Tag Archives: betterVCProjects2010

Day 10: How Do I Work with Wikis?

Why Not Email

I hate email. While it is so easy to shoot off a quick email to someone, it is not always the most efficient way to manage or participate in collaborative projects.

In the beginning of MoNSteR MaTcH, I used email for everything. Registration was done by emailing me. Confirmations were emailed to the teachers. Teachers emailed descriptions to each other and copied me on those so I could keep track of them. I emailed other people to participate in their projects.

Many times not everyone is included on the email. Some people don’t have their email programs set to include the original text with the reply, so when I get the message, “Yes, that date and time will work for me” with no original text, I would have to begin the email excavation to try to determine the context.

Why Wikis

Currently, there are three different ways that we are using wikis to support projects. You will have to trust that the people running the project are really watching the wiki. Wikis are monitored by using RSS feeds or getting emails.

Weather Buddies (all one page project)

  • Click edit.
  • Use guest username and login.
  • Add your details for you teachers.
  • Click save.
  • You will get a confirmation email when the project manager is notified that the wiki has been edited.

Goods & Service (need 5 classes) (one wiki project – participating classes)

  • Click Participating Classes
  • If you see a spot that will work for one of your teachers, click “Join this Wiki” at the top left.
  • Enter a comment. “I have a class that would like to participate in this project.” and click Request Membership.
  • Once you have access to the wiki, go back to the participating classroom page. Click EDIT and add your teacher’s information. Click SAVE.
  • You will get a confirmation email when the project manager is notified that the wiki has been edited.

Monster Match (page to edit)

Wikis ROCK for MoNSteR MaTcH because it helps me make sure all the descriptions are exchanged in a timely manner.

  • Go to the Participating Classes page.
  • Find your last name. Click it.
  • Look at the top right and click the EDIT button.
  • Copy your description from a word processing document and then paste it into the page.
  • Click Save.

Kid2Kid Footer for each post
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 9: Multiple Section Collaborations for Middle and High School

One of the challenges of using videoconferencing in the curriculum is the middle and high school schedules. High school structures make it difficult to be creative; and the cost of scheduling content providers for each section at the high school level is prohibitive. Many great high school content providers are guest speakers scheduled at specific times, and it doesn’t take long for teachers to get annoyed when the schedule gets disrupted. Time for preparation for a videoconference is challenging as well. These are some of the reasons that middle and high schools tend to use VC less than elementary schools (for curriculum videoconferencing purposes, that is.)

So, one of the ways that I’ve been trying to address this challenge, is to schedule collaborations for each section/class period. This way each section gets the same experience, and since it’s a collaboration, it’s free!

Steps to Success

  1. Start with the curriculum. The project has to fit tightly into the curriculum to be worth the precious instructional time.
  2. Define it. I work with the teacher to define exactly what each class will do, to make sure it’s focused to the instructional goals.
  3. Set the dates & times. Save yourself some negotiation time and just pick the dates and times. Some of my teachers like to have all the sections on the same day; others want them spread out a bit.
  4. (Optional) Make a web page or wiki. I like to make a web page or wiki for the project so that interested schools can easily see which times I still need to fill.
  5. Logistics: If you have a mobile cart, the teacher may prefer to have the system in their room for all of the sessions. Some of my teachers prefer it in their classroom; others prefer to participate in the library.


Sharing a water bottle race car in EcoConversations

Here are some examples of projects that I’ve been working on for middle and high school:

Point to Point Collaborations

  • EcoConversations for middle school science classes.
  • I really want to pull off a Black History Month set of VCs for my high school English teachers this year, but I’m not done writing the wiki yet. I am at stage 2 – working with the teacher to define what each class will do.
  • Another high school English one I’m hoping to run in April is Poetry Month. I’ve had some high school English teachers really enjoy performance poetry videoconferences. I want to systematize the idea to reach more teachers.

Multipoint Collaborations

These can easily be adapted to more simple point to point collaborations as well.

  • I’ve been running MysteryQuest World for a few years; and this year have converted it to a one hour session to fit into one class period. I actually will have a few more spots in this one either Friday or Monday, so check back if you’re interested.
  • HistoryQuest 8th grade has worked great for the 8th grade schedule this year. Civil War is scheduled for April.

Your Turn

  • How are you meeting the scheduling and curriculum needs of your middle and high school teachers? Please comment and share any other tips you have.

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 8: I Responded to a Collaboration and It Was Already Filled!

So what do you do when you send a great idea out to your teachers; 3 of them respond; but then when you contact the person who created the collaboration, they already have a partner. No worries; you can manage this too!

  • Be a fast email checker. If you have too much stuff coming into your email, trim it. Route the junk to junk and the trash to trash so that you can process it quickly.
  • Check with your teachers. Do they still want to do the collaboration. Find out what date & time is the best for them to participate.
  • Email colleagues or schools within your area. I like to start with this strategy because we know we can connect our equipment and I can generally get a quick response. Put a date of when they need to respond by. ASAP is a bit vague. Do you mean ASAP today or ASAP by the end of the week? An actual date is better than four exclamation marks.

If you need to post the collaboration back to CAPspace, use good etiquette.

  1. Change the title to be sure you don’t confuse anyone involved in the first project. For example you could call the collaboration “Southwest Michigan Weather Buddies” instead of just “Weather Buddies.” Or think of another creative title.
  2. Give detailed times. Save yourself the negotiation time and just list the date & time you want to do the collaboration. Be specific. Example: April 22, 23, and 24 at 1:00 or 2:00 PM Central.
  3. Give credit to the educator who created it. If you choose Collaborations–>New–>Detailed, there is a field at the bottom for giving credit to another person.

To collaboration creators: As soon as you have partners, log back into CAPspace and change the status to FILLED. (Login–>My Projects –>My Current. Scroll and change the radio button under registration to “FILLED”.)

Your Turn:

  1. How do you deal with this issue of getting into a popular collaboration?
  2. How do you organize your email to be able to deal with it in a timely manner?

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 7: I Posted a Collaboration and Got 500 Responses

One of the fun challenges of collaborations on CAPspace is the large number of interested people. There are 5000+ active videoconferencing educators (ever noticed the count on the front page when you login?).

This past fall, I heard that while some people found the perfect match and only one person responded, many collaborations quickly gathered much more interest. These fall into two types:

  1. You post your project and you need 1 partner; 20 people respond.
  2. You find a cool collaboration; 3 teachers want to do it; the person who posted it has found a partner already.

Now what? Let’s talk about how to handle these situations!

Too Many Responses
So what do you do when you post a project that’s clearly a popular idea; 20 people respond. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Wait. I prefer to wait a bit and see what responses I get in the first day. Sometimes the people who respond have very little to contribute; other times they have additional ideas to make the project better. Read them over and choose from among them.
  2. Save all potential partner information. Save the contact information for everyone who responded as you may be able to use them as a partner for future projects.
  3. Check with your other teachers. If you think other teachers might want to do it as well, you might want to add another session or two, but don’t feel obligated to connect with all twenty partners.
  4. Email each potential partner. Thank them for their interest. Let them know you’re keeping their contact information for the future. Don’t just ignore their email. Make a nice little “no” template and then copy & paste it to respond to each one. This will save you time, but will also courteously let the others know that you no longer need a partner.
  5. Close the collaboration. Once you’ve selected a partner, log back into CAPspace, and mark it filled. See: My Projects, Collaborations, My Current. This way others will know that you are no longer looking for partners. When you are finished with the project, login and mark it Past. Don’t delete it, as this builds your reputation in the site. Others can click the stars on your profile to see the collaborations you’ve created.
  6. Don’t forget to Say No Nicely!

Tomorrow we’ll talk about what to do when a collaboration is already filled.

Your Turn:

  1. How do you handle collaborations that get out of hand?
  2. What tips do you have these situations?

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 6: 5 Steps to Maximize Your Collaborations

Guest blogged by Roxanne Glaser

Last week, we began our challenge with how to participate in a project that has some support. This week, we will continue to focus on the Collaborations Around the Planet site, but focus on teacher-created collaborations.

Collaborations begin with an idea from a teacher. Be specific when entering your collaboration so that you will not have to email so much to establish a partnership. Videoconference collaborations can be more than just visiting with a guest speaker. Use the projects booklet to increase the educational value of your connections.

Step 1: Contact Information
Make sure that your name, email, phone number, and organization show correctly from your profile. (In CAPspace, go to My Profile to see what it looks like.)

Step 2: Create an Accurate Title
If you can be creative AND accurate that is great. Do not use special characters in it.
Example: Little House in the Big Woods Discussion

Step 3: Detailed-ish Description
You can create a collaboration from a template for a detailed plan, but the best way to start is simple. Here is an example.

Looking for a class in Wisconsin! My teacher is reading the book “Little House in the Big Woods” and would love to connect with a class in Wisconsin.

Just a few quick ideas for the video conference:

1) Sharing Favorite Day (of the week) Paragraphs (activity based on Ch. 2 Little House in the Big Woods when Laura shares her favorite days of the week,

2) Sharing Favorite Character Paragraphs (we usually do these when we are almost done with the book so that they have read several things about the characters in order to have a basis for their choice),

3) Compare and Contrast weather conditions in November in Texas and Wisconsin,

4) Sharing stories of how their imagination got the best of them (Ex. seeing/hearing something that wasn’t really there) (Based on Ch. 6 when Pa thinks he sees a bear because he had been thinking about them the whole time he was going in to town).

If you have an interested teacher, email rglaser@esc12.net.

Looking forward to working with you!

Step 4: Date Range
Instead of being completely open-ended add some specifics.
Example: November 16-20 any time beginning at 8:30 Central and ending by 11:00 Central (BE SPECIFIC!!)

Step 5: Final Details
Check grade, subject, equipment type, and website

There are additional fields where you can add learner outcomes, preparation time frame, activities, materials, responsibilities, and much, much more. You can get quite detailed, but for the beginners these 5 steps will save about 20 emails!

CAPspace will update Twitter and also email members daily and you will quickly get a response. Tomorrow, we will develop strategies for managing responses.


  1. Log into CAPspace–>My Settings–>About Me
  2. Enter your phone number, Twitter ID, school name, city, state/province, and country.
  3. Write a brief bio so that we know who you are.
  4. Click “Update Information”
  5. Go to Privacy and click Full Access so that other members can see who you are.

Your Turn:

  1. How do you find partners for collaborations?
  2. What is your favorite tip to increase your efficiency?

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 5: Learning through Read Around the Planet

Guest blogged by Roxanne Glaser
Our teachers and students love participating in Read Around the Planet. Do they really learn anything? YES! Here are some items from the National Educational Technology Standards for students and teachers that are addressed by participating in RAP.


  • Examine the geography of where you partner class is located.
  • Calculate the distance between classes and what time it is in different time zones.
  • Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats.
  • Develop cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures.
  • Develop critical thinking and problem-solving by planning and managing activities to develop a solution or complete a project.

Teachers and Coordinators

  • Facilitate and inspire student learning and creativity by guiding and leading the students.
  • Engage students in learning with other students via videoconference
  • Manage time and effectively communicate with partner teachers and coordinators.
  • Expand your people network.
  • Develop ongoing partnerships with other educators and professionals from other states or countries.


Learn how videoconferencing works in different states and countries. Read Around the Planet is the best way to test interoperability among systems. I really wish that the manufacturers would each lend a video engineer to support RAP. I know that we use their equipment in ways they have not thought of.

  • How to communicate with personnel managing statewide bridges, provincial bridges, national bridges (JANET in the UK),
  • All the different ways that you can dial and receive a call.
  • How to connect outside your network(s).
  • How to best show what your classes are doing.
  • Best practice for using microphones, cameras, and visuals.

Your Turn

  • What are other things that students, teachers, and coordinators can learn during Read Around the Planet?

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 4: Read Around the Planet: Managing the Registration Process

Now that you’ve decided to participate in Read Around the Planet, it’s time to tackle the registration process.

If this is your first year, it is a bit of a challenge. If you are having any problems at all, please email me at my Read Around the Planet email for this time of year: verification@twice.cc and I can help you!

Step 1: Verification

  • The first step is to take care of equipment verification, and soon! We’re trying to get verification done by Friday, January 8!
  • Verification lays the foundation of the matches for Read Around the Planet. It helps us find out if you have VC equipment, and how it connects (i.e. can you receive calls, etc.).
  • Verification instructions are online here as well as little online videos to explain the process for you.
  • There’s a chance someone is taking care of this for you. Double check: in CAPspace, click My Profile and see if you have the little IP icon. If so, you’re done with this step!

Step 2: Registering Teachers

Next, think about how you will organize your participation:

  • Will you have classes participate during library/computer time? or during teacher’s class time?
  • Will you prep the students for the session or will your teachers do that?
  • Will you register for your teachers or have your teachers do their own registration?
  • Have you checked your school’s calendar (tests, training days, etc.) for any potential conflicts?
  • Will you limit participation to make it manageable for yourself? If so, how many will you do? (We recommend 5 or less for the first time.)

Collect the information you’ll need when you register. You can do this while you’re waiting for the verification process to finish too.

  • Teacher name, email, work phone number
  • Grade level
  • Language (choices for 2010 are English, English as a Second Language, French, German, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Special Education)
  • All the times the teacher can do. Time choices are every half hour between 7 am and 7 pm your time.

Then, make sure you register by January 13, 2010! More tips for RAP Registration are online here.

The Challenge

  • Take some time to watch the Read Around the Planet coordinator and teacher videos if you haven’t already.
  • Get at least one Read Around the Planet registration step done today!

Your Turn

  • Please comment! How are you getting organized for Read Around the Planet this year?

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 3: Preparing Yourself Mentally for RAP

Guest blogged by Roxanne Glaser

Participating in Read Around the Planet is NOT like signing up to participate in a program that is delivered by a content provider. It is a matching project where two classes present to each other. It is a simple concept, but you must approach it with a certain mindset to create success for your teachers and their students.

  • Know your capacity – For your first year, 5 connections is a good number to start with.
  • Know your equipment – Make a cheat sheet of your IP Address, contact name, phone and email for quick reference.
  • Check your school calendars – Double check the dates that your teachers say they want to connect. Make sure that it is not a holiday or testing day.
  • Maintain an organized approach – You are responsible for making sure that you have conducted a test connection with your partner site and helping your teachers prepare. Here is a chart you can use to organize your connections. Some coordinators use Google Docs or add events in Outlook.
  • Commit to your partners – Once your classes are matched, make sure that you do everything within your power to honor that commitment. Do not strand your partner class. Think about if someone did that to one of your classes.
  • Be flexible – Some connections will have to be rescheduled due to weather, illness, or other unforeseeable events. If you have to reschedule, be kind and understanding. I have heard some of the most wonderful stories of collaboration that come from a small act of kindness.

Students get really excited about meeting a class from another school and sharing their learning and we, as coordinators, are responsible for assisting to make that happen.

Here is a list of the top 10 reasons for canceled videoconferences. While a canceled connection might be a bit frustrating to you, look at this list. Life happens. And it happens to all of us, so as you go into Read Around the Planet this year, know that in the end, it will always work out.

Today’s Challenge

  1. Follow-up with the teachers that you think would enjoy Read Around the Planet.
  2. Double-check the school calendars.
  3. Download RAP organization chart and plan how you will manage your connections. Coordinators will also be able to get a .csv file of their matches.

Your Turn

  • What are some strategies you use to keep organized and calm when life speeds up?
  • How do you organize your test calls and connections for Read Around the Planet videoconferences?

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 2: Getting Started with Read Around the Planet

Yesterday in our 20 Day Challenge kickoff post, Roxanne suggested that an excellent way to start off with videoconferencing is to participate in projects managed by others. So this week, we want to spend a little time thinking about how best to integrate participation in Read Around the Planet with your curriculum and videoconference program.

What is Read Around the Planet (RAP)?

So what is this project anyway? Here are some basic facts:

  • Read Around the Planet started as a Read Across America celebration in Michigan, and it is still primarily U.S. schools that participate.
  • Read Around the Planet is like a dating service! TWICE matches the classes and provides teacher materials. It’s up to you to make the relationship work!
  • It’s open to K12 schools with access to IP or ISDN videoconferencing (H.323 or H.320).
  • Read Around the Planet targets language arts and world language classes.
A class acts out a story during Read Around the Planet

What do you do in a RAP videoconference?

The recommended Read Around the Planet format is very simple:

  • Introductions and sharing maps
  • My class leads an interaction/presentation
  • Your class leads an interaction/presentation
  • We ask each other questions about our communities, studies, and daily lives.

This format is easy for first-timers. Teachers can share anything they are currently studying in language arts. World language classes share games, skits, songs, and readings to practice the target language.

Targeting Teachers

Sound like fun? It’s a great whole school celebration of reading and videoconferencing. Some schools use RAP as the highlight and mainstay of their videoconference calendar each year. Some make a bulletin board with pins showing all the places their students have connected!

Today’s Challenge

So, now it’s time to convince teachers to participate. What should you do?

  1. Show the teacher training video in a staff or departmental meeting. It’s just under 13 minutes long.
  2. If it is your first year participating, pick 5 or less teachers to participate.
  3. Pick the teachers who are the most flexible and able to deal with surprises and glitches. Yes, ANYTHING can happen in a real-time videoconference!

Your Turn:

Please comment!

  • If you’re new to Read Around the Planet, what questions do you have?
  • If you’re a pro with Read Around the Planet, what tips do you have for newbies?

Reminder: If you are totally new to collaborative projects and/or would like step by step assistance (including for RAP), sign up for Kid2Kid Videoconference Connections, a six week online course beginning January 25.

Day 1: 20 Days to Better VC Projects

This year for our 20-day challenge we are again writing for anyone who is supporting videoconferencing in their building or their district. 20 Days to Better Videoconference Projects will focus on how to increase your videoconference usage by scaling projects and managing your time. During this challenge we will share specific examples to get your 2010 off to a great start.

Schools that are using videoconferencing to enhance and support curriculum begin by connecting with content providers and participating in managed projects to introduce the technology to their teachers and students. Those are both highly structured and supported avenues to implementation. Two challenging aspects to them are content providers cost money and if someone else is running a project, it might not meet your timeline as you need it to. In addition, you may have more classes that want to participate in a project than the available spots.

A solution can be to scale a collaboration so that it can meet your teachers’ timeline and curriculum. How can you assist with this with all of the other responsibilities in a timely manner?

Our plan is to create posts around weekly themes and walk you through a step-by-step plan. To get the most out of this challenge, we invite you to share tips and management that you have found effective so that we can learn together. If you are unclear about anything that we share, be sure to ask questions.

  • Week 1: Getting Your Feet Wet with Read Around the Planet
  • Week 2: Managing Exploding Projects and Collaborations
  • Week 3: Designing and Scaling Your Own Projects
  • Week 4: Time Tips and Tune-Ups

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. We will be collaborating and cross-posting each day’s challenge on our respective blogs as we did last year.


  • If you missed last year’s 20 Days Challenge, be sure to review it!
  • Make sure you have an account in Collaborations Around the Planet (CAPspace), and that you have filled everything in under My Settings. Review this blog challenge from last year if you need more information.
  • Subscribe to either of our blogs in your favorite reader (Roxanne or Janine ), or via email. You can also follow both of us on Twitter: Roxanne and Janine.

Your turn:

  • What do you think is the best benefit of collaborative videoconference projects with other schools?
  • What do you think is hardest about making collaborative videoconference projects happen?

We’re glad you are joining us for another 20 Day Challenge!
Roxanne and Janine

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.