Tag Archives: betterVCProjects2010

Day 20: Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Well, here we are at the end of another 20 Day Challenge for videoconferencing. Let’s review, reflect, and look to the future…


  • In the first week, we focused on Read Around the Planet, with tips, tricks, and suggestions for a quality experience.
  • We spent a few days on responding to projects posted by others, and how to manage “exploding” projects that get out of control.
  • We talked about how projects can bridge the gap between idea and actual implementation; and examined the different aspects of running your own projects.
  • Finally, we spent some time on best practice for collaboration and managing your work load.


Here are some questions to get you started on your reflection:

  1. What did you learn in the last twenty days?
  2. What is one tip that you plan to implement yet this school year?
  3. What is your next step?

It has been a learning experience for me too! It is always helpful to reflect, review, and improve my practice. My take-aways are:

  1. Time to review my habits to streamline and clean up my procedures!
  2. Best practices for using wikis to manage projects.
  3. All the tips for managing email: Day 8, Day 14, Day 16, Day 19.

What about you? Feel free to comment!

Looking Down the Yellow Brick Road

So what is down the road in your future? Where will you apply your learning? Where will you keep learning? Here are some suggested new paths:

Participate in upcoming spring projects

Deepen your learning

  • Review the templates in the Projects Booklet. Is there a format that you could tie to your required curriculum? Do it with 4 -6 teachers to apply what you’ve been learning.
  • Beef up the interaction in your upcoming Read Around the Planet sessions. Don’t just “present” to the other class. Get them involved. Review the interaction tips in the RAP Teacher packet; review the series on applying research based instructional techniques to your videoconferences.
  • Look around you. Find a partner to team-organize projects between your schools. Learn with and from each other.

Finally. Please comment and tell us what you learned during this challenge!

Day 19: So You Think You Can Multitask?

Once you get involved in the videoconference world of collaborations and projects, your work life speeds up tremendously. The more people you meet and the more connections that you begin making, the more you will do. Connections multiply quickly. Many things are grabbing at your attention: Twitter, Facebook, meetings, reports due, trainings to conduct, test calls, teaching, supporting teachers, etc. Add to that the 24 hour news cycle and your family and life becomes crazy busy.

If you’re interrupting your family life and you are consistently not finishing tasks and missing deadlines, turn off your email and read through the following articles to make your own action plan.

The Myth of Multitasking

Debunking The Myth of Multitasking from Dave Crenshaw. Crenshaw explains the difference between “backtasking” like watching TV while running on a treadmill vs. “switchtasking” like trying to talk on the phone at the same time as composing an email. He proposes the following as solutions to regaining your sanity.

  • Take control over technology—Every device you own has an OFF button. Don’t be afraid, turn them off so you can think. If you are having phantom beeps and vibrations from your phone/device, you have it on too much.
  • Schedule what you can schedule—Set regular times in the day to check your voicemail and email. Careful when you peek into the Inbox. It will suck you in and six hours later, you will still be at it.
  • Focus on the person—When you switchtask when dealing with a computer, you simply lose efficiency. But if you switchtask on a human being, you additionally damage a relationship. Be present, listen carefully, and make sure everything has been taken care of before moving on.

How To Chart for quality over quantity Check your email at 10:00, 1:00, and 4:00. No evening or weekend email.

The Myth of Multitasking The great info is in the comments. Explaining how subtasks make up a complex task and it is not really multitasking, but subtasking.

The $10 answer from Google about the research supporting NOT multitasking

What happens when you go from one project to 5 projects? Love this post from way back in 2006.

How Can This Improve Your Life

  1. Organize test calls at a specific time of day or day of the week.
  2. Standardize responses for test calls or other frequently performed emails.
  3. Understand background tasking vs. switchtasking. Quit switchtasking.

What Tools Can Help With Productivity


Before you groan about another login and password, go to their site and watch the intro videos. Here are some of the reasons I am using it.

  • Paul can use it on a Droid. Janine can use it on her Touch. Pretty much any device connected to the cloud.
  • You can tweet to Evernote!
    1. Follow @myen
    2. Link accounts
    3. Send public tweets, DMs, or Twitpics. Awesomeness!
  • Import Google Notebook into Evernote. Since Google killed Notebook, now I can too!
  • Share folders with friends!
  • No more emails to myself from myself!

RSS and iGoogle

I subscribe to Google alerts, wiki updates, Google forms, blog posts, etc via widgets in my iGoogle homepage with tabs for different projects and it is the dashboard of my digital life. Think of how to create an organized filter of relavent information.

Do you still contend that you can effectively multitask? What is your favorite productivity tool? Please share.

Day 18: 7 Steps to Better Collaboration

Today’s post about better videoconference projects has absolutely nothing to do with networks or hardware. Collaboration skills can definitely be learned and developed. Here are seven ways to become a better collaborative partner for projects for your teachers.

Read Your Email

And respond to your email in a timely manner. Just do it. So many times when the Inbox is flooding in, I just sit there and read through 100 emails. Set aside time and plow through them. If you can do it in under 2 minutes, do it. If it takes longer, put it in the “Next Steps” folder. Be sure to get a block of time to work on that, too. Learn more about Inbox Zero from Merlin Mann.

Be Reliable

Complete assigned tasks, communicate clearly, don’t disappear, follow through.

Make Suggestions

Be sure to listen first and think about how you might suggest to do something differently.

Be Flexible

Life happens. Kids get sick. Severe weather changes schedules. Cats throw up. Cars break down. You never know what might delay or disrupt the best laid plans. Extend grace and understanding to your partners. It might be you needing it in the near future.

Contribute Passionately

Only do things that matter to you. If you really don’t care, don’t do it. That sounds harsh, but if you really don’t care and you are just going through the motions, you will end up disappointing another class or group that are depending on you for a connection.

Give Credit

If it is not yours, don’t pretend that it is. If you use a structure and adapt it to your teachers and your curriculum, give a link back or a note of whose work it is based on. Also, make sure that you tell your teachers and students when they ROCK! I loved when Karen McCollough shared “There is enough “rock” to go around!” in her keynote at TxDLA conference last year. So true!

Know Your Strengths

I love to tinker with design. I truly enjoy editing and making things look good easily understandable. I do not like to be the originator. I will do it, but I prefer to work with someone who can generate a great deal of ideas and let me tinker and polish them. I flourish in teams where I can contribute those skills.

What are some examples and non-examples of effective collaborators?

Day 17: Sharing Your Computer Screen: Potential Challenges

If you’re new to videoconference projects, you’re bound to run into a problem seeing or sharing a computer screen sometime soon. Here’s the situation and what to do about it.

H.239 / Duo Video / People Plus Content

Many of the manufacturers offer a feature that allows you to share your computer and your faces at the same time. This feature is great when you’re connecting to people on your network. It’s ideal for full length shared courses; making direct instruction better.

However, when you want to use this feature with another class from somewhere “out there” off your network, it’s a different story. There are several scenarios where it won’t work:

  • If the other school’s equipment doesn’t support H.239 (a lot of old units out there still)
  • If the other school’s equipment has the H.239 featured turned off
  • If the other school’s firewall blocks H.239
  • If the other school connects through a bridge and the bridge has it turned off
  • The bridge you connect through and the bridge your partner class connects through can’t pass H.239 between each other

So now, you realize that the chances of it working in a collaboration with a school off your network is really high! And now you know what can cause it.

What to Do

Either you will be the one trying to share the computer; or your partner class might try to share the computer… and poof, it doesn’t work. What do you do?

Forget the wires! My favorite solution is just that. Don’t connect it.

ZOOM!!! You can just set the laptop on a table; zoom the camera in; set a preset.


By the way, this solution is at least 4 years old and not my original idea. Complements of Joan Roehre, Kenosha, WI.

Your Turn

Have you thought of any other interesting creative solutions to problems in a videoconference? Please share!

Day 16: Type Unto Others

As we enter our final week of this year’s challenge, we will share email tips and tune ups for you to use to better support teachers with collaborations. Email is quick and convenient, but can also be the source of frustration and miscommunication.

Email Signature

Some organizations have standardized email signatures and some do not. If your organization does not have one, be sure to set yours up in your email to include information that your partners would need to be able to reach you.

Name (first and last)
Email address
School Name
City, State


  1. Use a courteous greeting and closing. “Hey, Whassssuuuup?’ is not appropriate for work.
  2. Use standard capitalization and punctuation. ALL CAPS IS SHOUTING. all lower case with no punctuation is lazy you are not ee cummings
  3. Accurate subject line: RAP Match #4354 Smithson and Markeson, NEW DATE and TIME.
  4. Keep emails brief. If ithe message gets long and convoluted, pick up the phone.
  5. Check your Trash or Junk folder for messages. Sometimes you will find a legitimate message there.

Top 5 Things That Multiply Email

  • Email History not enabled. It is essential to be able to see replies in context. “include original message text”
  • Leaving off your time zone. Always state the connection in BOTH times if you are working across time zones. 9:00 Eastern, 8:00 Central
  • Open-ended suggestions. What time do you want to test? I dunno. What time do YOU want to test? Doesn’t matter to me. I am available all day on Wednesday. Me, too.
  • Vague replies. “I have two teachers who want to connect.” Be specific. Mrs. Jameson would like to connect on Wed, January 15 at 9:00 Central (10:00 Eastern). Mr. Stevenson can connection on Thursday, January 16 at 10:30 Central (11:30 Eastern)
  • Coordinating multiple teachers or the same teacher wants to do something twice. Use the last name and the period. (Lim 3rd period and Lim 5th period)

Bottom line: Treat others as you wish to be treated. Be kind. Be respectful.

Day 15: School to School Collaborations

This week in our 20 Days Challenge to Better VC Projects, we’ve been talking about how to scale your own projects. Another way to scale projects is to collaborate school-to-school, with multiple teachers from each school connecting with each other.

So how does that work?

Finding a school partner

It is very rare to advertise for a partner school and actually get a response. Most people aren’t willing to commit to multiple collaborations with an unknown partner. It’s better to build on a collaborative relationship and expand it further.

  • Think about your Read Around the Planet partners from the last few years. Would you like to work with any of them further?
  • Think about your other collaborations that you have done. Are there any partners who were easy to work with?
  • If your location has participated in the Jazz Workshop, other participants make great partners too.
  • If you haven’t done enough collaborations yet, then start building your network of potential partners by responding to collaborations on CAPspace and CILC; participating in Read Around the Planet, and following other videoconference coordinators on Twitter.

Planning Together

Videoconference to Plan Together

After you find someone willing to work with you, plan a videoconference with them.

  • Brainstorm possible simple sharing that your teachers can do. (weather, community, poetry, etc.)
  • Bring your schedules and compare them.
  • Bring a list of interested teachers.

One of my coordinators has done this successfully, and walked away from the planning time with 10 videoconferences scheduled!


An in depth collaboration with another school has several benefits:

  • Less test calls! If you test once and know how to connect; you can have multiple connections without doing additional test calls.
  • More in depth collaboration. Often school to school collaborations expand to each pair of teachers connecting multiple times during the school year. It’s very difficult to get a “cold” / new partner to commit to multiple VCs from the start of the relationship. With school to school, this collaboration can evolve over time.
  • Long term relationships lead to more collaborations. As you get to know each other further; and compare curriculum and interests, you’ll think of even more collaborative VCs that your classes can do together.

Your Turn

Please comment! Have you done any school to school collaborations? What made it work? What made it challenging?

Don’t forget! Kid2Kid Videoconference Connections, a six week online course starts Monday January 25. We can still get you registered if you want to join!

Day 14: Key Communications for Project Success

Once you have a wiki set up with all the elements of your project, you will need to think about how to communicate with your partner(s).

Confirmation Letter

This letter is important to begin communication with partners. Timely and succinct communication is imperative. Always include the time zone. I try to always copy the technical contact on any communications to teachers, so that they are in the communication loop.

  • Project title, date & time (including ZONE)
  • Test call date & time (including ZONE) & connection details
  • Preparation information
  • Action Items: what to do next (including any benchmark dates)

Other optional components:

  • Information about recording and video releases (if applicable… I’ve been trying to record more to get examples to put online)
  • Contact information for partner teacher (for exchanges)
  • Suggested agenda (if not already determined/facilitated)

Test Call Reminder

Sometimes I combine the test call and preparation reminders.

  • Project name
  • Test call date & time
  • Connection info: IP, dial direction, trouble # to call

Preparation Reminder

Not all projects get a preparation reminder. MysteryQuests do for sure. Lots of reminders about presentation preparation and teachers really appreciate that!

  • MysteryQuest projects: don’t forget to send in your city-state / city-country / history-mystery
  • MysteryQuest projects: Tips on making clues, presenting clearly, making sure all the clues are included, a reminder to make a visual for revealing the answer
  • Encouragement!!
  • Timeline for when different parts of the project need to be completed.

Post-Project Email

  • Thank you for participating
  • Stats on the success/participation
  • Link to evaluation form
  • Link to a blog post about the project.
  • What else?

Challenge: When you get those confirmation emails from content providers or collaborators, keep a folder with really good examples to model yours after.

Day 13: Wikis for Teachers: The 4-1-1

By Roxanne Glaser

I can remember when I first heard the word wiki. I giggled and thought, “That is the goofiest sounding word” and went on about my business of emailing something or another. Then one day someone invited me to write on their wiki and it was so easy! When I also discovered how to track changes with the history, RSS feeds or even with email, I was completely in love with wikis and have been ever since. Here is a short video about the power of wikis.

The most effective way to learn is to take a bit of information and then do something with it. So let’s get going.

Step 1: Learn from Others

Here is a template for a project wiki that I created so that my teachers can have a standardized webpage to find information. Teachers are too busy to have to hunt for the information needed to participate in a project. Use a consistent format. This template also has links to how different organizations use wikis to manage their projects.

Step 2: Play with a Wiki

After you look at best practice samples, it is time to play and tinker with a wiki. I created this Teacher 411 wiki for anyone to edit. It is set so that you do not have to have an account, just follow the link and start editing. There are specific tasks listed on the wiki for you practice.

Step 3: Make your Own

Now set up one of your own. Wikispaces has free upgrades for teachers. Enjoy!
Get your free educator wiki at http://www.wikispaces.com/site/for/teachers

If you find another example of an effect wiki used for project management, add the link the comments below.

If you are totally new to collaborative projects and/or would like step by step assistance making a collaborative project happen, from start to finish, sign up for Kid2Kid Videoconference Connections, a six week online course beginning January 25.

Day 12: Where Do Projects Come From?

So now that you’ve decided to take the plunge and run a project for a few of your teachers, where should you start?

First, you need a good idea that you can develop into a project for your teachers. So where do these ideas come from?

The Curriculum

First and foremost, they should come from the curriculum. Sometimes a careful or even cursory review of the required curriculum will inspire some great ideas.

  • How will students understand this content better by talking to students in another area?
  • How might students share their created work nationally or internationally as a motivation and inspiration (and to meet ISTE Student Collaboration and Communication Standards)?
  • Is there content already in the required curriculum that would be perfect to discuss, share, collaborate, challenge another class with?

Teacher Needs

Another great source of ideas for projects is the needs of your teachers.

  • What are they struggling to teach?
  • What units are frustrating or in need of “jazzing up?”
  • What amazing unit might they want to share with another class?
  • What student created work is worthy of a national audience?

Viral CAPspace Collaborations

Have you noticed this year that some collaboration ideas in CAPspace have been multiplying like rabbits?

  • First it was penpals.
  • Then it was Monster Match copycats and Halloween spin-offs.
  • Then Turkey Talk…
  • Then Weather Buddies…

These collaborations go viral for a reason. They are good ideas and simple to do! Educators create and share great ideas.

Bottom Line

  • A great project idea is simple.
  • It fits tightly to the curriculum.
  • It makes sense to teachers.
  • More than one of your teachers want to do it!

Tomorrow, we’ll start talking about how to manage a project with 3-4 or more of your teachers participating. For now, consider what project several of your teachers might want to do.

Your Turn

  • What do you think makes a great project idea?
  • Where do you get your inspiration for VC projects?
  • What is holding you back from creating and running a project for your teachers?

Please comment!

If you are totally new to collaborative projects and/or would like step by step assistance making a collaborative project happen, from start to finish, sign up for Kid2Kid Videoconference Connections, a six week online course beginning January 25.

Day 11: Bridging the Implementation Gap

This week in the 20 Day Challenge to Better VC Projects, we will be talking about designing and managing projects for your teachers.

But first, let’s talk about why you should run projects for your teachers.

Ideas, Ideas, Ideas

Have you ever been to one of these types of sessions at a conference or training?

  • 101 Best Tools for Teachers
  • 50 Tech Tips for Teachers
  • 200 Free Web Sites for Teachers
  • Templates for Collaborative VC Projects 🙂

The Implementation Gap

Besides a bunch of ideas, how does a regular busy teacher jump from “101 ideas” to actual use in the classroom? Have you noticed that it is difficult for teachers to integrate “ideas” to actual classroom use? What are some of the barriers that create a gap between idea and implementation? Time. Of course. What else? Think about it.

Bridge the Gap

Roxanne and I have discussed this problem often. One conclusion we’ve come to, is that teachers need assistance to bridge the gap. Designed projects (like Read Around the Planet, Monster Match, and MysteryQuest) can help a teacher bridge the gap. How so?

  • The idea is developed.
  • The materials are created.
  • A partner class is provided.
  • Correlations to required curriculum are completed.

So, this week, we challenge you to design and run your own project for your teachers. Tomorrow we’ll start with how to find an idea to morph into a project.

Your Turn

  • Do you see an implementation gap in your school?
  • What barriers are at the bottom of the gap in your situation?
  • Do you think designed projects that teachers can register for are a potential solution?

Please comment! We want to hear your voices during this challenge too!

If you are totally new to collaborative projects and/or would like step by step assistance making a collaborative project happen, from start to finish, sign up for Kid2Kid Videoconference Connections, a six week online course beginning January 25.