Tag Archives: betterVCcoordinator09

Day 7: Managing Your Online Accounts

20 Days to Being a Better VC CoordinatorGuest blogged by Roxanne Glaser

Last week, I shared some tips to help you manage your time and to use a binder and a manila folder to help manage some of the information the you will need to support videoconferencing.

Next step is to have a process for managing your online accounts. Many content providers can be scheduled via fax, email or phone, but there are a few that we regularly use that require you to create an account.

Download a copy of  “Managing Your Online Accounts” to help you be organized as you work through creating accounts on the following sites.  The key is that you want to have everything related to videoconferencing in one place and easily accessible.

Comment Challenge:
1. Create an account on each of these sites. If you already have an account, try to remember the username and password and log in.

2. Write down all usernames and passwords on this sheet and attach it to your password folder and then keep it in a safe place.

3. Add any other usernames and passwords that you use for scheduling or requesting videoconferencing events at your location.

4. If you have any questions, add them in the comments of this post. We will be checking and replying there.

Day 6: Promoting Videoconferencing in Your School

Last week we focused on settings and such. This week in the 20 Day challenge we are looking at tips for before the videoconference – focusing especially on the nitty gritty of working with teachers.

Today’s topic is how to hook teachers on videoconferencing and promote the possibilities of this technology within your school.

TeacherIt’s the Curriculum!
Owston (2007), in his study of schools implementing technology initiatives, found that teachers need to see the benefit to students before they will adopt a new technology tool. So, how do you help teachers see the benefit?

  • Use the correlations to national and state standards found in the popular database (Berrien RESA and CILC).
  • Use the Grade Level Guides to VC. Yes, they were done for Michigan and are now outdated even for Michigan curriculum, but they give a starting point for teachers.
  • Pick a couple willing teachers, find out what they are teaching for the next few months, and find a VC for them. Print the flyer or the program description for them. Put it in their mailbox. Start small like this, and then later teach them to find their own programs.
  • Help the teachers see how the programs fit their curriculum and help them teach that content better. Don’t push doing VCs just for the fun of it. Find the curriculum connection.
  • If you need help doing this, take Planning Interactive Curriculum Connections, a popular four week course for coordinators and teachers integrating VC in the curriculum.
  • Help teachers see how videoconferences meet their curriculum and can be used in place of some lessons to teach the same content.

Of course, all of this takes time. So set yourself a reasonable goal of a few of the teachers/grade levels and target those. Then as they get comfortable, work on the others. Some teachers will probably never be enthusiastic about videoconferencing. Sweeney (2007) found that constructivist teachers were more likely to use videoconferencing in the curriculum. So, realize that and work with those who are interested.

Experience is the Best Teacher
Teachers need to see a videoconference to understand what will happen and to get over the fear of the unknown. In the words of one of our coordinators:

It seems a little daunting until you actually go through it and then you realize this was not too bad and in fact it was really awesome!”
  • Don’t just TALK about videoconference opportunities in a staff meeting or workshop. CONNECT somewhere. Don’t let the content provider just TALK either. Have them demo the most interactive part of one of their programs. Try this list to get started.
  • Wherever possible, allow two teachers to do a videoconference together. Not all of the providers will allow 50-60 kids in a videoconference. However, going to the program “with someone” is much less threatening for first time VCers.
  • When one teacher is doing a videoconference, have the principal help you arrange for someone (maybe even yourself?) to cover for another teacher for a few minutes so they can see the videoconference.
  • For that matter, make sure your principal and superintendent experience a good videoconference too! Some principals in my area actually require each teacher to do one per year because they have seen the value to the students.

Tell the Good News
Make sure the staff hear about the great experiences by the participating teachers.

  • Get a write-up in the school newsletter.
  • Encourage your principal to let the teachers share their experiences at staff meeting. Let them hear from other teachers besides you!
  • When participating in Read Around the Planet, put up a bulletin board with a map with all of your RAP partner classes marked. Share the success!
  • Have the students present at a board meeting and share their experiences and what they learned.

Figure out ways to stop being the middle man whenever possible.

  • If your educational service agency or district office provides scheduling services and sends info on an email list, get the teachers on the email list directly. This reduces time forwarding emails and soon teachers can do their own registrations (in some cases).
  • Use grade level or subject team lead teachers to help you promote VC. It helps a lot when the lead teacher for a grade level or subject area encourages everyone on their team to sign up for a videoconference. Train and support these teachers so they can help you.

Be Sensitive
In all your promotion, be sensitive to how teachers are doing with work in general. Several of my schools are doing less VCs this year because the science and social studies curriculum changed and everyone is just trying to stay above water dealing with the change. In another district, so much new technology is being installed so fast that teachers are quite resistant to do anything extra. Factors like these can affect the use of videoconferencing, and are beyond your control. If this is the case in your school, give yourself and your teachers a break and try again the next year!

Finally, I’ve been sharing research results of a survey of my top teachers using videoconferencing from the 2007-2008 school year. One of my questions was – how did you come to know about videoconferencing? Invariably, their school coordinator helped them get excited about videoconferencing. What words stand out for you? (Click the picture to make it larger.)


So, Your Challenge Is:

  • Find one program that meets the curriculum for a teacher who hasn’t used VC yet.
  • OR Invite your principal to a videoconference (if you haven’t already).
  • OR Pick another of the suggestions above and make it happen!

Please comment and tell us how it went!

Owston, R. (2007). Contextual factors that sustain innovative pedagogical practice using technology: an international study. Journal of Educational Change, 8(1), 61-77. doi:10.1007/s10833-006-9006-6
Sweeney, M. A. (2007). The use of videoconferencing techniques which support constructivism in K–12 education. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (AAT 3257352)

Day 5: Time Management

Guest blogged by Roxanne Glaser20 Days to Being a Better VC Coordinator

In any survey that we conduct, one of the main roadblocks to implementing videoconferencing in the curriculum is the time crunch felt by building coordinators. Most coordinators are classroom teachers, campus instructional technologists, media specialists, or even the district technology director.

10-Minute Organization

1. Create a binder to keep organized. Divide it by months. Print out copies of the confirmation emails that you receive. Don’t print out an email until you have an agreement on the project. Highlight phone numbers, dates, and times.


Here is my binder that I used to manage my 56 Read Around the Planet connections in 2007.

2. Conduct all your test calls on a certain day of the week / time that’s good for you. Always ask first for the test call to increase the chance of it fitting into your schedule.

3. Give two choices when communicating with content provider or partner. “We can connect with you on April 15 or April 18 between 9:00-11:00 Central time.” Instead of saying, “What time is good for you?”

4. Check out the time zone for the other site. Use this handy online planner to see the times for the date you are planning a connection. Remember about daylight savings time! http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/meeting.html

5. Add time zones for all participating sites in written communications.

6. Use manila folders to manage data that doesn’t change much and you need to access quickly.  (This is for information that only you need!)


I make a manila folder for projects that have 20 or fewer classes. This is the one I use to help manage Bluebonnet Conference.

7. Pick up the phone! If it is going to take a long paragraph to explain something in an email, call the other person. Janine wrote about the efficiency of the phone during Read Around the Planet connections. (Make sure your phone number is included on all your emails.)

Bonus Tip for Advanced Collaborators:
Use Google Docs or Zoho or a wiki to manage data that you AND your partners need to access.

Comment Challenge for today:

  • Make either a notebook or a manila folder to start your organization.
  • Find the last email that you sent related to a videoconference.
  • Check your email for the following: time zones, dates, and your phone number. If you received that email, would you know what the next steps are? Would you have any questions about it?
  • Add an organization or time management tip that makes your life easier in the comments section.

Day 4: Can You See Me Now?

20 Days to Being a Better VC CoordinatorGuest blogged by Roxanne Glaser

Our challenge today will focus on some visual aspects of videoconferencing. Showing signs, objects, and students in a videoconference does take a bit of planning ahead. We run many curriculum videoconference projects each year and have learned some tips about how to present content in conferences. A few small adjustments can significantly improve the visual quality of your connections.

7 ways to improve what others see from your site during a videoconference

1. Site Identifying Sign: large PRINT, san serif font and BOLD can be on 8.5 x 11, but needs to be stable.

monster-match-2008-009 img_0146

Advanced: include contact phone number and a map of your location

2. Use a document camera to show objects or 8.5 x 11 documents clearly to other sites. This is an essential tool if you are teaching a class via videoconference because you can write as you teach.

3. Fake a document camera. Zoom in and create a preset.

  • To create a preset on a Polycom, move the camera so that it captures the document.
  • Press and hold one of the numbers on the number pad.
  • Watch the screen. It will tell you when the preset is activated.
  • Next, move the camera to where the class would be sitting. Press and hold a DIFFERENT number.
  • Watch the screen. When it tells you that preset is stored, you are ready to test your presets.
  • Press the number of your first preset and the camera should move to the document area.
  • Press the number of the second preset and the camera should focus on the whole class area. Keep practicing!

Don’t be afraid to either zoom the camera in tight or move the document or object close to the camera. Zoom in on a smart board. This was used for an interactive Mad-lib during our Holiday Challenge.

smartboard math

Here are many more examples of the power of a great zoom from our Monster Match and Landmark connections this past year.

4. Seat your students appropriately for the type of connection. A presentation where students are just listening is different than a Gadget Works connection where students work in groups. Always check to make sure how the partner site would like for your students to be seated.

gadget-works-013 mcdaniel-butler-007

5. Have a place for student speakers (with your sign for bonus points). This is a great place for students to stand to ask questions. It seems that the students take the preparation to a higher level when they stand rather than when they remain seated next to their buddies and ask questions.

img00769 photo_3


6. Set up a couple of desks near the microphone.

img_0513 bbe26

7. Use tape to mark the spot that coordinates to the preset.

img_0173 img_00391

Now for today’s challenge. Make your site sign. Practice with your presets. Add an idea to our list. We need four more tips about improving what we see from each site.

Day 3: Working with Content Providers

20 Days to Being a Better VC CoordinatorDay 3: Working with Content Providers
As a videoconference coordinator, a major part of your work includes interacting with content providers to bring programs to your students. So in today’s challenge, we look at some tips for working with content providers.

What is a content provider?
First, let’s make sure we’re all clear on what we’re talking about. A content provider is a zoo, museum, or similar organization that offers specific programs (content) to schools via videoconferencing.

Two of the most popular databases for finding programs are:

There are several others as well; please feel free to comment and share another favorite site!

Scheduling With Providers
When you first start to work on scheduling with content providers, it seems overwhelming! Each one has their own registration system and different procedures. Here are some tips to help you get organized.

  • Get all the possible dates & times from the teacher.
  • Check all your testing, event, PD calendars, as well as your videoconference schedule.
  • Have everything ready before you register online.
  • If you are registering via email, send all the information in one email.

Here’s a list of the information you’ll need whether registering online or via email or even phone.

  • Your IP address (or ISDN number if you still connect ISDN)
  • What speed you connect (usually 384K)
  • You tech name, email, and phone
  • Trouble number the provider would call DURING the videoconference
  • Teacher name, email, phone
  • Your name, email, phone
  • Billing information
  • The program name that the teacher wants
  • The range of availability the teacher has

I try to get teachers to give me the days of the week they can do, the range of dates they want it, and the times they can do. i.e. (M, W or F; February 1-15, from 10:35-11:25).

I use an email template for emailing content providers, so I can just fill in the needed info and send off the request, knowing that I’ve sent everything they might need.

When you give the provider the range of dates & times you can do, they just have to pick when it fits their schedule, and you’re done! But if you just give one time, then you have to go back and forth until it’s scheduled.

CILC Content Dollar Bank
Now if scheduling is driving you completely crazy, or you just want to consolidate your spending and make it easier, you should check out the Content Dollar Bank offered by CILC. This is a really cool service and can really help manage the daily chores of scheduling VCs.

Content Provider Etiquette
Don’t forget that the distance learning coordinators at the zoo or museum are people too! I can’t think of any content providers who are actually making a profit on offering these programs. They do it because it’s a service to education. Some of them break even on the cost of the materials etc, but they still have staff and technology costs to bring these programs to you. So….

When you have a problem with the program, a cancellation, a snow day, etc…..

  • Call them!
  • Email them!
  • Talk to them!

Most providers have cancellation policies; a few have rescheduling fees.

  • If necessary, get a replacement teacher!
  • Pay attention to their policies and respect them.

Show your appreciation:

  • Thank them for offering these programs!
  • Encourage your teacher to complete the evaluation form.
  • Offer feedback to help them improve.

You challenge choices for today are:

  • Make an email template for scheduling with providers.
  • Make yourself a handy sheet with all the details about your system so it’s ready when you need to register.
  • Check out the CILC Content Dollar Bank and see if it might work for you.

comment1 When you’re done, please comment and tell us how it went. Do you have any other tips?

Comment image by Mark James under Creative Commons 2.5 Attribution License.
Papers image by lotyloty on Flickr
Money image by jenn_jenn on Flickr

Day 2: Email Tune-up

Guest Blogged by Roxanne Glaser

Most videoconference project coordination is done via email. Even when you register online for a project in CAPspace or for a session of Weather With Rusty, there is always some detail that needs to be confirmed or an adjustment to a schedule. Time for an email tune-up. Estimated time for this challenge 2-10 minutes.

Email Tune-up

  1. Set up an email signature if your system does not automatically add one.
  2. Include text from previous messages
  3. Copy all recipients on the project

Setting up and email signature takes about 5 minutes and can help your partners be able to contact you more easily. Don’t assume that they know your area code for your phone number! Here are step-by-step guides for you to follow if you use Outlook or Gmail. I know it seems unnecessary to some, but include your email in your signature as some email clients do not show it and if you are not the original recipient you might need it. The comments to this post from 2006 on LifeHacker do a great job of listing some tips for what not to do when using email.

What to put in your email signature:

Full name
Title | School | City,State

Including text from previous email messages is critical as you work with teachers, content providers, or other coordinators to hammer out the details of a project. It enables everyone to follow the flow of the email conversation. This requires a setting in your email client that includes the previous messages in each email. (Yes, it can get annoying with the signature in it, but we deal with that!)

In Outlook, go to Tools->Options->Preferences Tab: Email Options (You have different choices about how exactly it will look, just make sure that it includes the original message!)

Use the REPLY ALL button when working with partners to develop a project or confirm videoconference details with content providers. We all acknowledge that it does take a great deal of coordination to make sure that all sites agree to the same date and time. It is crucial to summarize the details and communicate them to all parties involved. This will help make sure that your technical support people or bridge personnel will have all the details that they need.

Example of confirmation email reply to all teachers and coordinators for a collaboration:


We have finally agreed on the time and date for our cultural exchange. Each fourth grade class will be presenting a song, a poem, a piece of artwork and a short skit to share the heritage of their community. We will have a map to show our location and a brief introduction to our school and class.

Date: May 8, 2009
Time: 8:30-9:30 AM CDT (9:30-10:30 AM EDT)

School A: (insert name and technical details and contact info here)
School B: (insert name and technical details and contact info here)

We are looking forward to working with your class and learning more about your school and community.

All the best,

Roxanne Glaser
rglaser @ esc12.net

comment1 Your mission today is to check your signature and if your email includes the original message. Already completed that task? Then your challenge is to add another tip for email etiquette in the comments section for us to share with other coordinators.

Day 1: 20 Days to a Better VC Coordinator

20 Days to Being a Better VC CoordinatorDay 1: 20 Days to a Better VC Coordinator
Happy New Year! And welcome to a new challenge! After participating in Steve Dembo’s 30 Days to a Better Blogger Challenge in November, I thought it would be fun to create a challenge for VC coordinators. I invited Roxanne Glaser to join me, so we will be collaborating and cross-posting each day’s challenge on our respective blogs. Since I believe in balance to our lives, we’ll only be posting on weekdays – hence the 20 days. Join us for the new year to improve your skills in coordinating videoconferencing in your area!

We’re targeting school level coordinators as our primary audience, but we know district and regional level VC coordinators will benefit from this exercise too. To get the updates, you can subscribe to either of our blogs in your favorite reader (Roxanne or Janine ), or via email.

Setting Up
This week, we’ll focus on setting up for videoconferencing – settings, email, using the system, etc. Each week we’ll have a different focus.

Today’s challenge is to check two little settings on your videoconferencing system. Beginning coordinators, you may have someone do this for you instead! or just use it as background information. I promise the other challenges won’t be this in depth on your system!!

Mute on Auto Answer
I support 70 videoconference units, and one thing that really bugs me is unmuted mics in multi-point conferences.

Why is it a problem?

A multi-point call has more than two sites in the call (also referred to as a bridged call). If mics are unmuted, the video usually switches to whoever is talking. Side conversations, shuffling papers, sneezes and coughs can all cause the video to switch to your site when you didn’t mean to talk. The solution is, mute your mic!

If your system isn’t muted when a call comes in, all kinds of interesting audio gets broadcasted to everyone else in the call. This is sometimes amusing at the beginning of meetings, but very annoying in events like COSI’s expert interviews and Megaconference and Megaconference Junior. Watch the Videoconference Zone video for some hilarious examples.

Many of my school VC coordinators can’t be in the room all the time for the videoconference. If you aren’t in the room when the VC starts, it’s best to have the mic muted. This way, I can connect the room on the bridge and everything is ready to go.

So, a great way to avoid many of these problems is to check your settings! Here’s how to set two of the more common systems to mute when it auto answers a call:

  • Polycom VSX: Go to System, Admin, Audio Settings, check Mute Auto Answer Calls.
  • Tandberg MXP: Go to Control Panel, then the General category. Choose Autoanswer On + Mic Off. (Thx, Arnie!)

On other systems, look in your settings for Audio. Please comment and add instructions for any units that we didn’t include here.

System Name
While you’re in settings, check your system name (usually under general settings). It may also be under H323 settings as H323 name. I’ve written before about the value of an accurate name for your videoconference system. Make sure it’s a name, not just a number. This makes it much easier for bridges to manage the call and know who you are! Also, some bridges show this name at the bottom of the screen when the video switches. I know some authors and specialists in the ASK programs watch that to help them remember which site they are talking to.

Please join in the discussion during this challenge. Here are some ideas for your comment:

  • If you agree or disagree with these suggestions and why.
  • Step by step settings instructions for another system that we didn’t list.
  • If you were able to do the challenge and how it went.

Comment image by Mark James under Creative Commons 2.5 Attribution License.
Polycom microphone image by sschaufe on Flickr.