Yesterday I tested with the three Benton Harbor middle schools who just installed used Polycom 512s. I’m so excited that they now have access! A huge barrier to using videoconferencing in my middle schools is the transportation to the high school to access the technology. It’s easier for one or two elementary classes to come over and use it, but for 6 sections of a middle school subject area, it’s pretty much not worth the hassle. So now that these middle schools have the technology in the building, I know they will be using it much more this year!
A few other factors will make them successful this year, I’m sure. Each building has an assigned distance learning coordinator, mostly media specialists, who are in charge of the equipment. They are excited about the possibilities and find the Polycom remote easy to use. Having an enthusiastic “advocate” is what makes the difference in usage among the schools in our two counties.
In addition, most of the teachers already know what videoconferencing is. So instead of doing “awareness” sessions, we’re doing “pick your program” sessions. We’re trying out a new format for this professional development. The school will connect to me in my office for the whole day. Then as teachers have their conference hour, they will stop by the library to talk about what program(s) would be appropriate for their curriculum. They will be able to see the technology in action, experience how their videoconference setup works, and talk to me about possible programs or projects. I’m hoping that this will help teachers feel comfortable with their selections. I will help them fill out our mini-grant/scheduling request forms as well.
To my local principals & distance learning coordinators, if you want to schedule this type of professional development for your teachers, just contact me!