Final Report Reflections

Final Report Numbers
Last week I posted our final report online and have been mulling over the implications since. Largely due to the RUS grant, our districts averaged a 400% increase in usage this year. We almost doubled our total usage across the whole service area for the second year in a row. This year 63% of our programs were free; the majority of those project or classroom-to-classroom connections.

Percentage of Teacher Use
However, while those numbers sound good, this year we looked at another number for the first time – percentage of teacher use. I have a couple elementary buildings where 100% of the teachers participated in at least one videoconference with their students; however the average across our two county service area is about 23%. This raises some questions in my mind.

  • Is it our goal to have every teacher use videoconferencing? Should it be? Some of my new RUS grant building coordinators want every teacher to use it. They are all in elementary buildings.
  • Middle and high school classes still prefer high end challenging content which is usually rare from content providers and it’s still impossible to pay for every class to participate in a program. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Is it possible to integrate enrichment videoconferencing across the board at the middle & high school level?
  • Middle and high school classes also don’t see the value of classroom-to-classroom connections as much as elementary teachers do. They want a higher curriculum bang for their buck (or time), and connecting to another school doesn’t always provide that. Is there a way to create curriculum-rich, challenging, free projects for middle and high school classes?

Use & Work Load
In addition, what seems to be high use from my perspective is only 23% of teachers in my service area. If 23% usage is driving me crazy and I can’t keep up; something has to change to make additional growth sustainable. At what point will my building coordinators also feel that it’s driving them crazy and they don’t want to support anymore connections? The work load of supporting videoconferencing (curriculum wise) is shared between the teachers, the building coordinators, and support from the ISD (me). How can we support this in a way that is sustainable and makes room for additional growth? I’m hearing from many of my RUS grant buildings that they are basically pleased with the results of the first year and hope to get more teachers involved next year. How do we sustain that growth & prepare for it?

Solutions
The plans simmering in my brain include the following:

  • Raising the district contribution to our mini-grants from $25 to $50 to spread the funds further.
  • Switching from supporting and making every connection to supporting only those that we’re running (i.e. MysteryQuest & ASK) and ones that the buildings have trouble connecting on their own. This is a huge shift for me and one that I wasn’t ready mentally for last September. But as my schedule filled up, I had to move to this model. Now we’re making it official policy. Are YOU ready for this change if you’re at an educational service agency? It’s coming your way too!
  • More professional development, specifically that which helps building coordinators schedule & troubleshoot on their own and helps teachers design projects & match up with partners.
  • Help my buildings become more independent. This is not only happening at my level; but at the district tech coordinator level as well. In several districts where the district tech coordinator used to help with every videoconference, they are now leaving it to the building coordinators and assisting only when there are problems.
  • Often more content & dream up more projects, especially for middle & high school classes. My challenge here is that I really can’t add more projects that I have to coordinate and facilitate the videoconference. The projects need to be point to point and the teachers need to be able to do it themselves (like Read Around the Planet). This means good high quality teacher packets for projects that tightly match the curriculum.

So how are you addressing and sustaining growth in your area? Do you see these same challenges? Do you think every teacher should use videoconferencing? Please comment!

0 replies on “Final Report Reflections”

  1. Arnie Comer says:

    Pretty impressive report. And the questions you raise are important ones. To have connected with 23% of the teachers in your service area is a tremendous accomplishment. While the goal is and should be 100% it will never be attained and maybe it shouldn’t. If video conferencing doesn’t fit the curriculum or even the teaching style of the teacher maybe it shouldn’t be used by them.

    I think meaningful DL events for Middle School can and should be developed. Facilitation is a problem. Maybe we can get to a shared facilitation model where people like us can share the facilitation duties. In that way you could have classes participate in a program I was facillitating while I had classes in an event you were facillitating at the same time.

    Cutting your teachers loose is hard but must be done if you want to grow the program. Hand holding is necessary early on but can’t be sustained at the ISD level much past the first year. But you do find yourself wondering what they are up to and wishing they would phone home once in a while.

  2. Hi! Janine,

    I’ve been reading your blog recently with great interest looking for ideas that I may use in my service area. I coordinate video conferencing in 12 counties in Southeastern Indiana my service territory includes 27 school corporations and 162 buildings. Obviously not all the buildings have IVC but I share your concerns about the use of video conferencing in the classroom.

    A 23% usage rate for IVC isn’t bad on average. I don’t know exactly how many of my customer schools are using their equipment because they aren’t required to report their usage but I’ve read articles on technology in education that state less than 20% of today’s teachers use technology in their classrooms.

    In an effort to introduce video conferencing to teachers in my area I have done “Content Provider Awareness Programs” where I would find content providers who would do a “demo” program as a bridge call with numerous school districts in this region. That was hot for a year or so and then interest died down. I still do programs with schools that request an introduction to the technology or who wish to devote some professional development time to video conferencing, but I find that teachers are slow to embrace the technology.

    I am now moving in a new direction redoing my website to include more audio and video podcasts and providing teachers with resources about why technology is important to use in education and how one might use it. I’ll introduce this new site in August for the new school year. I’m also trying to promote the use of collaborations as a way for teachers to gain experience with video conferencing and increase its use in the classroom. CILC has Collaboration Center that lists various projects that are going on and I’ll have a link to that on my new site. You can find it at http://www.cilc.org/c/community/collaboration_center.aspx. I would be interested in working with you to explore ways to promote classroom to classroom collaborations between Michigan and Southern Indiana. I maintain a Listserv that I use to send programming information directly to people who are interested in using the technology.

    Here’s my contact information for future reference please contact me if you’d like to explore ways of getting our member schools to participate more in video conferencing through classroom collaboration. Thanks and have a great summer!

    Jerry R. Steuerwald
    Distance Learning Specialist
    Wilson Education Center
    2101 Grace Avenue
    Charlestown, Indiana 47111
    (812) 256-8000 ext. 214
    jerry@wesc.k12.in.us
    Website: http://wesc.k12.in.us/dl/NewDLWebsite.htm

  3. Hi, Jerry, I read through your website and it appears that we have some similarities on our networks. We have older legacy VTEL units that we are slowly replacing with Polycom VSX 7000s. I started in my position as Distance Learning Coordinator three years ago. Our first year, we did one student project, The Bluebonnet Conference, with 385 students. This year, so far, the student count for projects and field trips will be over 15,000 students!

    I agree with Janine about the tremendous growth of videoconferencing (especially in elementary and middle school grades) and the challenge for bringing it into the high schools. Not sure about in depth thoughts on solutions to this, just admiring the issue right now 🙂

    We are definitely at the point in our program where we are graduating our year two schools into majority point-to-point connections unless they absolutely need the bridge. This year, I had site managers send me their numbers at the end of the year, but next year, we will be using the Renova software to schedule the MCU and our districts can use it to schedule their vc unit even if they don’t need the bridge. This is great for them to have a management software with reporting features and it is great for us because we can track utilization on and off network.

    If you ever need a partner in the Heart of Texas, let me know. I work with 60 school districts with over 150 endpoints and have schools from about 80 students in grades K-8 up to a district with over 40,000 students…and all sizes in between.

    Roxanne Glaser
    http://www.edlink12.net/vcrox

  4. […] the usage of videoconferencing is growing almost unmanageably in my service area, and TWICE also is growing, I look forward to learning more […]

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