RAA Day Two

12 videoconferences today: 10 RAA, 1 field trip, and 1 statewide videoconference on the MEAP test, our state test. 3 connections didn’t happen, 1 due to the teachers involved rescheduling, 2 due to snow/ice storms in Pennsylvania.

Here’s a few lessons and observations from today’s VCs.

1. Friends are awesome! I had trouble with my first connection at 7:30 this morning and ended up begging bridging from my VC colleague Arnie Comer, at Macomb ISD. Having someone to call when you’re desperate is really helpful!

2. It’s time to let go. I had trouble with two RAA calls yesterday that I tried to bridge on my Polycom VSX7000. Ended up that they worked much better when my school connected directly. This fits well with what I’ve noticed about IP calls – the fewer things – bridges, gateways, firewalls, – that are in between the endpoints, the better the connection works. So it’s time for me to let go of watching all my connections and start letting my districts connect on their own. Hard to let go. I love to watch these! And blog about them! But it’s necessary to let go as our programming and usage grows by leaps and bounds.

3. Switched calls to the UK. I helped out a colleague, Dan Finnigan, at Saginaw ISD with their RAA test call with the United Kingdom. They were connecting to a switched ISDN site. I knew it needed to be switched, but I don’t have ISDN connected directly to an endpoint so I didn’t know how to make it work. Dan figured out that the call types in the settings had to include 2×56 and 2×64. Once that was checked, when setting up a call you can enter the number two times after selecting the correct switched speed.

4. Comic Relief during Stressful Moments. Since the TWICE-organized Read Across America celebration started in 2001, I’ve worn a full Cat in the Hat suit for our RAA connections. My philosophy is, it gives the students something fun to look at if their connection doesn’t work. And sometimes I end up being the audience for their presentation when the partner school can’t connect. Today a colleague gave me whiskers and a cat nose too. Sometimes you have to be creative to really enjoy all the connections!

5. High school level poetry makes fascinating listening. Only 27 of the 1042 Read Across America connections were high school classes. Several of them connected to my classes and most of them shared student written poetry. Having the audience class give comments and feedback on the poetry enhances this type of exchange even more.

6. What’s the weather? Every VC, with every age, includes a conversation about the weather! We connected with a class in Texas today that had 94 degrees yesterday. Here, 28 degrees and snow. That conversation and comparison always comes up. It’s important, I think! It helps everyone feel connected.

7. Don’t put VC equipment in the computer lab.  This picture shows a class we connected to that had their videoconference equipment in the computer lab. Notice how the computers get in the way and you can hardly see the students. There isn’t a good place to have the students present and hardly any room to set up the display board you can see on the far right. Something to consider with new installations.
15 RAAs down, 23 to go.

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