Here’s another reflection from Deb Kraska, Eagle Lake Elementary, teacher/videoconference coordinator at another of my high-use videoconference schools. Deb just finished the Kid2Kid Videoconference Connections class. This is her reflection on how her Math Mania project went. (Actually it’s on one of them; she did three of these!) I think it’s very important to understand the thinking process teachers go through as they prepare and plan a videoconference. This knowledge and understanding helps us support our teachers more effectively.
After figuring out that my connecting school couldn’t dial my extension and I couldn’t get through to their IP address, we were able to connect through the bridge. Everything went well connecting on Friday. We used the document camera to show our riddles. They read theirs to us. It would have been helpful if they would have written their riddles on a poster. It worked out well, they just read them a few times to us. We exchanged riddles back and forth for about 45 minutes.
Notice how projects that are fairly content dependent (think MysteryQuest and this program) really need a visual to back up the presentation. So when planning projects, consider if the content needs to be reinforced with a visual. In this particular session, the partner school was so new to VC. Just making the connection was an accomplishment. But nudging them a bit further to prepare a visual would have been helpful as Deb indicated.
I evaluated my student learning by monitoring their participation during the videoconference. The student had to solve the problems on notebook paper and then turned it in. After the videoconference we discussed as a class what we would do differently next time. We also like being able to hear the other class solving their problems. I felt that was a major part of the learning process. The other class had used dry erase boards, my class liked that idea. For the next videoconference we are going to redo a few of the problems that need to be more challenging.
How do you evaluate your videoconference experiences and student learning?
I thought everything went well for this VC. I was happy with my student’s problems. I was unsure if the difficulty level was going to match up with the other class. It turned out to be a good match for both classes.
Deb’s concern about the difficulty level or the match between the classes is a common concern that we rarely think about when planning these projects. It’s hard to tell this ahead of time. I can’t think of a good way to know this ahead of time other than talking to the teacher. Sometimes that doesn’t let you know either. On the other sometimes really great learning happens with an unevenly matched (age or grade) connection. It does require flexible and creative thinking. Another one of those hidden challenges that we need to remember when planning collaborative projects.
Using the document camera went well. Freezing the picture whenever I wanted to move it was very helpful in keeping the picture clear. I also learned how to use the picture in picture button to view the other class and the document camera at same time.
Freezing the picture is a feature on the new Lumens Digital Visualizer installed at our 35 RUS grant schools. A Freeze button allows you to freeze the image, move the papers for the next visual, then unfreeze. This way none of that annoying transition movement is sent across the videoconference.
Integrating VC into the curriculum was much easier than I was initially making it. This was an easy way to help the students work on their problem solving skills and writing skills.
Yeah!! The simple VCs are the ones that really break the ice for teachers and get them started on their videoconferencing journey!