What is your favorite productivity tool? Please share.

Day 18: 7 Steps to Better Collaboration

Today’s post about better videoconference projects has absolutely nothing to do with networks or hardware. Collaboration skills can definitely be learned and developed. Here are seven ways to become a better collaborative partner for projects for your teachers.

Read Your Email

And respond to your email in a timely manner. Just do it. So many times when the Inbox is flooding in, I just sit there and read through 100 emails. Set aside time and plow through them. If you can do it in under 2 minutes, do it. If it takes longer, put it in the “Next Steps” folder. Be sure to get a block of time to work on that, too. Learn more about Inbox Zero from Merlin Mann.

Be Reliable

Complete assigned tasks, communicate clearly, don’t disappear, follow through.

Make Suggestions

Be sure to listen first and think about how you might suggest to do something differently.

Be Flexible

Life happens. Kids get sick. Severe weather changes schedules. Cats throw up. Cars break down. You never know what might delay or disrupt the best laid plans. Extend grace and understanding to your partners. It might be you needing it in the near future.

Contribute Passionately

Only do things that matter to you. If you really don’t care, don’t do it. That sounds harsh, but if you really don’t care and you are just going through the motions, you will end up disappointing another class or group that are depending on you for a connection.

Give Credit

If it is not yours, don’t pretend that it is. If you use a structure and adapt it to your teachers and your curriculum, give a link back or a note of whose work it is based on. Also, make sure that you tell your teachers and students when they ROCK! I loved when Karen McCollough shared “There is enough “rock” to go around!” in her keynote at TxDLA conference last year. So true!

Know Your Strengths

I love to tinker with design. I truly enjoy editing and making things look good easily understandable. I do not like to be the originator. I will do it, but I prefer to work with someone who can generate a great deal of ideas and let me tinker and polish them. I flourish in teams where I can contribute those skills.

What are some examples and non-examples of effective collaborators?

Day 16: Type Unto Others

As we enter our final week of this year’s challenge, we will share email tips and tune ups for you to use to better support teachers with collaborations. Email is quick and convenient, but can also be the source of frustration and miscommunication.

Email Signature

Some organizations have standardized email signatures and some do not. If your organization does not have one, be sure to set yours up in your email to include information that your partners would need to be able to reach you.

Name (first and last)
Email address
School Name
City, State


  1. Use a courteous greeting and closing. “Hey, Whassssuuuup?’ is not appropriate for work.
  2. Use standard capitalization and punctuation. ALL CAPS IS SHOUTING. all lower case with no punctuation is lazy you are not ee cummings
  3. Accurate subject line: RAP Match #4354 Smithson and Markeson, NEW DATE and TIME.
  4. Keep emails brief. If ithe message gets long and convoluted, pick up the phone.
  5. Check your Trash or Junk folder for messages. Sometimes you will find a legitimate message there.

Top 5 Things That Multiply Email

  • Email History not enabled. It is essential to be able to see replies in context. “include original message text”
  • Leaving off your time zone. Always state the connection in BOTH times if you are working across time zones. 9:00 Eastern, 8:00 Central
  • Open-ended suggestions. What time do you want to test? I dunno. What time do YOU want to test? Doesn’t matter to me. I am available all day on Wednesday. Me, too.
  • Vague replies. “I have two teachers who want to connect.” Be specific. Mrs. Jameson would like to connect on Wed, January 15 at 9:00 Central (10:00 Eastern). Mr. Stevenson can connection on Thursday, January 16 at 10:30 Central (11:30 Eastern)
  • Coordinating multiple teachers or the same teacher wants to do something twice. Use the last name and the period. (Lim 3rd period and Lim 5th period)

Bottom line: Treat others as you wish to be treated. Be kind. Be respectful.

Day 14: Key Communications for Project Success

Once you have a wiki set up with all the elements of your project, you will need to think about how to communicate with your partner(s).

Confirmation Letter

This letter is important to begin communication with partners. Timely and succinct communication is imperative. Always include the time zone. I try to always copy the technical contact on any communications to teachers, so that they are in the communication loop.

  • Project title, date & time (including ZONE)
  • Test call date & time (including ZONE) & connection details
  • Preparation information
  • Action Items: what to do next (including any benchmark dates)

Other optional components:

  • Information about recording and video releases (if applicable… I’ve been trying to record more to get examples to put online)
  • Contact information for partner teacher (for exchanges)
  • Suggested agenda (if not already determined/facilitated)

Test Call Reminder

Sometimes I combine the test call and preparation reminders.

  • Project name
  • Test call date & time
  • Connection info: IP, dial direction, trouble # to call

Preparation Reminder

Not all projects get a preparation reminder. MysteryQuests do for sure. Lots of reminders about presentation preparation and teachers really appreciate that!

  • MysteryQuest projects: don’t forget to send in your city-state / city-country / history-mystery
  • MysteryQuest projects: Tips on making clues, presenting clearly, making sure all the clues are included, a reminder to make a visual for revealing the answer
  • Encouragement!!
  • Timeline for when different parts of the project need to be completed.

Post-Project Email

  • Thank you for participating
  • Stats on the success/participation
  • Link to evaluation form
  • Link to a blog post about the project.
  • What else?

Challenge: When you get those confirmation emails from content providers or collaborators, keep a folder with really good examples to model yours after.

Day 13: Wikis for Teachers: The 4-1-1

By Roxanne Glaser

I can remember when I first heard the word wiki. I giggled and thought, “That is the goofiest sounding word” and went on about my business of emailing something or another. Then one day someone invited me to write on their wiki and it was so easy! When I also discovered how to track changes with the history, RSS feeds or even with email, I was completely in love with wikis and have been ever since. Here is a short video about the power of wikis.

The most effective way to learn is to take a bit of information and then do something with it. So let’s get going.

Step 1: Learn from Others

Here is a template for a project wiki that I created so that my teachers can have a standardized webpage to find information. Teachers are too busy to have to hunt for the information needed to participate in a project. Use a consistent format. This template also has links to how different organizations use wikis to manage their projects.

Step 2: Play with a Wiki

After you look at best practice samples, it is time to play and tinker with a wiki. I created this Teacher 411 wiki for anyone to edit. It is set so that you do not have to have an account, just follow the link and start editing. There are specific tasks listed on the wiki for you practice.

Step 3: Make your Own

Now set up one of your own. Wikispaces has free upgrades for teachers. Enjoy!
Get your free educator wiki at http://www.wikispaces.com/site/for/teachers

If you find another example of an effect wiki used for project management, add the link the comments below.

If you are totally new to collaborative projects and/or would like step by step assistance making a collaborative project happen, from start to finish, sign up for Kid2Kid Videoconference Connections, a six week online course beginning January 25.

Day 10: How Do I Work with Wikis?

Why Not Email

I hate email. While it is so easy to shoot off a quick email to someone, it is not always the most efficient way to manage or participate in collaborative projects.

In the beginning of MoNSteR MaTcH, I used email for everything. Registration was done by emailing me. Confirmations were emailed to the teachers. Teachers emailed descriptions to each other and copied me on those so I could keep track of them. I emailed other people to participate in their projects.

Many times not everyone is included on the email. Some people don’t have their email programs set to include the original text with the reply, so when I get the message, “Yes, that date and time will work for me” with no original text, I would have to begin the email excavation to try to determine the context.

Why Wikis

Currently, there are three different ways that we are using wikis to support projects. You will have to trust that the people running the project are really watching the wiki. Wikis are monitored by using RSS feeds or getting emails.

Weather Buddies (all one page project)

  • Click edit.
  • Use guest username and login.
  • Add your details for you teachers.
  • Click save.
  • You will get a confirmation email when the project manager is notified that the wiki has been edited.

Goods & Service (need 5 classes) (one wiki project – participating classes)

  • Click Participating Classes
  • If you see a spot that will work for one of your teachers, click “Join this Wiki” at the top left.
  • Enter a comment. “I have a class that would like to participate in this project.” and click Request Membership.
  • Once you have access to the wiki, go back to the participating classroom page. Click EDIT and add your teacher’s information. Click SAVE.
  • You will get a confirmation email when the project manager is notified that the wiki has been edited.

Monster Match (page to edit)

Wikis ROCK for MoNSteR MaTcH because it helps me make sure all the descriptions are exchanged in a timely manner.

  • Go to the Participating Classes page.
  • Find your last name. Click it.
  • Look at the top right and click the EDIT button.
  • Copy your description from a word processing document and then paste it into the page.
  • Click Save.

Kid2Kid Footer for each post
If you are totally new to collaborative projects and/or would like step by step assistance making a collaborative project happen, from start to finish, sign up for Kid2Kid Videoconference Connections, a six week online course beginning January 25.

Day 8: I Responded to a Collaboration and It Was Already Filled!

So what do you do when you send a great idea out to your teachers; 3 of them respond; but then when you contact the person who created the collaboration, they already have a partner. No worries; you can manage this too!

  • Be a fast email checker. If you have too much stuff coming into your email, trim it. Route the junk to junk and the trash to trash so that you can process it quickly.
  • Check with your teachers. Do they still want to do the collaboration. Find out what date & time is the best for them to participate.
  • Email colleagues or schools within your area. I like to start with this strategy because we know we can connect our equipment and I can generally get a quick response. Put a date of when they need to respond by. ASAP is a bit vague. Do you mean ASAP today or ASAP by the end of the week? An actual date is better than four exclamation marks.

If you need to post the collaboration back to CAPspace, use good etiquette.

  1. Change the title to be sure you don’t confuse anyone involved in the first project. For example you could call the collaboration “Southwest Michigan Weather Buddies” instead of just “Weather Buddies.” Or think of another creative title.
  2. Give detailed times. Save yourself the negotiation time and just list the date & time you want to do the collaboration. Be specific. Example: April 22, 23, and 24 at 1:00 or 2:00 PM Central.
  3. Give credit to the educator who created it. If you choose Collaborations–>New–>Detailed, there is a field at the bottom for giving credit to another person.

To collaboration creators: As soon as you have partners, log back into CAPspace and change the status to FILLED. (Login–>My Projects –>My Current. Scroll and change the radio button under registration to “FILLED”.)

Your Turn:

  1. How do you deal with this issue of getting into a popular collaboration?
  2. How do you organize your email to be able to deal with it in a timely manner?

If you are totally new to collaborative projects and/or would like step by step assistance making a collaborative project happen, from start to finish, sign up for Kid2Kid Videoconference Connections, a six week online course beginning January 25.

Day 6: 5 Steps to Maximize Your Collaborations

Guest blogged by Roxanne Glaser

Last week, we began our challenge with how to participate in a project that has some support. This week, we will continue to focus on the Collaborations Around the Planet site, but focus on teacher-created collaborations.

Collaborations begin with an idea from a teacher. Be specific when entering your collaboration so that you will not have to email so much to establish a partnership. Videoconference collaborations can be more than just visiting with a guest speaker. Use the projects booklet to increase the educational value of your connections.

Step 1: Contact Information
Make sure that your name, email, phone number, and organization show correctly from your profile. (In CAPspace, go to My Profile to see what it looks like.)

Step 2: Create an Accurate Title
If you can be creative AND accurate that is great. Do not use special characters in it.
Example: Little House in the Big Woods Discussion

Step 3: Detailed-ish Description
You can create a collaboration from a template for a detailed plan, but the best way to start is simple. Here is an example.

Looking for a class in Wisconsin! My teacher is reading the book “Little House in the Big Woods” and would love to connect with a class in Wisconsin.

Just a few quick ideas for the video conference:

1) Sharing Favorite Day (of the week) Paragraphs (activity based on Ch. 2 Little House in the Big Woods when Laura shares her favorite days of the week,

2) Sharing Favorite Character Paragraphs (we usually do these when we are almost done with the book so that they have read several things about the characters in order to have a basis for their choice),

3) Compare and Contrast weather conditions in November in Texas and Wisconsin,

4) Sharing stories of how their imagination got the best of them (Ex. seeing/hearing something that wasn’t really there) (Based on Ch. 6 when Pa thinks he sees a bear because he had been thinking about them the whole time he was going in to town).

If you have an interested teacher, email rglaser@esc12.net.

Looking forward to working with you!

Step 4: Date Range
Instead of being completely open-ended add some specifics.
Example: November 16-20 any time beginning at 8:30 Central and ending by 11:00 Central (BE SPECIFIC!!)

Step 5: Final Details
Check grade, subject, equipment type, and website

There are additional fields where you can add learner outcomes, preparation time frame, activities, materials, responsibilities, and much, much more. You can get quite detailed, but for the beginners these 5 steps will save about 20 emails!

CAPspace will update Twitter and also email members daily and you will quickly get a response. Tomorrow, we will develop strategies for managing responses.


  1. Log into CAPspace–>My Settings–>About Me
  2. Enter your phone number, Twitter ID, school name, city, state/province, and country.
  3. Write a brief bio so that we know who you are.
  4. Click “Update Information”
  5. Go to Privacy and click Full Access so that other members can see who you are.

Your Turn:

  1. How do you find partners for collaborations?
  2. What is your favorite tip to increase your efficiency?

If you are totally new to collaborative projects and/or would like step by step assistance making a collaborative project happen, from start to finish, sign up for Kid2Kid Videoconference Connections, a six week online course beginning January 25.