Author Archives: RG

Day 1: 20 Days to Better VC Projects

This year for our 20-day challenge we are again writing for anyone who is supporting videoconferencing in their building or their district. 20 Days to Better Videoconference Projects will focus on how to increase your videoconference usage by scaling projects and managing your time. During this challenge we will share specific examples to get your 2010 off to a great start.

Schools that are using videoconferencing to enhance and support curriculum begin by connecting with content providers and participating in managed projects to introduce the technology to their teachers and students. Those are both highly structured and supported avenues to implementation. Two challenging aspects to them are content providers cost money and if someone else is running a project, it might not meet your timeline as you need it to. In addition, you may have more classes that want to participate in a project than the available spots.

A solution can be to scale a collaboration so that it can meet your teachers’ timeline and curriculum. How can you assist with this with all of the other responsibilities in a timely manner?

Our plan is to create posts around weekly themes and walk you through a step-by-step plan. To get the most out of this challenge, we invite you to share tips and management that you have found effective so that we can learn together. If you are unclear about anything that we share, be sure to ask questions.

  • Week 1: Getting Your Feet Wet with Read Around the Planet
  • Week 2: Managing Exploding Projects and Collaborations
  • Week 3: Designing and Scaling Your Own Projects
  • Week 4: Time Tips and Tune-Ups

We’re targeting school level coordinators as our primary audience, but we know district and regional level VC coordinators will benefit from this exercise too. We will be collaborating and cross-posting each day’s challenge on our respective blogs as we did last year.


  • If you missed last year’s 20 Days Challenge, be sure to review it!
  • Make sure you have an account in Collaborations Around the Planet (CAPspace), and that you have filled everything in under My Settings. Review this blog challenge from last year if you need more information.
  • Subscribe to either of our blogs in your favorite reader (Roxanne or Janine ), or via email. You can also follow both of us on Twitter: Roxanne and Janine.

Your turn:

  • What do you think is the best benefit of collaborative videoconference projects with other schools?
  • What do you think is hardest about making collaborative videoconference projects happen?

We’re glad you are joining us for another 20 Day Challenge!
Roxanne and Janine

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 20: Just Do It

20 Days to Being a Better VC CoordinatorNow we have come the the last day of our challenge. We hope that you have learned some tips to help you coordinate videoconferencing within your building and assist your teachers.

Our last challenge to you is “Just Do It”. Many times we find that people wait until every little detail is perfect until they begin to try to use the technology. Once you know that your equipment is operational, get started doing something. Find a teacher that is curious and adventurous and ask what he or she is teaching during the spring semester and find a connection that fits into their curriculum. Before you know it, you will have active videoconference participation.

We have heard from several of you that you have enjoyed reading along with us this month. Let us know if we have missed things or if there are other topics that you would like us to address. We have learned much about collaboration during this blogging adventure and hope that you have learned along with us.

Comment Leave us a note about what you learned or how you plan on using this information. If you are a “first time commenter”, click the link that says Comments and post your thoughts for us.

How to comment on my blog:


How to comment on Roxanne’s blog:


May the connection begin on time.
May the batteries in the remote not run down.
May the video move fluidly and the audio be a robust sound.
Here’s wishing you many quality curriculum connections in the months to come.

All the best,
Janine and Roxanne

Day 17: Your Lifelines

20 Days to Being a Better VC CoordinatorGuest blogged by Roxanne Glaser

Videoconference coordinators come in all forms in our schools. We have teaching assistants, librarians, campus technologists, technology directors, classroom teachers, and administrators. As we have mentioned earlier, the one commonality is that the majority of them have full time responsibilities in another capacity.

Bottom line: Everyone is busy.

How can you help a teacher during the time of the connection?

Best way to help: Stay in the room with a newbie to videoconferencing so that you can talk them through the first connection. You should know if you have to dial a number or if the other site is going to dial to you. Be sure to talk your teacher through his or her first couple of connections to orient them to both the technology and the ettiquette.

“Here is how we dial the connection. Here is how to mute the microphone. Move the paper away from the microphone. Sometimes the picture does freeze a bit–that is okay. Do you have questions prepared for the connection? “

If you cannot be there, try to at least get the unit connected and microphone muted.

When you have to leave, provide the teacher a lifeline and a plan.

1. Make a sheet with the phone number of whoever they are connecting with (content provider, other school, bridging service, etc). Put the phone numbers in order of which to call first. If you are connecting through a bridge, you will start with the bridge that you connect to and then they can assist at that point.

2. Remind teachers to have something for the students to work on in case there is some wait time due to technical difficulties. Some of our classes review content for presentations. If it is the other site having issues, you can also check presets on your camera. Math fact quizzes, spelling words, 20 questions, or other content related sponge activities also work well.

3. If there is not a phone in the room (or a teacher cell phone), send a student to the office (or nearest phone that you can dial out on) with a hall pass with the phone number to dial and a description of what the problem is.

One Final Note:

If you know that the people you have been working with on this project or connection use Skype (or another IM program) and you have already used this method to communicate with them. Use it now. Skype is also great for supporting international connections.

Comment Challenge

  • Create a “lifeline template” to use for your connections–include phone numbers, technical information, time and date of connection.
  • Super Duper Challenge–Add a brain quest game, story book, etc on your videoconference cart in case the teacher forgets to provide a back up plan.

Day 16: Quality Connections

20 Days to Being a Better VC CoordinatorGuest blogged by Roxanne Glaser

Schools’ resources are valuable and must be spent wisely. Resources are both staff time and money. Here are some tips about evaluating the quality of your connections so that you can spend your time and money wisely.

Top 3 Quality Indicators for Curriculum Videoconferencing Connections

1. Are you teachers and students actively engaged during the connection? Some connections are compelling as VIEW ONLY, but the majority of the connections that I have participated in where students learned the most were connections where they were participating in a challenge, a quest, a lesson, or asking questions.

2. Are teachers and students provided with quality program materials and resources prior to the connection?
COSI Columbus provide amazing kits with their connections. The kit for the knee surgery comes complete with 30 student viewing guides, hammers, glitter bug lotion and much more! Greenbush sends live Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches for their program. Center for Puppetry Arts provides patterns and instructions for all the preparations needed for their programs.

CAUTION: Materials that have to be shipped back to the provider at the expense of the school can be a pain for coordinators to manage. Be sure to ask about materials or kits to make sure you can keep them or if they need to be sent back.

3. Is the challenge and instructional level appropriate for the students? I am always skeptical when I see a program listed as available for K-12. SeaTrek has a chart showing programs that will work for a certain grade level. NASA Digital Learning Network lists programs for K-12, but in the lesson materials they are divided as K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. That tells me that they have adapted the materials and the language so that it is appropriate to the different learning levels.

TWICE has a great document for a more comprehensive look at quality indicators of a videoconference field trip or program.

Many content providers have program evaluations to be completed by the classroom teacher after the program. Make sure that your teachers take time to complete these. Content providers use that data to improve programs and in some cases secure grant funding to provide free programming to schools.

Classroom Evaluation of Learning Processes

Teachers can use evaluation strategies with their students to ensure learning is occuring and to improve classroom management for the next connection. As a Tribes trainer, I believe in the group dynamics of learning and the power of reflection in the learning process.

What did you learn about the content?
(including preparation and presentation skills) This rubric was created by Tracy Poelzer from British Columbia and can be used with MysteryQuest connections.
link to MysteryQuest rubric by Tracy

What did you learn about the technology?
How did connecting with other classes or experts enhance your learning? Would this have been better done with the class next door or did using the technology impact how you learned?

What did you do that contributed to your learning?
Be specific here. Focus on the behaviors that you want to nuture during the next connection. These can be explicitly taught by using the “Looks Like, Feels Like, Sounds Like” strategy. Make sure students know what these abstract behaviors will be during the connections.

  • Did you listen to others in your group or the presenter?
  • Did you participate fully?
  • Did you value other people’s ideas?
  • Did you work well together with others?

See page 38 in the Planning Kid2Kid Videoconference Projects booklet for more evaluation ideas.

Comment Comments

  1. Which content providers have you found that have excellent preparation materials?
  2. Who are your favorite content providers providing quality programming for PreK-2, 3-5, 6-8, or 9-12?

Day 12: Sounds, Silence and Such

20 Days to Being a Better VC CoordinatorGuest blogged by Roxanne Glaser

Because our philosophy of using videoconferencing is based on interactiveness, today’s post will focus on how to manage your site to maximize the quality of the audio that you are sending.

It is truly amazing that I get to work everyday with technology that I watched on cartoons. The technology of the codec takes audio and video and moves it to distances near and far. The trick is to learn to wait for the technology to work its magic and not talk too much when you should be waiting. It takes a few milliseconds longer for video to switch if you are in a multi-point, bridged call like we use for Texas History Mystery or MysteryQuest connections. With these 7 tips, you can make the connection run much more smoothly.

7 Tips for Better Audio in a Videoconference

  1. Use pauses. Say what you have to say and then mute your microphone.
  2. When asking questions, ask the question and show a visual of the question (if possible) and then use teacher wait time. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.
  3. If participating in a challenge or a multi-point event, always go in the same order. A good facilitator will tell you the order in the beginning and follow it throughout the connection. Write this order somewhere for the students to see so that they will know when their turn is coming.
  4. Place the microphone on a hard surface near the student speaking area. (If you hear a weird echo, the microphone might be too close to speakers in either the television or the videoconferencing system.)
  5. Assume that we can see and hear you. When you first check in, state, “Hello, this is ______ from ______ school in __________.” Then mute your microphone. The other site(s) will respond back to you.
  6. Mute the microphone before you move it. ALWAYS!
  7. Keep all paper away from the microphone. This includes copy paper, butcher paper, tissue paper, newspaper, candy wrapper paper and any other kind of paper that you might have in the room with you. For some reason, microphones magnify paper noise about 1000% in a videoconference. (If anyone knows an engineer, ask them if that is the exact number!)

Here’s an old post by Janine on Planned Pauses

Comment Comments–What are some other tips for improving the audio quality in videoconferences?

How do you teach your staff and students about effective use of the microphone in a session?

Day 11: Lights, Cameras, Interactions!

20 Days to Being a Better VC CoordinatorGuest blogged by Roxanne Glaser

We began our journey setting up our equipment and email signatures. Next we learned how to find content and some tips about preparing for a videoconference connection. This week we will move into what to do DURING a connection to maximize learning and the quality of the connection.

Videoconferencing is interactive. You can see and hear all parties that are involved. Remember your first videoconference? How do you know if anyone can hear or see you?

As you facilitate for your teachers and students remember the following:

  • Assume that the other sites can see and hear you.
  • If you cannot see or hear something, be sure to let the other sites know.
  • Check to make sure other sites can see documents or objects that you are showing.
  • Remind students and teachers to speak slowly and then mute the microphone after they finish speaking.

The simplest form of interactions is for one class to make a presentation then the other class makes a presentation and then you have a Q and A. This is a great way to begin. After a couple of simple connections, then teachers can expand their types of interactions.

The key to successful interactions is to think in terms of what each site will be doing. Challenges or quests work well with students. It is also an effective use of classroom videoconferencing systems.

Examples of Quality Interactions

Math Challenges–A class could develop two or three math problems related to a pre-defined theme for the other classes to solve. Classes will present the math problem and then let the other classes solve it. Possible Topics: Holiday Math, Transportation Math, 100th Day of School, Population Math (Math problem-solving). Or just take the objectives that your students are struggling with on the state-mandated tests and partner with another class to go head-to-head in a challenge.

NOTE: Maybe, SuperMathGirl will have additional ideas for us.

Theme-related Mad-libs–Presenting class has the mad-lib. The class will call on other classes for the parts of speech to complete the mad-lib. Then the presenting class will read the completed mad-lib. If there are three classes participating, the class leading the Mad-lib will give each of the other classes a list of words that they need. (Reviews parts of speech!)

Where is ______? (Think MysteryQuest, but smaller.) Presenting class sets the scene for whatever is missing. Presenting class will give clues to his location and the other classes can guess. (US Geography)

Twenty Questions–Presenting class has some person, place, or thing related to the conetnt being reviewed. The other classes try to guess it within 20 “yes/no” questions. (Higher order thinking skills)

Customs and Traditions Exchange–A class can research customs and traditions in their county, state, province, or country and present clues about them to the other class. The other classes would reciprocate. Then both classes determine similarities and differences. (Social studies and geography)

Here are some more ideas for student interactions
Read Around the Planet ideas
Brain-based Learning blog post from Elevate 2008
Janine Lim’s Project Booklet with templates for all content areas

Comment Comments:

  • Add any other interaction idea that you have seen work well in a videoconference environment.
  • Add a pet peeve for interactions during the videoconference.

Day 9: Cancellations

20 Days to Being a Better VC CoordinatorGuest blogged by Roxanne Glaser

Sometimes life interrupts the best laid plans. You have worked with teachers and found content that fits with their curriculum. You submitted the paperwork. You have conducted test calls. You follow up with the teacher and you hear this, “I cannot do that videoconference.” What do you do?

Let’s start with what not to do. Don’t yell. Don’t take it personally. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Here are five tips for how to handle a cancellation

  1. Find out why the teacher is canceling.
  2. If the teacher is nervous or unsure about the event, contact facilitator or content provider for reassurance.
  3. Contact the content provider or facilitator of the session to find out if adjusting the schedule is possible. (NOTE: Be sure to read the cancellation policy of a content provider when you book the session. Some will charge a cancellation fee.)
  4. Try to find another teacher in your building to replace the class that is canceling.
  5. Communicate to all involved that the connection will not take place and diplomatically explain why.

comment1 Challenge: Add a tip in the comments section that you have used in the past when a teacher cancels a connection.

Day 7: Managing Your Online Accounts

20 Days to Being a Better VC CoordinatorGuest blogged by Roxanne Glaser

Last week, I shared some tips to help you manage your time and to use a binder and a manila folder to help manage some of the information the you will need to support videoconferencing.

Next step is to have a process for managing your online accounts. Many content providers can be scheduled via fax, email or phone, but there are a few that we regularly use that require you to create an account.

Download a copy of  “Managing Your Online Accounts” to help you be organized as you work through creating accounts on the following sites.  The key is that you want to have everything related to videoconferencing in one place and easily accessible.

Comment Challenge:
1. Create an account on each of these sites. If you already have an account, try to remember the username and password and log in.

2. Write down all usernames and passwords on this sheet and attach it to your password folder and then keep it in a safe place.

3. Add any other usernames and passwords that you use for scheduling or requesting videoconferencing events at your location.

4. If you have any questions, add them in the comments of this post. We will be checking and replying there.

Day 5: Time Management

Guest blogged by Roxanne Glaser20 Days to Being a Better VC Coordinator

In any survey that we conduct, one of the main roadblocks to implementing videoconferencing in the curriculum is the time crunch felt by building coordinators. Most coordinators are classroom teachers, campus instructional technologists, media specialists, or even the district technology director.

10-Minute Organization

1. Create a binder to keep organized. Divide it by months. Print out copies of the confirmation emails that you receive. Don’t print out an email until you have an agreement on the project. Highlight phone numbers, dates, and times.


Here is my binder that I used to manage my 56 Read Around the Planet connections in 2007.

2. Conduct all your test calls on a certain day of the week / time that’s good for you. Always ask first for the test call to increase the chance of it fitting into your schedule.

3. Give two choices when communicating with content provider or partner. “We can connect with you on April 15 or April 18 between 9:00-11:00 Central time.” Instead of saying, “What time is good for you?”

4. Check out the time zone for the other site. Use this handy online planner to see the times for the date you are planning a connection. Remember about daylight savings time!

5. Add time zones for all participating sites in written communications.

6. Use manila folders to manage data that doesn’t change much and you need to access quickly.  (This is for information that only you need!)


I make a manila folder for projects that have 20 or fewer classes. This is the one I use to help manage Bluebonnet Conference.

7. Pick up the phone! If it is going to take a long paragraph to explain something in an email, call the other person. Janine wrote about the efficiency of the phone during Read Around the Planet connections. (Make sure your phone number is included on all your emails.)

Bonus Tip for Advanced Collaborators:
Use Google Docs or Zoho or a wiki to manage data that you AND your partners need to access.

Comment Challenge for today:

  • Make either a notebook or a manila folder to start your organization.
  • Find the last email that you sent related to a videoconference.
  • Check your email for the following: time zones, dates, and your phone number. If you received that email, would you know what the next steps are? Would you have any questions about it?
  • Add an organization or time management tip that makes your life easier in the comments section.

Day 4: Can You See Me Now?

20 Days to Being a Better VC CoordinatorGuest blogged by Roxanne Glaser

Our challenge today will focus on some visual aspects of videoconferencing. Showing signs, objects, and students in a videoconference does take a bit of planning ahead. We run many curriculum videoconference projects each year and have learned some tips about how to present content in conferences. A few small adjustments can significantly improve the visual quality of your connections.

7 ways to improve what others see from your site during a videoconference

1. Site Identifying Sign: large PRINT, san serif font and BOLD can be on 8.5 x 11, but needs to be stable.

monster-match-2008-009 img_0146

Advanced: include contact phone number and a map of your location

2. Use a document camera to show objects or 8.5 x 11 documents clearly to other sites. This is an essential tool if you are teaching a class via videoconference because you can write as you teach.

3. Fake a document camera. Zoom in and create a preset.

  • To create a preset on a Polycom, move the camera so that it captures the document.
  • Press and hold one of the numbers on the number pad.
  • Watch the screen. It will tell you when the preset is activated.
  • Next, move the camera to where the class would be sitting. Press and hold a DIFFERENT number.
  • Watch the screen. When it tells you that preset is stored, you are ready to test your presets.
  • Press the number of your first preset and the camera should move to the document area.
  • Press the number of the second preset and the camera should focus on the whole class area. Keep practicing!

Don’t be afraid to either zoom the camera in tight or move the document or object close to the camera. Zoom in on a smart board. This was used for an interactive Mad-lib during our Holiday Challenge.

smartboard math

Here are many more examples of the power of a great zoom from our Monster Match and Landmark connections this past year.

4. Seat your students appropriately for the type of connection. A presentation where students are just listening is different than a Gadget Works connection where students work in groups. Always check to make sure how the partner site would like for your students to be seated.

gadget-works-013 mcdaniel-butler-007

5. Have a place for student speakers (with your sign for bonus points). This is a great place for students to stand to ask questions. It seems that the students take the preparation to a higher level when they stand rather than when they remain seated next to their buddies and ask questions.

img00769 photo_3


6. Set up a couple of desks near the microphone.

img_0513 bbe26

7. Use tape to mark the spot that coordinates to the preset.

img_0173 img_00391

Now for today’s challenge. Make your site sign. Practice with your presets. Add an idea to our list. We need four more tips about improving what we see from each site.