Tag Archives: Special Events

ASK Author: The Ultimate Gift

This afternoon we have several classes participating in two sessions of ASK with author Jim Stovall on his book The Ultimate Gift. The students have prepared using the ASK process. This program is one of the Polycom Special Events, with bridging provided by Arnie Comer at Macomb ISD. The depth of questions and interaction is always incredible. Here’s a sample of the questions:

  • It seemed like Jason was blind to all the gifts he had. Did you do that on purpose?
  • Since it’s voting day in Texas, if you were president, how would you bring the gifts to the White House?
  • If you had one day left, what would you do?
  • How did you figure out the top twelve books in your book?
  • What is the worst problem you ever had and what did you learn from it?
  • Has being blind made any part of your life easier?

After the first session, I talked to one of our teachers who was SOOOO excited about the videoconference. She totally loved it! She said that her students thought Mr. Stovall was so nice and easy to talk to. In addition, she said the book and interview made a significant impact on the “troublemakers” in her class. They loved the book!

Polycom has offered this program every year for the last couple years, and probably will continue to do so. So watch their website for registration details. They have openings in other similar programs too.

Behind the Scenes in Mrs' Claus' Studio

07-12-20mrssanta.jpgThe last three days we’ve had 41 sessions with 1,134 students connect to Mrs. Claus to hear a story read and to ask her some questions. I thought you might like a little peek behind the scenes.

We had several elves help us make this happen. Elf Kevin suggested the book, How Santa Got His Job, and scanned the pictures into a PowerPoint so that the students could see them and Mrs. Claus could still read from the book. Elf Eunice took on the task of scheduling all the classes, creating a GoogleDocs master schedule, and collecting class lists from all of the teachers. We checked the thermometer every morning so we could tell the students precisely how cold it was. (-24 on Tuesday, -33 yesterday, and -40 today!!). Mrs. Claus selected a few Santa jokes to tell the 1st and 2nd grade students.

Mrs. Claus

Mrs. Claus asked the students in the beginning of the session if they were good and called on them by name. She read the story and asked them some prediction and comprehension questions throughout the story.

Then she took questions. We had so many fun questions. Here are a few of them:

  • When did you start dating Santa?
  • Does Santa have a big globe?
  • Do you make Christmas cookies for santa?
  • Do you like cookies and milk too?
  • Where do you keep the reindeer?
  • Is Rudolph soft?
  • Does Rudolph’s nose ever go out?

My favorite story from the sessions is from one school. A boy came up and asked, “Am I on the good list?” Mrs. Claus looked at him, and asked, “Hmm. I’m not sure. Why does your shirt say Blame My Sister? Did you do something wrong?” The whole class roared as he tried to cover up the words on his shirt!

Geography I Spy

Today we have the last session in a series of Geography I Spy programs. We copied this idea from Paul Hieronymous. Paul even VCed with us to help us get this program going.

Kevin starts the session zooming in on our location and the school location to get the students familiar with Google Earth. For each location the students guess, he zooms in and gives some background information and clues to help the students guess. Each zoom out is accompanied by even more clues.

Today’s session is with a 6th grade class. They are studying Western Hemisphere geography this year. The teachers’ submitted the locations ahead of time. We tried to get clues from the teachers ahead of time as well, but that didn’t work so well. Some of the locations for this class were:

  • Ottawa, Canada
  • Georgetown, Guyana
  • Havana, Cuba

We ran into a few issues with some of the schools’ whose bandwidth is pretty jammed. But if we skipped the zooming and just showed a still screen it worked fairly well.

We decided that 2nd grade is too young for this activity. The 2nd grade class that participated didn’t guess any of them. But the teacher still thought it was a useful exercise. “I think the kids really enjoyed it. It gave them a way to apply what we are learning in social studies to the “real world” so to speak. We study cities, urban areas, etc. and this will help the kids remember those areas better.

Each session was 30 minutes long. While we addressed geography skills and exposed the teachers to videoconferencing, the session was also professional development. Several of the teachers mentioned that they learned how to use Google Earth with their students and plan to do that in the future.

Interviewing State Representative John Proos

This morning we have several local 5th grade classes connected to John Proos, one of our local state representatives. The teachers and students have prepared questions ahead of time, particularly to bring out answers related to what they are studying. We were able to get 25 questions into the hour session. Here is a sampli07-12-03proos2.jpgng of the questions.

  • What is the hardest part of your job?
  • How many schools do you visit in a year?
  • Would you tell me more about your duties on the Corrections Appropriations Subcommittee?
  • Can you briefly explain the differences on how a bill becomes a law at the state and federal level?
  • What will you do when you’re done being a representative?
  • Who’s your favorite president?
  • How can the state provide more money for schools?
  • Can you give us a general job description of what it takes to be a representative?
  • Were you ever on school government when you were a kid?
  • Tell us about the most recent bill that you sponsored?
  • What was the biggest debate you’ve been involved in?
  • Being on the Environmental Committee, what are you doing about global warming?
  • How many presidents have you met? What was it like meeting the president?
  • What laws are in place to protect Lake Michigan?
  • What process did you have to go through to be elected as state representative?
  • What is the difference between how the state handles checks and balances and how the federal government handles checks and balances?

As students listen to the answers, they learned which topics are an issue for the state level and which are an issue for the federal level. I was impressed with the level of questions. Usually we do this program at the high school level, but it worked very well for 5th grade too as they are studying the levels and branches of government.

By the way, this is another easy program to copy. Your state representative would appreciate the opportunity to talk to many students at the same time and would be impressed with the technology available to schools.

Interesting Characters to VC With

So, who could your students talk to today? There are some really creative ideas floating around on the vc blogosphere!

These are just a few. What ideas do YOU have?

Polycom Special Events

Polycom is offering a set of free special events this year. You can read about all the details and register here. These are offered through a partnership with Berrien County ISD (for registration) and Macomb ISD (for bridging). Here is a taste of the programs available:

  •  ASK program with author Janie Panagopoulos October 30 and May 1. You can read about a past program with Janie here.
  •  Project Africa, an interview with a student on a service learning project and his published book.
  • Interview with John Porter on the topic of bankruptcy.
  • Interview with Bill Hyche on setting goals.
  • ASK program with author Margaret Willey on her book Clever Beatrice Christmas.
  • ASK interview with blind author Jim Stovall on his book The Ultimate Gift. You can read about a past program with Jim here.
  • ASK program with Ben Carson, author of Gifted Hands and Think Big.
  • ASK program with Sue Stauffacher, author of Nothing But Trouble, the story of African American tennis player Althea Gibson.

Hopefully you can participate! Questions should be sent to Sue Porter.

Constitution Day

For the last couple of years, I’ve been wishing I could pull together a program for our schools on Constitution Day. But the school year starts so quickly. It’s difficult to arrange something. However, this year, when I emailed Don Alsbro to schedule our veteran interviews, Lest We Forget, I asked him if he could do something for Constitution Day. And voila! He pulled together a panel of three veterans and a local lawyer to talk to the students about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the flag.  Here’s how the two sessions went today.

07-09-17panel.jpgBen Schwartz, a lawyer in St. Joseph, told the story of the how the Constitution came to be. He told stories and examples of how laws and government would apply in situations the students could understand, such as rules in the classroom and an imaginary island representing the 13 colonies working out how they would cooperate to survive.

Don Alsbro, a Vietnam veteran, described each of the amendments in the Bill of Rights.

07-09-17flag.jpgThen Al Rosinski, Korean War Veteran, and Val Ripsco, World War II Veteran folded the flag as Don explained the meanings of each of the folds.

After this presentation, we spent about 30 minutes taking questions from the schools. Here are some of their questions:

  • What do you think is the difference between rights & responsibilities?
  • I have a question about courts & judges. What happens if someone does something wrong?
  • If you could change anything in the Constitution, what would it be and why?
  • Should there be limits on our freedoms?
  • What do you do with the flag if it is torn or ripped?
  • What, in your opinion, is the most important part of the Constitution?
  • Why is it bad for the flag to touch the ground?
  • Why can people burn or destroy the flag in protest?
  • If a person isn’t a citizen, are they protected by the Constitution?
  • What would life be like without the Constitution?
  • Does the Federal Government have to follow the Constitution?

This program clearly hit the spot for our local 5th grade classes. We had 10 local classes participate, and most of the schools that participated brought all of their 5th grade students. It was definitely a success and the students asked some great questions. We’ll be doing it next year for sure!

First High Profile VC of the Year

07-09-13governor.jpgThis afternoon we had our first high profile videoconference of the year. (Last week’s first student VC was with the Camden Children’s Garden. ) Juniors and seniors around the state videoconferenced with Governor Granholm to learn about the Michigan Promise program which provides a $4000 scholarship to encourage Michigan students to go to college. The 30 minute program consisted of a brief introduction of the program by Governor Granholm followed by a question and answer time with the participating schools. The event was bridged by St. Clair County RESA and Mike Maison reminded everyone of the etiquette before the program started.

The conversation was very friendly and interactive and the students asked quality questions. It made for a great start to the school year!


9/14 addition. I see I need to add a few more details based on the questions. For some reason I can’t currently comment on my blog at work; so I’m adding my responses here. Roxanne & Ashton wanted to know how this VC got started.

This was on the Governor’s office’s initiative. Two weeks ago they emailed to see who had VC. They wanted to connect to urban schools & the U.P. (Upper Pennisula).  I emailed to see if one of our larger schools, Benton Harbor, would be considered urban, and we got in. The other schools were mostly in the Detroit through Flint area. So that’s how it happened!

This & That

Here’s a collection of notes & thoughts….

  • I’m about halfway through listening to the whole interview between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates at the D Conference last week. It’s great evening entertainment for those interested in technology. I caught a reference by Bill Gates to videoconferencing and looked it up. Microsoft is working on a teleconferencing product called RoundTable. Intriguing, but it seems to be designed for meetings and may not work well in a classroom setting. But might work for shared classes. Something to keep our eyes on.
  • Did you know that TANDBERG has an education newsletter? Here’s a sample from my inbox and here’s how to subscribe. Enjoy!
  • This is really cool from CSD’s blog. A parent wanted to find out about a museum they connected to so they could visit on their summer vacation! Isn’t that cool!! Content providers, you never know when you’re inspiring an actual visit to your museum!!
  • Mark your calendar for Megaconference Jr. on February 21, 2008.  You won’t want to miss it!!
  • PBwiki came out with a new word-like editor this spring. Makes editing in a wiki a whole lot easier. Also, I’ve recently updated the list of collaborative projects on our collaborative VCs wiki. Lots of great examples of VC projects for your summer trainings!
  • The New York Hall of Science has a nice set of bios on their presenters (explainers) on their blog. Check it out.