Tag Archives: International VCs

Eco-Conversations Videoconference: Wikispaces Archive

Girl’s hands holding globe — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Since Wikispaces is closing down, I’m moving my collaborative videoconference projects over to my blog for archiving. Great project formats can still be used and adapted!


Project Description: Middle and high school students connect to discuss current environmental issues and their impact locally. Students present their research and the local perspectives and then discuss the issues with the partner class. See the Resources section for potential topics.

Teacher Quote: My students absolutely LOVED IT. You know they really liked it when they are telling other teachers and students about it!!! Talking to another country is by far the best VC out there!! I would talk to another country any time it was available! -Karen Ennesser, Dowagiac Middle School

Blog Report: Carbon Emissions

VC Agenda:

  • Introductions
  • Both class present
  • Question & answer time / discuss the implications / differences

How To Create Posters for Videoconferencing

This VC Poster Handout for students gives simple tips for clear presentations via posters.

PowerPoint Tips

  • Use a large font.
  • Don’t put too much text on the page.
  • Don’t use red for background or text.
  • Have a good contrast between text and background.
  • Blue backgrounds with white or yellow text work best.


Preparation Steps
  1. Talk to your partner teacher via phone or email and negotiate the details.
  2. Have students list prior knowledge on the topic.
  3. Explore the topic by using the websites and resources listed for that topic and/or supplementing with your own activities & resources.
  4. Students prepare a presentation to explain the issue from their perspective(s) and how the issue affects their community. This presentation is then shared with the partner class. Divide the students into groups and involve as many students as possible (see page 36 in this booklet). Use these Tips for Posters to help you prepare any visuals. Possible groups include:
    • Background science knowledge
    • Analysis of scientific method’s use
    • Environmental perspectives
    • Economic perspectives
    • Local perspectives
    • Recommended actions / solutions
  5. Discuss and process together in the videoconference what you learned. What conclusions did you reach together? Which issues are still unresolved?
  6. After the videoconference, compare conclusions to listed prior knowledge.
  7. You may also wish to have the students prepare questions for each other.


Note: I am not maintaining this list of resources. It is here for reference and archive only.

Teachers should have agreed on a topic.
Use the resources and activities listed to explore the issues and prepare a presentation.
If you want to contribute other resources or topics, click “join” above to request access to this web site so you can edit it too.
For a plethora of green resources, visit Edutopia’s Go Green Database.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Climate Change

Warming Oceans

Fresh Water

Water Bottles

Invasive Species


This project used this Google Spreadsheet evaluation form for feedback.

Facilitator Confirmation Letter

Email Confirmation Template

To: Teachers & techs on both sides, cc [coordinator]
Subject: Eco-Conversations [topic] Confirmation: [date]

Greetings and welcome to our Eco-Conversations Videoconference Project. The goal of this project is to present and hear different perspectives on environmental issues.

Dates & Times
[date & time in both time zones]

Technical Information:
[who] will dial.
[IP address]
If there are problems, please call [phone].

The lead teacher for this project is [local teacher name, email, phone, school name, city, state, country].

The other participating school is:
[local teacher name, email, phone, school name, city, state, country].

Preparation materials and resources are online:

For the actual connection, I recommend this format as a rough guideline:
5 min. Introductions (be sure to prepare a map for each other)
15 min. One class presents
15 min. The other class presents.
10 min. Ask each other questions.

Action Items
Here’s what needs to happen next.

  • Teachers: Please email each other to discuss further.
  • Techs: We’re trying to do test calls for this event on November 23. Please email with the best time to test.

Let me know if you have any questions along the way. We really appreciate you participating in this project with us!


Wikispaces to Blog Conversion Feedback

Thoughts on the conversion of wikispaces videoconference projects to this blog format? This conversion is a summer project for me, and feedback is welcome.

Showing Off VC at a School Opening

Earlier this year we had one of the coolest VCs that we’ve done. It was very simple really, but it was who attended that made it cool!

Her Royal Highness, The Princess Anne, was attending a school opening at one of our collaborative partner schools in Wales.

The school officials wanted Princess Anne to see a videoconference IN SESSION while she was touring the school!

So our class worked with one of their classes to prepare a very simple VC:

  • Introductions on both sides
  • Info about our communities
  • Some question and answer time

We had to submit info about our school for security to check us out ahead of time.

Our students prepared a special greeting for Her Royal Highness.

Think about it!

  • How do you promote videoconferencing in your school?
  • Have your administrators seen a successful, powerful engaging videoconference?
  • Have you invited parents to watch a videoconference in your school?
  • Who else might be interested and therefore willing to support (financially and otherwise) the videoconference program in your school?

I was very impressed with our colleagues in Wales who found videoconferencing important enough to show off to an important visitor!

How to Expand a Collaboration: Poetry with England

Note: This is a real post; even though it’s April 1. 🙂

This week we’ve had 14 classes in England and Michigan connect together to share poetry! We’ve had performances, recitations with actions and motions, and even costumes! What a celebration of words! Thank you to Heather Hadfield for collaborating with us!

Note the technology is used to connect the students and to see and hear each other; but print materials are very important! Love the book and the map in this picture!

How to Run an Extended Collaboration

I thought it might be helpful for you to learn how we set this up so that you also can do more collaborations. I’ve used this strategy for many collaborations in the last few years. It’s one of the ways we provide programs to our schools.

Step 1: Preparation

  • Pick a partner: I started with someone I knew who also supports several schools using videoconferencing.
  • Pick a curriculum topic: We picked a topic that is in our curriculum and theirs: poetry.
  • Pick dates: This one was fun because our spring break is April 4-8; England is off for Easter from April 11-22; then they are off again for the royal wedding. We didn’t want to wait till May, so we picked this last week before our spring break. It was a little off because our schools do poetry in April, but we still had interest.

Step 2: Get Organized

I really prefer a wiki for this type of collaboration so that all the information is in a place where all the partners can access it. In 2009, I standardized all my project websites to make my work flow more efficient (anything to get more VCs!).

We worked together to set up a wiki with these essential components:

Step 3: Advertising and Registration

Next, Heather and I advertised to our teachers and schools.

  • Registration: When one of us found an interested teacher, we entered all the details on the scheduling page.
  • Pairing: If the teacher matched with one already listed, we matched up the pair.  If not, we made a new pair table on the page.
  • Confirmation letter: After a pair was complete, I used our confirmation letter template to send an email introducing the teachers to each other and giving additional directions.

Heather and I both subscribed to changes on the wiki, so we knew when new registrations came in that needed to be partnered.

Both of us reached out to particular schools and teachers to finish all the pairing.

It took us about two weeks to get every interested teacher matched.

Step 4: Test Calls

Sometimes when I do this type of collaboration, I’m collaborating with a region that we already know. Then we skip test calls entirely! This time though, we tested.

  • Set a date & time window: We picked a Friday morning my time; afternoon in England. Heather made sure the schools had their equipment on; I tested dialing out to them.
  • Skype: We talked on Skype. This removed the international phone calls from both sides; and made it easy to troubleshoot any issues that arose. We did have a few things to solve – mic cables, muting and unmuting, etc.

Step 5: Videoconference!

Finally, make the actual connections. We still stayed in touch this week.

  • Skype:We used Skype to solve any connection issues – and to communicate when the schools were up & running.
  • Feedback: We also shared with each other – mostly via Skype and email – any feedback or comments from the participating teachers.

Your Turn:

Have you done collaborations like this? What tips and tricks do you have to make it go smoothly? Please comment!

Read Around the Planet with Wales and Allendale

Cross-posted with the MACUL conference blog.

Karen Mosier is hosting the first session in the TWICE room this morning (W2-66!). The session is on Read Around the Planet, TWICE‘s signature global reading celebration.

A class from Allendale Michigan, is connecting with the Nant Celyn school, in Torfaen, Wales to show how a Read Around the Planet connection happens.

St. David's Day Parade Cardiff from Wikipedia

Both classes shared introductions about their communities.

Then the class in Wales described how they celebrate St. David’s Day. One of the students recited her winning poem from the poetry competition; and other students shared their poems as well. In one transition, we heard from the teacher:

Bear with us, we just had a bit of stage fright.

Of course educators and students can be encouraging for each other, even over videoconference!

The class in Wales sang their national anthem for us also!

The Allendale class shared math problems inspired by the book Math Curse.

They had prepared VoiceThread math problems; however, they discovered that the audio wasn’t clear enough, students talked too fast and too soft for the Wales students to understand. So they read the stories live instead.

During the connection they decided to email the math problems so the students in Wales could solve them. This is common during a Read Around the Planet connection – that the teachers end up negotiating further future collaborations based on their first connection.

Read Around the Planet celebrated the 10th anniversary this year. Hope YOU participate next year!

(And if you’re at MACUL and participated in Read Around the Planet, go to the Presenters’ booth and ask for the RAP star Read Around the Planet ribbon!)

Snippets of Read Around the Planet

It’s been a great couple of weeks with Read Around the Planet 2011! We had 63 classes participate this year; and only a few of those are getting rescheduled. It’s been pretty busy, so I haven’t been able to blog too much of it; but I did capture some pictures and little snippets to share with you.

This Michigan class had clues about explorers; our Texas friends had to guess! They got them all right! I loved their props – the boat and ocean in the background. The explorers stood behind it when giving their facts. Note the student in the front. Does that help you guess?

Did you guess Jacques-Yves Cousteau?

This was a great example of how during Read Around the Planet, we really do encourage classes to share whatever they are studying! I even had a high school class connecting to an econ class for their RAP today!

Here’s an example of what not to do with the camera. I didn’t get a chance, but usually like to encourage classes to move their camera to better show the students. It’s ok to ask your partner class to move their camera too!

This class was sharing the story of Mrs. Wishy Washy – and everyone had dressed up – including the teacher! See the cows in the front row! Love the use of costumes!

I love connecting up and seeing a room full of Cat-in-the-Hat hats! Nothing like a great visual!

Finally a comment from a coordinator at one of our schools – this year every teacher is participating in RAP!

It was really good!  The whole class was involved and I really enjoyed it.  The partner teacher also complimented her and her class at the end by saying hers was the best-behaved and quietest class she had done a project with, and she does a lot of these.  This was her 5th or 6th of this year.  Anyway, so far so good on our RAP!

ASK Author with Eric Walters

The last three days we’ve been working with York Region District School Board in Ontario to share author Eric Walters between our schools. We’ve also shared it across Canada with other classes in Ontario and British Columbia as well. We split the author fee among all the schools participating. We’ve been collaborating like this for the last three years.

This program is a hybrid ASK program. Eric has a highly entertaining interactive presentation he does for schools – giving an overview of some of his books and the stories behind them. It also includes about 5-10 minutes background info on the book that is the focus on the session. The last 30 minutes of the session is that traditional Q&A session of an ASK program. We usually got 30-40 questions in each program, as Eric is very concise with his answers!

We had two days of sessions on the book Trapped in Ice, and then a new session today on the book Wounded.

In the Trapped in Ice sessions, students asked questions such as:

  • Why did you pick Helen to narrate the story?
  • Do you like your book or do you wish you could go back and touch it up?
  • Do you have advice for us when we’re writing our stories in class?
  • How did you choose and develop the characters in the book?
  • Have you ever disagreed with an editor?
  • Do you have any books with characters based on you?

Here are a sample of the questions from the Wounded session.

  • In each of your stories, at least one parent is missing. Why is that?
  • In the novel, Marcus’ feelings always seem so realistic. [Examples given]. How were you able to give such detailed feelings? Did you imagine how you’d feel? or did you do research?
  • In chapter 8 what made you think of not having the teacher react? Was that based on a personal experience? If you were the teacher, how would you react? People commonly don’t react to pain if they don’t know what to do. This book is being used to help teachers and spouses learn how to relate to those with post traumatic stress disorder.
  • In this book you didn’t describe how Marcus looked. I have a brother named Marcus, and I thought of my brother as I was reading. How did you think Marcus looked? I do that on purpose so that you’ll relate the character to someone you know.

Walters packs a lot of punchy advice and positive encouragement to students throughout the session. Teachers shared great comments afterwards:

We had a super video conference with Eric Walters.  He was very personable and gave great background information to the students.  I was very impressed along with the students.

Our students, and we teachers, enjoyed hearing about the writing process and the novel Trapped in Ice.  I think that Eric truly inspired a classroom of writers today.

How to Find International Partners

This is an update of a previous post from six years ago! Time to refresh!

So, you want to connect with an international school for a videoconference. Now what do you do? Here’s how I find international partner classes for my teachers.

First, think about times

Before you even start looking for a partner, do a self-check.

  • What time zone are you in? (www.timeanddate.com is a great site for help with time zones!)
  • Are you willing to connect outside of your school hours?
  • If you are willing to connect outside of school hours, how far outside of school hours? Will you have a slumber party at school? Can you only do evenings? Can you do early mornings?
  • If you are not willing to connect outside of school hours, you will need to look at time zones to find the countries that are in session at the same time as you are in session. Do NOT approach an international school and expect them to connect outside of school hours. That is very inconsiderate! Often there are safety and transportation issues for students at international schools to come back to school in the evening.

Then, get on timeanddate.com and get familiar with the time differences between your location and your desired connection location. See if you can figure out ahead of time what will work best.

Second, what do you want to do?

National collaborations between classes are hard enough if your idea is ambiguous. International connections are even more so.

You will get a much better response if you have a very specific idea of what you want to do and when you want to do it (date & time defined but negotiable is best).

Also, make sure that your plans are sensitive to the other country/culture. For example, one of my teachers once wanted to do a collaboration on the U.S. Revolutionary War with the U.K. Well, I know from previous collaborations that the U.S. Revolutionary War isn’t in their curriculum the same as ours. So be sensitive and thoughtful. Think about the content from their perspective if you can. Make sure your plans are open to negotiation as well.

Now, hunt for an international partner

  1. Search CAPspace by country. Don’t post a collaboration looking for an international connection. There are tons of U.S. educators who don’t need the email. Instead, Search People by country. Get their email address and email them directly with your proposal/idea.
  2. Search CILC by country. Go to Videoconference Directories, search by country name in the keyword field. Get the contact email address and email them directly.
  3. Network. Meet people where ever you can! Some places to start include Megaconference Jr., ISTE, and ISTE’s SIG IVC. The more people you meet doing VC, the more connections you make and the more you share collaborations. I carefully save contact info for everyone who emails me and keep folders for states & countries where I know someone doing VC.
  4. Listservs.Megaconference Jr. has a listserv, and even though Megaconference is no longer happening, there is a vibrant community on the listserv (mostly higher ed but they can get you K12 contacts). In addition, on the megaconference websites you can find lists of participants. Just google their school, hunt around on their website, and you can usually find the VC contact person’s email address.
  5. International programs. Did you ever notice you can search content providers by country on VCContentProviders.org? Also when participating in global programs such as those from Global Nomads and Global Education Motivators, you often connect with classes from other countries and therefore can meet and collect contacts that way.

Note: These sites are for advanced H.323 videoconferencing. You can find more sites for Skype here.

Maximize A Response

Now, before you send that email, double check to make sure you have increased the likelihood of getting a response:

  • Did you include a suggested date & time in your time zone AND their time zone?
  • Did you let them know you are flexible on the time?
  • Did you detail specifically what you want each class to do? Did you indicate that you’re willing to negotiate this part also?
  • Is your message easily readable, scan-able, and clear?

Finally, be patient and persistent!

Your Turn

  • What tips would you add?
  • What successes have you had?

Why You Should Participate in Read Around the Planet 2011

Note: This post is written from my role as a member of the TWICE CAPspace and Read Around the Planet Committee.

Today (December 1) registration opens for Read Around the Planet 2011.

To prepare, let’s consider top ten reasons to participate in Read Around the Planet 2011

10. You want to celebrate reading!

Many classes participating in RAP are celebrating one of these events:

  • Dr. Seuss’ Birthday (March 2)
  • World Book Day (March 5)
  • March is Reading Month

9. You have new VC equipment and need help getting started.

Many first-timers use Read Around the Planet to kick-start their videoconference program.

If it’s your first time, though, don’t sign up 20 teachers! That’s 20 test calls! You’ll go crazy! Start with 5 teachers!

8.You want to expand your videoconference network.

Random matches with lots of different schools means you meet lots of people! The more people you know, the more videoconferences you can do! From your RAP partners, you’ll find some great VC buddies that you can continue to collaborate with in the future.

7. You need a free videoconference.

Participation in Read Around the Planet remains free thanks to sponsorship from Polycom. You do not even need TWICE membership! Anyone with standards-based (H.323) videoconferencing can participate!

6. You want your students to practice another language.

This year’s languages are: English, English as a Second Language, French, Spanish.

Note that language matches may not be at the same grade level.  You have a high chance of matching with native Spanish speakers in Texas; and a pretty good chance of matching with another Canadian French class.

Another option is Special Education, which isn’t another language, obviously, but allows us to match Special Education classes with each other.

5. You don’t want the hassle of finding your own partner.

Let’s face it, sometimes it’s really a pain to find a partner class. What if you need 20 partner classes!? RAP manages all that for you. Just sign up! When partners are announced in late January, you’ll have all their contact information, a date & time, and even their IP address!

4. You want to connect to more schools outside your district/region/state/province.

There are lots of schools from different places participating in RAP. The highest participation is consistently from MI, TX, and NY, with PA not far behind.

We match automatically outside your state. You’ll only get an in-state match if we cannot get a match for you any other way. Last year only 26 (out of 1950) classes were matched with their same state. The way to reduce this possibility is to make sure you register with as many dates & times as you can possibly do. The more dates & times you give, the less your chances of being in the “leftover” hard-to-match pile! But we work really hard to match those too!

3. You want to learn best practices in videoconferencing.

From last year’s survey, participants learned a lot from their partner classes!

Participants learned from each other:

  • new ideas for presentations (79%)
  • new ways to interact via videoconferencing (52%)
  • new ideas for using videoconferencing in their curriculum (34%)
  • and new ways to use their videoconferencing system with camera presets and visuals (25%).

Sometimes, also, you learn what NOT to do! But be patient with your partner; they might be new to VC!

2. You want to address the 21st Century Learning Skills of Communication and Collaboration.

What better way to practice presenting, communicating, speaking slowly and clearly, than with another class! An authentic audience is very motivating to students!

Some classes extend from communication to collaboration. How about writing a collaborative story via email or wiki ahead of time? Then act it out during the VC!

1. It’s fun and exciting to be part of a huge event!

Last year, 1950 classes and 45,000 students participated from Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Guatemala, United States and United Kingdom. Will you help us hit 2000 classes this year?! Maybe 2010 classes for the 10th year of RAP?!

Are YOU ready to participate in Read Around the Planet 2011?!

Is VC an Expensive Luxury?

This morning I had the privilege of presenting some of my research to the Schools Videoconference User Group in the UK. Here are a few interesting tidbits & comments.

Safety and Videoconferencing
I didn’t get to hear this presentation due to its early morning time, however, I checked out Heather’s slides. You should too. See what you think of her perspectives on the safety of students in a videoconference. Do you agree? Does your school follow these policies?

France Videoconferencing Site
There was a brief presentation on this site for collaborative videoconferences between French and UK schools. I asked if US schools were welcome too, and the answer is yes! I’ll be sharing this with my French teachers.

Night and Day Around the World
Also hear a brief report of this Night and Day Around the World videoconference hosted by JVCS. Among other things, they connected students to a scientist with a telescope in Australia – to see how it is night in Australia while day in the UK!

UK National Parks
All 14 UK National Parks now have videoconferencing! (They beat us to it! There’s a movement in the US to get all the national parks to offer distance learning as well. I guess we have a few more parks though.)

Is VC an Expensive Luxury, or Now More Important Than Ever?
After my presentation, Tim Boundy led a discussion of this big question. What would you say? Please comment!!

Here are some of the interesting comments I noted during the discussion:

Head Teacher (aka Principal) Vision
There was quite a bit of discussion about leadership and the need for leadership to support videoconferencing. In one very successful school, the videoconference coordinator shared that her head teacher has a vision: that they take the learning to the students – vs. taking the students to the learning. This vision drove their use of ICT, including videoconferencing.

What vision does your head teacher / principal have for technology, distance learning, and videoconferencing? How did they get that vision? Can we influence their vision? What if they don’t have the vision? How can we help them get the vision?

Two Views of Funding
Tim shared the dichotomy of views he is hearing on funding. Which one do you hear?

  • We have to cut our videoconferencing program. We don’t have enough funding!
  • We have to use videoconferencing now more than ever so we can save money.

Are you hearing these two views? Which one do you hear the most?

In my area at least, funding is super tight, and videoconferencing use is up!

Busy Content Provider: National Archives
It was neat to hear from the National Archives and what their perspective is on videoconferencing. They are booked a year in advance for onsite field trips from schools. The only way they can expand their outreach to schools is via technologies such as videoconferencing. They see it as a must to reach their goals of outreach to schools. In addition, they find it easier to meet the needs of secondary level classes by offering the programs on demand, vs. on Wednesday at 1:00 pm.

Using VC to Teach Science Teachers
I didn’t quite catch who shared this story – but I thought it was so intriguing. The speaker shared that science teachers don’t want to learn more about how to teach, they want to learn cool science things they can share with their students. So they offered a videoconference on how to do a squid dissection in your classroom – and the teachers loved it. It wasn’t about the VC – it was about the science. The technology just enabled it.

What do you think? Is VC an expensive luxury? What do you think of the comments & questions shared? It was a very interesting discussion, and I was glad to be invited. Please share your own thoughts on these issues!

Three Main Ways I Find Partner Classes

This morning I had a great conversation with Tim Boundy, who coordinates videoconferencing for JANET in the UK. We compared notes on projects we’re running, the trials and challenges of scaling collaborations, and the different ways to partner classes. In the course of the discussion, I realized there are three main ways that I make my collaborations work.

Matching Events in CAPspace

One of the easiest ways to have a lot of classes participate in an event is to participate in a project that’s coordinated by someone and matched in CAPspace.

  • Read Around the Planet is an obvious one. I usually have 70-80 classes participate annually.
  • Partners are assigned by the project coordinator (randomly matched by the system in CAPspace).
  • I have to do test calls with 70-80 different places (unless I’m lucky to get some overlap in who we matched with).
  • Materials for the project are already created for the teacher.
  • Other examples include TWICE’s We the Kids, Michigan Week Exchange, and Monster Mayhem that we do with Whirlidurb.
  • These matching events account for about 125 of our collaborations annually.

CAPspace Collaborations

Another major source of partner classes is the Collaborations option in CAPspace (create or search collaborations).

  • I post 7-10 collaborations a year looking for partners for various ideas by my teachers. On most of those I need one or two partners.
  • I have a few schools – maybe 5 out of 70 – where the teachers respond to collaborations on CAPspace or post their own collaborations. In most cases they then ask for help on connecting the videoconference.
  • These account for maybe 20-30 of our collaborations annually.

Asking VC Friends

The final major way that I find partner class is to ask friends.

  • For some projects (like EcoConversations), I have a list a people we partner with every year.
  • For some projects, I pick someone I know at a regional level (i.e. Dallas ISD) and try to get all the partners from that region. It makes it super easy because then I don’t have to do any test calls!
  • For some teacher ideas that are just one or two connections here and there, I may also ask friends. I also have some VC friends who email me and ask for one or two partners for this or that idea.
  • These types of collaborations probably account for another 30-40 collaborations annually.

My Email List

Want to get on my email list? Sometimes I use that advertise for partners just for people interested in specific projects that we run (MysteryQuests, etc.). Sign up here.

What about you? Do you use more than one method to find partners for your teachers? Which works best in which situation? Do you have a favorite method? Please comment!