Tag Archives: ASK Programs

Monster Mayhem, Tornado Warnings, and More

Today was our first day of this year’s Monster Mayhem with Whirlidurb and Dallas. We had a busy, but learning-filled day! In addition to our monsters, we also had classes participating in the TWICE ASK programs on bullying with author Dana Lehman, and two connections with the Cleveland Zoo and the Lee Richardson Zoo. Here are some highlights and lessons:

Tornado Warnings

At about 9:15 when my first calls started coming up, the whole county was under a tornado warning. Originally it was till 10:00 am, but then extended to 10:45 am. Six of my videoconferences were affected.

I spent a goodly amount of time on the floor under a desk away from the window with my phone and laptop/Skype texting and messaging to rearrange, reschedule, and calm down involved educators. Four of the VCs we were able to reschedule for this afternoon.

Reflection question: What is the craziest thing you’ve done to make sure your videoconferences happened?

Monster Mayhem

Here are some of the monster pairs from today. Lots of great comparisons and discussions: what is the same? what is different? what could we have written better?

4th grade

5th Grade

1st Grade (I only caught pics for one pair of their monsters.)

TWICE ASK: Adventures at Walnut Grove & I Double Dare You

We also had several classes in the TWICE ASK program with author Dana Lehman, on two of her picture books: Adventures at Walnut Grove and I Double Dare You. Students asked questions about bullying and teasing, as well as the writing and publishing process. Great program!

The Cleveland Zoo

Another class connected to The Cleveland Zoo for their Boo! I’m a Bat program. Great session. Had two classes participate in last week’s program as well. Great visuals & costumes!

Desktop Videoconferencing

Finally, due to the tornado and a couple other problems, in one of my sessions, the teacher did the videoconference on her own! with a desktop videoconferencing solution that we are currently testing (and will remain unnamed). The software was installed on the teacher’s computer. Check out the video we received from them. Can’t tell the difference between this and a regular codec! Yay!

What a day! How did your VCs go today?

Great VCs This Week

Now that September is over, my videoconference calendar has more programs. It’s getting busier! Here’s a flavor of some of the programs we did this week:

What are your favorite programs from this week?

Depth of Learning Continuum with Videoconferencing

We’ve looked at a continuum of equipment/software solutions for videoconferencing, and yesterday a continuum of interactivity. Today, let’s think about a continuum of depth of learning…

Depth of Learning Continuum

Depth of Learning

  • Some videoconferences require no preparation at all.
  • Some videoconferences are only 5 minutes long! (see the suggested agenda here for Skype calls)
  • Some content providers send a PDF of materials or a kit with materials for hands-on in-depth learning.
  • Some projects, like Read Around the Planet, allow the teachers flexibility on how in-depth the videoconference really is.
  • Some projects, like Hometown Holidays, require research, connect rigorously to the curriculum, and integrate multiple subject areas and required standards.

Have you experienced this continuum? Where do most of your videoconferences fall along the line? Any other insights to share? Please comment!

New Centralized ASK Process Website

Just in time for the ASK programs in Jazz tomorrow, the new ASKprocess.wikispaces.com website is up & running thanks to hard work from Michael, my intern. (And new graphic by Roxanne of Whirlidurb.)

This site provides an entrance to learn about the ASK program, watch the ASK video (newly encoded at a higher quality and playable in your browser), and find out what programs are offered by which organizations.

We’ve needed this for the Jazz workshop for a while, because there are so many different sources of ASK format programs, and different rules for participation for each.

This site can also assist anyone considering offering these types of programs to their own schools. Let us know if you are using this same format and want to add your programs to the list.

Preparing Questions for Your Videoconference

Preparing Questions for Your Videoconference

Some videoconferences are student question directed, such as the ASK programs, COSI Columbus’ Expert Interviews, interviewing your senator or representative, and other similar activities. Other content providers offer programming that includes a 5-10 minute question and answer period. The type of program may determine the number
of questions your students generate. But either way, preparing questions in advance will make your videoconference more educationally meaningful.

Content Lessons

Students should learn about the concepts to be presented in the videoconference. This may include pre-activities provided by the content provider or project organizer, or reading a book and completing the ASK process in preparation.

Writing Questions

Notes for Writing Questions: (Thanks to the ASK program for the details here.)

The answer to your question cannot be “yes” or “no.”
The answer cannot be found in the book, textbook, or other print materials. It should be something you can’t find out on your own.

Set your question up:

  • In the book……….
  • In chapter…………
  • On page …………..
  • In class we studied……
  • In lab we did this experiment….

Question starters that don’t work:

  • Did you ever…..
  • Do you know why…..
  • Have you ever…..
  • Do you think…..
  • Will you…..
  • Would you ever…..
  • Do you…..
  • Can you…..

Question starters that work:

  • Why do you think…..
  • Describe…..
  • Would you explain…..
  • Where did you…..
  • Where do you…..
  • How many…..
  • What are…..
  • How do you feel…..
  • What was your reaction…..
  • How would you…..
  • How come…..

Questions for Partner Schools

Sometimes also you may be participating in a videoconference with a partner class for a specific project. Often there is time for students to ask each other questions. While questions like, “What time is your recess? What is your favorite subject?” are interesting questions, you may want to delve deeper to take advantage of learning how people live
in a different area. Talk with your students about what you might want to learn from the partner class. Consider where they live, how it might be different, and what questions could help you learn more about them. Encourage students to think of questions related to the other class’ presentation as well.

Question Resources

Show examples.
As the teacher, you should also write some questions and show them to the students so that they can see how it should be done.

Place the students in pairs and encourage them to select their best four questions. Each pair should select only four questions that will be presented to the class.

Conduct a round robin elimination process. When your students have selected their best four questions, ask each group to read their questions to the class. Eliminate duplicate questions among the groups.

Revise the questions.
When the elimination process is completed, each student should have at least one unique question to ask in the interview. It is okay if the question has been rewritten to include aspects of duplicates that were eliminated.

Preparing for the Videoconference

Conduct a practice session. Have each student stand and read his or her question in a confident manner. This is very important. This practice session will prepare the students to interview the author or expert.

It’s a good idea to have students should ask their questions in pairs or threes. This allows more students to be on camera and reduces stage fright.

Question Asking Etiquette

Group students to ask the questions. Each group should have 3-10 questions (in case another school asks their question). It will work best if during the conference the groups come up to the mic together. They should say something like this:

  • Student 1: “Hello my name is Janine.”
  • Student 2: “My name is Sue.”
  • Student 1: “And our question is ……”

Students should stay at the mic until the presenter finishes answering their question. Then they should say “Thank you.”

This procedure will allow all students “on camera” time, even if they don’t get to ask their question. In addition, it gets all students involved, and takes away some of the pressure students feel standing at the mic alone.

While other schools are asking their questions, the teacher should get the next students ready. Students should be ready & standing at the mic when your turn comes. We don’t want to waste precious time with the guest waiting for students to move. So have them ready at the mic or lined up at the mic. You don’t have to move fast, but be organized.

In addition, everyone should listen carefully to make sure their question (or some variation of it) isn’t asked by another school. Don’t ask questions twice!


1. Have all the questions written on 3×5 cards. You may think students will remember their question, but there’s nothing like stage fright to clear the mind! In addition, 3×5 cards are harder to rattle. The microphone will pick up rustling paper. Have students bring the card up, put it down in front of them, and ask the question. You may want to have them practice.

Blended Learning for the 21st-Century Classroom

SIG IVC Showcase: Elaine Shuck, Polycom, Inc.

Elaine started with a cute video clip about a student waking up in the morning to get engaged.

Polycom Special Events

She described the Polycom Special Event with blind author Jim Stovall, as well as other events: Dr. Ben Carson, Evelyn Coleman, Laurie Keller, Sarah Miller, Elizabeth Raum, Sue Stauffacher, Susan Thoms, Margaret Willey, Amy Young, Janie Panagopoulos; and other events for Black History Month, Women’s History Month.

Registration opens on September 1st inside CAPspace: Collaborations Around the Planet, where also registration happens for Read Around the Planet and teachers can post their own collaborations as well.

The programs are popular and fill up in a few hours, so get ready to register!

They also described a partnership with Global Nomads Group and showed how the lesson plans etc. are posted on the Polycom Special Events wiki.

The Polycom Special Events are free for Polycom customers, and there are only 5 slots for each session. They ask that only one school per district register for each event to make room for everyone.

The ASK Process

Sue Porter explained the ASK process: Ask, Specialist, Knowledge, where the students read a book, journal, write good questions, and then interview an author or a specialist. The video shown during the session is linked here at the top of the page.

Sessions in the Polycom Booth

Also FYI, there are a whole bunch of 30 min sessions throughout the conference at the Polycom booth – on CAPspace, with Global Nomads, with Andy Campbell at LearnNCO, and CMA Desktop, the new desktop videoconferencing tool; among other things.

Attendance: This session was JAM PACKED – it was great to see the large number of people interested in videoconferencing!

Lest We Forget: Vietnam

Today we have a group of Vietnam veterans talking to students across the country about their experiences. We have several classes from MI participating, as well as classes from NY, PA and NE.

These are the panels that participated today:

9:30 Session Panel: SGT Jess Bowman, CDR Don Oderkirk, Major Weldon Burden, L/CPL Denton Kime

10:45 Session Panel: SGT Jess Bownman, CDR Don Oderkirk, COL Alsbro, L/CPL Denton Kime

12:30 Session Panel: SGT Jess Bowman, Major Weldon Burden, COL Alsbro, L/CPL Denton Kime

Here are some of the questions that students asked today:

  • Did you think the draft process was fair?
  • Describe your feelings/thoughts on foreign policy related to the domino effect?
  • What did you think of the Vietnamization process?
  • How much did you know about the war before you were drafted?
  • Do you think the media misrepresent the war?
  • Has your sacrifice been appreciated by society as much as you think it should?
  • Do you think there should be a draft today?
  • Are you able to watch movies about the war? and which ones do you recommend?
  • Do you think the comparisons between the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Vietnam are justified?
  • What should we be doing differently to support the troops when they come home from our current wars?
  • If you could pass on one thing to the next generation of Americans, what would it be?

Students from Syracuse, NY, prepared great thank you posters to share with the veterans at the end of the conference. The veterans sure appreciate these expressions!

These are great videoconferences – a benefit to the veterans, who appreciate the opportunity to tell their story as well as the expressions of thanks from the students. And hearing first hand experiences of historical events always helps students understand the topic better. These are videoconferences you could easily do in your area as well! I’m sure there are veterans nearby who would love to have the opportunity to talk to students.

ASK Specialist: Harvesting Hope

For the last four years, we’ve been partnering with Region 20, in San Antonio, TX to do an ASK program on the book, Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez. Our students read the book, and are interviewing a panel of former migrant workers at Region 20. This program is particularly powerful, as most of the districts in our area serve migrant workers who spend part of the year in Michigan and part of the year in Texas. Each of the panel members spent time working in Michigan, so the connection is strong.

Here is a sample of the questions students from three schools asked today:

  • What would you say to Cesar Chavez if he was still alive today?
  • How would you have done things differently if you were Cesar?
  • Would you rather work in the field or go to school?
  • We read that Cesar Chavez had 8 children. Do you know if any of his children are working to keep his legacy alive?
  • What are you thoughts on how migrants should have been treated?
  • What was your reaction to the harsh conditions? Did you ever join a protest or boycott?
  • What was your most memorable experience as a migrant worker?
  • Do you think it is better being a migrant worker or doing the job you’re doing now? and why?
  • How has Cesar Chavez’ work changed a generation of migrant workers?

As you can see, some very powerful learning went on! This program also helps our students understand better their fellow students who are migrant workers. A special thank you to Susan Altgelt and the bridging team at Region 20 for making this happen!

ASK Specialist: Monkey Island

Today we have two local classes interviewing a panel of experts who work with the homeless in Berrien County. Students have read the book Monkey Island, a story about a homeless boy in New York. The students are interviewing people from various agencies in our county who assist the homeless.

Here is a sample of the questions the students ask:

  • Is the soup kitchen all volunteer work?
  • How many people usually come to the soup kitchen?
  • What challenges do people face when trying to overcome homelessness?
  • Why wouldn’t restaurants give their leftover food to the homeless? (Students learned about local restaurants and grocery stores who actually do!)
  • What type of illnesses do most homeless people have?
  • If a homeless person wants to get “back in the game” where do they go?
  • Where do homeless people stay if they are not in the shelters?
  • What are some of the ways that homeless can get money to pay bills or to buy medicine?
  • Was there any time in your life that you had an experience where you could relate to the homeless?
  • Why do some people not want to talk to or be involved with homeless people?
  • What city in Berrien County has the most homeless people?
  • Where do homeless people go to get medical care?
  • If we were interested in a job at social services, where would we go?
  • What is your daily work/job like? What do you do?

The learning in these sessions is incredibly powerful! If you like the ASK format, this is a really easy one to offer in your area. The people who work in various agencies serving the homeless will likely be delighted to have students learn about the issues and challenges in your area.

Remembering Pearl Harbor

It’s December 7, and we’re remembering Pearl Harbor by having three sessions interviewing panels of our local World War II veterans. Here are some of the questions the students asked:

  • What was your inspiration or motivation during the war?
  • Which front do you think was the most difficult?
  • Do you think it made a difference in your experience if you were drafted or volunteered?
  • Do you think the U.S. did anything to provoke the Pearl Harbor attack?
  • What did you miss besides family? (Coke & milk)
  • What do you think was your greatest accomplishment during the war?
  • How many pounds of equipment did you carry and what all was part of your gear?
  • How did Hitler’s decision to invade Poland affect your life?
  • Have you ever been back to Europe and what were your impressions when you went back?
  • How did the war affect you & your family economically?
  • Did 9/11 affect you the same way Pearl Harbor did?

We had three panels participate today:

9:30 session

Arden Pridgeon, Army; Frank Smith, Army; Don Sprung, Army; Frank Cupp, Air Corp.

10:45 sessions

Ray Sreboth, Army; Jimmy Butt, Army; Rich Ziebart, Air Corp.; Bob Ziebart, Army

12:30 – 1:30 pm

Rich Ziebart, Air Corp.; Bob Ziebart, Army; Val Ripsco, Women’s Army Corp

What a great set of panels and students asking questions! Another excellent day of learning!