Tag Archives: betterVCcoordinator09

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 19: Now, Participate in Megaconference Jr.

20 Days to Being a Better VC Coordinator

Now that you’ve been through this little training experience, it’s time to join the global learning community!

Megaconference Jr. is one of THE videoconferencing events of the year for K12 videoconferencing. It’s a 12 hour videoconference, facilitated by students, with student presenters featured. An incredible global experience, a chance for networking with other schools, and an opportunity for learning what other schools are doing with VC.

What to Expect on February 19, 2009

Because this is a large videoconference with many sites participating, it’s quite different than point to point experiences. So make sure you come into the experience with appropriate expectations.

  • You will see 30 minute sessions on all kinds of content and topic areas. The presentations come from elementary, middle, and high school students.
  • You will see a variety of presentations styles and tools. Some you’ll learn best practices; others you’ll have ideas on how to improve the presentation. Take it as a learning experience for everyone.
  • You will NOT have perfect audio and video. You should lower your expectations for the video quality.  This is partly due to the huge number of sites connecting and the variety of bandwidth capacity represented.
  • Megaconference increases the opportunities for global education. So INCREASE your expectations for global learning, and increase your patience and tolerance for international connections.
  • You will also see that some participating sites are new to VC and don’t know how to behave. i.e. MUTE your microphone in a multipoint. Take it as a learning lesson of what not to do. And make sure you are MUTED unless you’ve been called on to ask a question or interact.

Make the Most of Your Participation

  • Set up Megaconference in your library and have different classes come in and out throughout the day as they have time. Take the schedule and share it with your teachers. But warn them to be flexible because sometimes Megaconference gets off schedule due to the realtime nature of the event.
  • Make it an event to showcase the possibilities. Invite teachers and administrators to view.
  • Offer refreshments.
  • Have prizes. Make a geography game of it. Who can identify the location of the presenting site?
  • Hang up a large world map and have students mark the locations of the sites presenting throughout the day. Print the participants list (after registration closes) and have students find and mark the participating sites on the map.
  • If you’re not an interactive site, pretend that you are. Have the students answer the questions (but stay muted!).

Registration Choices

  • You can sign up to be a view only or “not interacting” site. Some schools prefer this for getting their feet wet.
  • Or you can sign up to be an interactive site. 3 schools get to interact in each session. The interactive spots go quickly, so hurry if you want to do this.

Comment Challenge

  • So, take a moment now to sign up! (If you usually register for VCs through someone else, you may want to check with them first on how you should register.)
  • If you have a story or suggestion for participating in Megaconference Jr., please comment and share!

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. http://www.twice.cc/media/QualityIndicators.pdf

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 15: Kid Producers

20 Days to Being a Better VC CoordinatorHow much do you let students help you with videoconferences? For this challenge, let’s think about some appropriate ways to involve students in the production of the videoconference.


One of the most simple ways to involve students is to have them in charge of muting the microphone. I’ve seen this work well in a couple of ways (about 2nd grade and up):

  • A trusted student is responsible for muting and unmuting in a multi-point conference such as an ASK program or an interview with an expert.
  • OR, as each student comes up to the microphone, they press the button on the microphone, state their question or comment, and then press the button again.

I’ve seen these examples using with the button on the Polycom microphones (instead of giving the student the remote control). Those of you using other systems, how does this work for you? Please comment and share!

Cameras and More

Some students prefer to be off camera, while others love to “ham it up” with strong voices and great announcing skills. Encourage this diversity by involving your students in different ways during the videoconference. (Thank you Kim Pearce for these ideas to organize students with production jobs.)

  • Teach the students to use already set presets, or even how to set the presets. Have a student or two responsible for the switching presets. This is helpful when you have different visuals to show. Watch the student presentations in the middle of this MysteryQuest video for examples.
  • Build on the visual nature of videoconferencing communication, and have an art crew for the backdrop, a lighting crew, and stage hands. Let these visuals from Dew ISD, TX inspire you:

Comment Challenge/Comment

  • If you haven’t allowed students to help with a videoconference yet, which of these tips will you try first?
  • Do you have any other tips for involving students in the production of the videoconference?

Comment and tell us about it!

Day 14: Questions, Questions? Questions!

20 Days to Being a Better VC CoordinatorThis week, we’ve been giving you tips to improve the quality of the interactions in your videoconferences. The question and answer time can be when the videoconference spirals out of control, or it can be a profitable learning experience.

Has this ever happened to you during Q&A time?

  • No one can think of a question until after you disconnect.
  • All the students start asking questions at once.
  • All the students answer the question at the same time and other class can’t hear the answer.
  • The students ask only questions such as, How long is your recess? and what are your favorite subjects?
  • The students can’t think of questions; so they ask the same questions that the other class just asked them.

Let’s Improve Those Questions

    1. Before the connection, learn a little about the location of your partner class. As a class, brainstorm some questions to learn more based on what you learned. For example, let’s say you’re connecting to a class in Midland, Michigan, which has a Dow Chemical Plant. Students might ask, how many of your parents work on the plant & what jobs do they do? Or, how does the chemical plant impact your community?
    2. During the connection, after each class has done their formal presentation, mute for 2 minutes to brainstorm questions. What could you ask the classes based on their presentations? What else do you want to know? You might even have some feedback/compliments to share with your partner class. For example, “We liked your PowerPoint presentation. Was it hard to find pictures for it? Where did you look?”
    3. Designate 3-5 students on a “question answer team.” These students are responsible for answering the questions from the partner class and make sure that one student answers at a time.
    4. Set up the question. Have the student(s) start with, Hi my name is _____. Then lead the question with a statement. For example, In our class, we have horses, dogs, cats and a lizard as pets. What pets do you have?
    5. When facilitating a multipoint session, don’t say, “Any questions?” Always call on schools by name (in the same order) so they know who should be talking.

    Comment Challenge/Comment

    • Try out one of these tips in your next videoconference. Tell us how it went.
    • Do you have any other question tips?
    • Do you have any stories of great questions students have asked?

    Comment and tell us about it!

    Day 13: Who Are You? and Where Are You?

    20 Days to Being a Better VC Coordinator

    Videoconferencing is a communication technology. “I know that,” I hear you say. But think about this. When was the last time you were in a videoconference and you didn’t know the name of the person you were talking to? I bet it was recently. It happens all too often!


    So for today’s challenge, let’s think about some tips to polish your introductions.

    1. Introduce yourself soon after you connect. Roxanne reminded us of this yesterday. Say, “Hello, this is ______ from ______ school in __________.” We want to know who you are and where you are!
    2. In large discussions with multiple sites, before stating your perspective, begin with “I’m _____ from _____ and my comment is…”
    3. Be sure to say the city and state. Sometimes it’s very helpful to include a frame of reference. For example, you probably don’t know where Berrien Springs is! So, I say, I’m Janine and I’m from Berrien RESA in southwest Michigan about an hour and a half around the lake from Chicago. Now, don’t you have a better picture of where I am?
    4. Prominently display a sign to identify your location.

    Student Introductions

    If you participate in many collaborations with other schools, here are two tips for making these introductions quick and easy.

    1. Create a little script that can be used for each videoconference. Write it on a note card and keep it by the videoconference cart/system. Tell us something unique about your area so we can get to know you. The next time you participate in a collaboration (Read Around the Planet?), hand the card to a student to read!
    2. Create a little PowerPoint with three to five slides starting with a map of your country, a map of your state/province, and pictures from around your town/city. Use a star or other large marker on the maps to show where you are. Every videoconference is an opportunity to reinforce geography!

    Comment Challenge

    Your challenge for today is to write your introduction script on a notecard or make a little PowerPoint or slideshow with pictures about your community. Have a couple students help you! Tell us what you included in it.

    Comment Comment

    What other tips or stories do you have on introductions?

    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 10: Assisting Teachers with Preparation

    20 Days to Being a Better VC CoordinatorA critical part of a successful videoconference is preparation. So how can you help make sure it happens? Here are some ideas.

    Preparation Lesson Plans
    Many programs have preparation materials which are very helpful.

    • When the program is scheduled, ask the teacher if they received the materials.
    • A week or so before the program, ask the teacher if they were able to use the materials. Depending on how often you have VCs, you could plan an hour or so once a month/week to check in with the teachers who have upcoming VCs and see if they are getting the students prepared.
    • Some coordinators, depending on their position and other responsibilities, are able to actually do the preparation lessons with the students. Don’t do this more than once; encourage the teacher to team teach the next time; then maybe they can do it on their own. You’ll find it less stressful if you can move your teachers towards independence.

    When classes are presenting, encourage them to practice.

    • Practice in the classroom.
    • Practice with a fake mic.
    • Practice with the videoconference system.
    • Practice with the visuals. Make sure they are clear enough!

    When two of my schools were starting out with VC, the library aides took library time to connect to each other and have each student say a couple sentences on camera. The two classes just took turns until all the students had a turn. Every class participated. This broke the ice for all the students and teachers in each school!

    Explain VC to the Students Just Before the Program
    I encourage each of my coordinators to make sure students and teacher understand VC before the connection. Usually just a 2 minute little introduction before the program starts. Include:

    • Explain the video & audio quality – it’s not broadcast quality TV!
    • Explain where the mic is and that it can pick up rustling sounds.
    • The people at the other side can see & hear them.
    • Remind the students to speak up loudly and clearly.
    • Encourage them to represent their school with best behavior!

    We’ll talk about preparing questions and involving all the students in future posts.

    Other preparation tip lists online:

    comment1 Challenge Choices:

    • Find an upcoming videoconference on your schedule and ask the teacher how they are preparing for the videoconference. See if they need any assistance.
    • If preferred, write a little outline for your “speech” for before a videoconference.

    comment1 Comment:

    • How do you help teachers prepare for a videoconference? Any other tips?
    • What is hard about helping teachers prepare? Where do you get stuck?

    Day 8: Collaboration Sites and Listservs

    20 Days to Being a Better VC CoordinatorYesterday with Roxanne’s guidance, you set up accounts on the most common websites you’ll need to login to and register for videoconference programs.

    Today’s focus is on collaboration sites and listservs. This is your support community. You’ll learn from others, get ideas for using VC in the classroom, and even find out about new programs from content providers.

    Collaborations Around the Planet
    Also known as CAPspace, this site is where the popular Read Around the Planet registration and matching happens. By the way, today is the last day to register for RAP (and you have to have verified equipment already). CAPspace also allows you to post your own teacher-created collaborations to an audience of over 2000 educators (emailed daily).

    • For today’s challenge, work through the CAPspace scavenger hunt. At least, check your phone number and address, collect some badges, and set your privacy to Full if you want others to find you for collaborations.
    • If you already have your account set up, go to My Projects, Collaborations, and write up a past collaboration that you’ve done. This will add to your stars or “reputation” in the site. Make sure you mark it as Past or you’ll have partners signing up!

    Other Collaboration Sites
    Next, pick one of these collaboration sites that you haven’t explored yet. Get an account set up and explore it.

    Finally, are you on the popular videoconferencing listservs? If not, pick at least one and sign up for it. The easiest to sign up for is the Collaboration Collage.

    • Collaboration Collage: The oldest and largest VC listserv.  Listserv ended Fall 2010.
    • K-12 IVC (Established January 2003; CILC took on maintenance of this listserv in October 2008).
      • To subscribe to K12IVC@CILC, please send a blank e-mail to k12ivc-addme@cilc.net.
      • To unsubscribe to K12IVC@CILC, please send a blank e-mail to k12ivc-removeme@cilc.net.
      • To post a message to K12IVC@CILC, send it to K12IVC@cilc.net. You must be a subscriber to K12IVC to post.
      • To switch to digest mode, send an email to tstevens@cilc.org with the subject K12IVC@CILC.
      • For general list help, please contact tstevens@cilc.org.

    CommentDid you do all three challenges? Please comment and tell us what you thought!

    • CAPspace Scavenger Hunt
    • Sign up for another collaboration site
    • Sign up for a listserv

    CommentComment: Did I miss your favorite site? Do you have any other tips? Please share.