Supporting VCs Fall Series

Two weeks ago I finished up the last session in a new professional development series I offered to my videoconference coordinators. I wanted to offer this as another alternative for meeting the “long course” requirement for the videoconference coordinators in my RUS grant buildings. I’m requiring the videoconference coordinator to take one of my online classes PICC or K2K, or the summer weeklong Jazz class. However, for the videoconferencing coordinators who have hourly contracts, taking an online course or a summer course is very difficult. They needed a class that could be done during their working day. So was born the “Supporting Videoconferences” series of classes. Each session was offered at least twice and via videoconference. We tried to keep the number of sites to five or less to increase interaction. Here’s an overview of the sessions:

I used to do all the scheduling for our schools, but they are using it so much we can’t keep up anymore. When we missed out on NASA programs two times for middle schools last year because we were so slow to process our scheduling pile, I knew something had to change.

The scheduling workshop covered which programs should be scheduled through us (ISDN, mini-grants, and programs we offer) and all the details of how the whole process happens. Using our district VC calendars (hosted in a Filemaker Pro database), the coordinators can see the status of all requested programs.

Then we talked about how to schedule with content providers. My schools do their own scheduling with providers when the program is free, or when they are paying for it themselves (which is almost never!). So we walked through how to use NASA’s scheduling system with the online calendar.  We also looked at how the Cleveland Zoo’s online scheduling system works with the specific dates and special registration link for each program. We also discussed how to schedule with a content provider that prefers email or phone contact. Including all the necessary details – teacher contact info, grade level, number of students, tech contact info, tech details, billing information, all the times & dates you can do – in one email makes it a lot quicker to schedule.

Finally, we discussed scheduling projects with other schools. A few of my videoconference coordinators are now capable of finding their own partners for projects. We talked about the various ways to find partners.

Also most of my districts still have just one or two T1s coming to us and then out to the Internet, so they can only do one videoconference at a time. We use the district VC calendars to make sure we don’t schedule a program on top of another one.

Mini-Jazz Sessions
The next session in the series was a mini-jazz session. I’ve blogged about these trainings before. Basically they consist of a quick intro activity that gets everyone on camera presenting, an overview of appropriate curriculum videoconferences for that grade/subject, and some brainstorming of projects. Then the work of making them happen afterwards! This September I offered a K-2 session, middle school science and middle school social studies. The Eco-Conversations we did this month were a result of the middle school science session.

Document Cameras and Laptops
The next session was an overview of the new equipment that was delivered in September to the RUS grant buildings. They received an Avermedia QuickPlay for hooking up laptops, a Lumens Digital Visualizer document camera, and a DVD/VCR combo. We hooked everything up, practiced with all the buttons, showed best (and not-so-best) practice. Everyone also shared how they had seen others use document cameras in a videoconferencing, any scenarios they had last year when they wished they had a document camera, and any ideas they had for using it this year.

In the troubleshooting session, we started with everyone sharing horror stories. What’s the worst thing that’s gone wrong in a videoconference? Then we walked through a HELP Troubleshooting handout that I made this fall. We tried to “break” and experience as many of the problems as we could and then fix them again. We also talked about the “yellow button” on the Polycom remote that tells the stats of the call and discussed what it means to have packet loss. We practiced changing the speed of the call and dialing at different speeds. And we discussed how to deal with echos, what causes them, and some possible solutions to share with your partner school.

Sharing experiences
Most of the earlier sessions were in September and October. Then the first week in December, we finished the series with a sharing session.

  • Scheduling. Everyone shared what they had scheduled and how it went. We learned that persistence is a key skill for scheduling!
  • Scheduling. We talked about Read Around the Planet and how to prepare for registration.
  • Mini-jazz. We shared the status of ideas, and experiences from the sessions that happened.
  • Document cameras. Everyone shared how they used it. Some shared examples as well. Jane Markle, Sylvester Elementary coordinator, shared how she used the document camera’s freeze and capture options to capture the pictures from a book to read to the students in the library. Daniel Daniel, art teacher at Coloma Jr. High, shared some student artwork.
  • Troubleshooting. Everyone shared how they used their new troubleshooting skills.
  • Content providers. Everyone shared content providers they connected to this fall (or past spring), and what they liked about the program.
  • Projects. We closed with sharing collaborative projects that occurred this fall or are planned for the winter/spring. Much discussion around Monster Match, which was a huge success in October.

I shared this here so I have a record of it later! And also because it might be helpful to you as you plan training for your teachers and videoconference coordinators!

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