In my current online class, Planning Interactive Curriculum Connections, we’re discussing the various content providers and how you might select one program over another. Pam Bontrager, elementary media specialist for Buchanan Community Schools, shared this succinct pithy description of how she evaluates programs:
I look at different criteria when choosing VC’s that may work in the classroom. Obviously I look at grade level the program covers. Cost can be a factor. We do have an opportunity to be awarded grants, which help cover the cost of VC’s. The time that the program is being shown is important. I will say most of the programs we have signed up for at this point have had flexible scheduling, but if they have certain times and dates then I need to take that into account. Programs length, amount of student involvement, whether it enhances the curriculum, how the program was evaluated by other participants, the amount of preparation that is required. I really try to find programs that supplement what the teachers are covering and the students will find fun and interesting. At this point it is like pulling teeth to get some of them involved in VC’s, so I also attempt to find programs that do not have a lot of prep work and is hands on.
What are the criteria that you use to select a program from a content provider? Content providers, do you get feedback like this from educators? What do you think of this list of criteria? Please comment!
One tool we use, which was developed by Cathy King, Coordinator for the VC Regional Leads Network in Alberta, is a ‘VC Classroom Checklist’ which includes section headings such as Content/Curriculum, Content Provider Assessment, Interactivity, as well as an open section for general observations. That PDF document can be downloaded by visiting http://www.2learn.ca/vcrln/planners/VCRLNEvalchecklist.pdf . This is meant for an individual teacher to keep notes on their own VC content providers, although I have shared this form with potential VC content providers who are looking at developing or refining their own VC content. It always helps to know what your clients are looking for, right?
I also like the idea of a recommendations or ratings-type system for content providers – at least in theory. Whether content providers would like that, and how valid those ratings would be, might be another thing. If I were a VC content provider, I would likely include my own evaluation tools that I’d ask teachers and/or students to respond to after a VC session.
I have tried using the VC solution from vawkr (http://www.vawkr.com) and found it to be very effective. It allows free video conferencing with high quality. It does not require any download. It creates a random room for you for a one time use on the home page. You can have others join the VC by sharing the URL of the room. You can also claim a room name of your choice, tell others about it, and be notified when someone comes to your room looking for you.