Tag Archives: Special Events

Interviewing the U.S. Flag Designer

Today Roosevelt Elementary, Lakeshore Public Schools, and Sanford Middle School, Alabama are connected to Bob Heft, the current U.S. Flag Designer.

What a treat of an experience! Mr. Heft shared the story of making the flag for a class project and two years later having it accepted as the current flag. His presentation includes how he used math to design the flag, some history, and what it was like to live in the 1950s. Mr. Heft is a retired teacher and has a knack for telling  the story in interesting ways for the students.

This presentation was perfect for 5th grade studying U.S. history. The students learned many interesting facts about flag history too. His story is inspirational for overcoming adversity. Many people discouraged him from his project; but he persisted and persevered.

Mr. Heft has done videoconferences before and was very comfortable with the medium. He lives in Saginaw, Michigan and travels across the country presenting to schools. During the 25 minutes we had for questions and answers, we had a fun joke between Mr. Heft, who attended Ohio State University, and the students from Roosevelt Elementary who are rooting for the University of Michigan.
This was a great session. I’ll find out how you could schedule with him & post it here.


Do you know about the Megaconferences? If not, then you should sign up & participate this year! Here are announcements from the Megaconference listservs.


Everyone in the world is invited to participate in the Megaconference, 2 November 2006, from the comfort of his or her own office, classroom, or conference room. Registration is now open via the web site http://support.osc.edu/cgi-bin/veventreg/megaconf8. Like any professional conference, presenters and audience members will discuss current projects and developments. Unlike other conferences, hundreds of participants will gather simultaneously from all continents of the world using advanced networks, from universities, K-12 schools, and organizations. This year’s theme — Breaking Down the Barriers: Global Connections– focuses on improving understanding between individuals and cultures, using video conferencing tools. The event runs from morning until evening (EST) that day, to allow participation from around the world. But you can be there as long as you wish.

Megaconference Jr.

The NEW date for Megaconference Jr. 2007 has been set for February 22, 2007, and planning committees need your help to make this year’s event even more of a success than the previous Megaconference Jr. events. This year there will also be several new additions to the event – like a new Virtual Battle of the Bands where musical groups will audition to be part of the grand finale based on the highest number of votes from the international community – which will give participants the opportunity for even more interaction leading up to the event itself. Volunteers are needed in several areas. Please distribute this call for participation widely in your communities.

Also, Megaconference Jr. is looking for student VJs. You can read about how to become a VJ on the Megaconference Jr. blog. (Yet another VC blog you can follow!!)

Megaconferences are great experiences for you & your students, so I encourage you to participate this year!

Lest We Forget: Vietnam War

Today we have several local schools as well as two schools from Pennsylvania interviewing four of our local Vietnam veterans. This is the last in our series of Lest We Forget videoconferences. Students viewed a video produced locally with experiences from our veterans, prepared good questions, and then participated in the videoconference. Here are some of the questions the students asked:

  • Can you explain your first 24 hours in Vietnam?
  • How did you feel about the war protests?
  • Do you think there are similarities between the war in Iraq and the Vietnam War? If so what are they?
  • What did you miss about home when you were overseas? Do you agree with the reasons for starting the war?
  • Describe your accommodations.
  • Did you volunteer or were you drafted?
  • What kind of reaction did you have when you returned to the U.S.?

The classes that participated today really appreciated the experience. These interviews make history come alive for students as they learn the personal experiences of those who have served our country.

This is my last videoconference for the school year. My schools are doing a couple more on their own, but we’re basically done for the year. It’s been fun sharing these programs with you. I hope you’ve been inspired to do more videoconferences in your area, and maybe we can connect our classes together next year! Maybe you’ll start blogging your VCs too so we can learn from you!

Megaconference Jr. Magic

Here are some more highlights from today's Megaconference Jr.

Megaconference Jr. is facilitated mainly by student VJs. It's a great opportunity for these students to practice and showcase their communication and presentation skills.

Here's a picture of the students from Riverview Elementary School giving clues about their location in the Rainy River District. There were quite a few "where are we" type presentations and clues today which made it more interesting and engaging for classes watching.

This picture shows University School in Ohio sharing information about space science simulations. I really liked the layout used here as the presenting students took questions from the 5 interactive sites assigned to their session. In past Megaconferences I have really enjoyed the roll calls even though they can be fairly chaotic. So I was disappointed at first when I saw the schedule for this year's Megaconference Jr. But I have changed my mind! I think the 5 interactive sites per session has worked very well and shown everyone the true possibilities for student-to-student project connections.

Here's another example of the interaction during sessions. This class did a Jeopardy game as you can see in the picture.

Megaconference Jr. is always an amazing experience and a learning experience for videoconferencing etiquette. This year 235 sites are connected and there's always some weird glitches due to mics not being muted and people not paying attention to their site that is connected. It's a good way to learn what NOT to do in a videoconference. It's also a good way to learn to keep going no matter what! I was pleased to see that the presenters and VJs were well trained to keep going no matter who popped in and interrupted the program!

Another neat new feature this year is Virtual Postcards. But they aren't web-based as I first thought upon hearing the name. To leave a postcard, you dial into the IP address given at one of the times listed and record your session with the assistance of a technician. It's a video postcard! Recorded using your endpoint! How cool is that! To view the postcards you dial into another IP address and you can select the postcards from a menu.

I would sure like to know what type of technology is behind that. I'm suspecting a Codian but I'm not sure. Do any of you know? Leave a comment!

Kudos to the Megaconference Jr. team of volunteers. It takes so much work to make a big event like this happen! And we participants sure appreciate all the labor & love that goes into this project! The impact on student global understanding is incredible! 

Are You Watching Megaconference Jr.?

Are you watching or participating in Megaconference Jr. today? Here are a few highlights from today already.

Kuo Kwang High School in Taiwan shared some wonderful little skits on topics such as the Moon Festival and a day in the life of a Taiwanese student. Their presentation gave them a chance to practice English and show off their understanding of words and puns. It was a delight to watch!

Young students at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras/Chennai shared learning games and other fun activities with the sites interactive with their presentation. They played a game of Duck Duck Goose, and we saw an interactive class in Ireland share one of their games too. The classes also tossed a virtual ball back and forth between India, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania.

Another presentation shared a couple of beautiful Chinese dances from a dance school in Minnesota.

I'll post more later, but if you're not connected via videoconference, you should watch via streaming

Lest We Forget: The Korean War

Today several of our local Korean War veterans took time out of their schedules to talk to our history students about their experiences. We also had a couple of classes participating from Pennsylvania and Texas. The veterans answered students questions, shared pictures, and showed various artifacts.

Mr. Gobert, one of the veterans, showed the standard sleeping bag to the students to help them understand the extreme cold conditions.

Here is a sampling of the questions the students asked:

  • What things would you like the American public to know about the Korean war that hasn’t been told or was misunderstood?
  • Why is it called the Forgotten War?
  • It is said that the US administration was unprepared for the Korean War. Do you agree and why or why not?
  • The Korean War was called a Police Action. How does that make you feel?
  • Had we lost the war, do you think communism would have spread through Asia?
  • Describe what military job you were trained for and whether or not you felt that your training was adequate for what you experienced in Korea?
  • How did your families react when they knew that you might not be coming back?
  • Were you able to communicate with your family?
  • What was the most difficult situation you were in and what was the outcome?
  • How has the service affected your life?

The veterans really appreciated the expressions of gratitude and respect from the students. They also appreciated the opportunity to share their stories. In the words of one veteran, "Thanks for letting us blow off steam." The students gained a deeper understanding of the sacrifices made for their freedom.

GNG: Mozambique

Today Global Nomads connected three schools from the United States, Texas, New York and Missouri to students in Mozambique. Polycom helped to sponsor this incredible connection.

This videoconference series in March and April of 2006 brings the world’s youth face-to-face with their peers in Mozambique to discuss and learn about their respective cultures. Here are some of the topics that will be discussed during the March and April connections:

  • We are as one (breaking the ice)
  • What are our similarities and differences?
  • Independence and Civil War
  • Gender Issues I
  • Gender Issues II
  • A Wild Elephant
  • What we have Learned

A series of classroom-to-classroom and remote broadcast conferences (with experts speaking from remote onsite locations) provides a collaborative global education experience.

Here are questions asked by students in today’s videoconference:

  1. What is unique about your town, city or country?
  2. What do you do for fun and what are your three (3) favorite bands?
  3. What is your favorite class in school?
  4. Is there a lot of tourism in Mozambique?
  5. Do you have a traditional food?
  6. What kinds of sports do you play in Mozambique?
  7. Who do you think is going to win the World Cup?
  8. What are your favorite movies?
  9. What are your thoughts on child abuse in the US?
  10. What do you think about HIV Aids? (Interesting fact – there are 1 million people in Mozambique with Aids).
  11. What is the one thing you could not live without? Mozambique answer: FAMILY
  12. If you could take a trip anywhere in the world where would you go? Mozambique answer Brazil – Why to see all the pretty girls.
  13. Mozambique asks: What do you think about the show “American Idol” and “Jerry Springer” – Interesting answers.
  14. How is the educational system in the US?
  15. What are your aspirations for the future?
  16. What holiday do you celebrate in Mozambique?
  17. Who are your role models?
  18. What do you think of the legalization of prostitution and drugs in the US?

It was interesting to learn that most of the students in Mozambique can speak at least 4 languages. United States students were entertained by singing and dancing from Mozambique students.

-by Elaine Shuck, Guest Blogger

Interviewing Congressman Fred Upton

Today we have Congressman Fred Upton talking to six local high school classes in Bangor, Buchanan, Coloma, Decatur, Edwardsburg, and Lawton. This annual conversation is a treat for our local government classes. Mr. Upton also very much enjoys this conversation with the students. Here’s a sampling of the questions:

  • What can we do to stimulate economic growth in Michigan?
  • Will we need passports to go to Canada in the near future?
  • Would you consider a law banning gay marriage?
  • Since you have almost never missed a vote, why do you think it’s so important?
  • How are we taking care of our National Guard’s needs and can we do more?
  • What is Congress doing to battle the viewing of inappropriate websites by young students?
  • I participated in HeadStart when I was younger and I really appreciate the benefits it’s given me growing up. What are you doing to continue this program in our state?
  • What is the most important bill in Congress at this time and why?
  • Do you think we should be spending more research dollars on alternative fuels?
  • Governor Granholm is considering increasing the minimum wage in Michigan. Do you think we should do this at a national level?

Great conversation and discussion on a wide range of current issues! Thanks students and teachers for preparing such great questions!

Interviewing Jim Stovall

Did you know that Jim Stovall “reads” books at 800 words a minute through his audio player? He reads books from the National Library Service for the Blind.
Today we are interviewing blind author Jim Stovall. Our local class participating is from New Buffalo Middle School. In addition, due to Polycom‘s sponsorship, we have classes from Utica, MI; Rapid City, SD; Kenosha, WI; Rosenberg, TX; St. Louis, MO; Osakis, MN; Sturgis, SD; and Tulsa, OK.

In preparation for this videoconference, students read the book The Ultimate Gift, and followed the ASK process to prepare quality questions. Classes were also paired for a online writing exercise where students responded to at least two of the gifts and gave feedback to each others’ responses.

Here are some of the questions that the students asked:

  • If you had one day to see, what would you like to see?
  • What is your favorite gift?
  • Did you ever think you’d be in this position 20 years ago and how has it changed you?
  • What do you think was the best thing for you that came out of writing this book?
  • If you could give an ultimate gift to someone following the same 12 month process, who would you give it to?
  • Did any of the experiences in the book happen to you?
  • If you had to had another gift or chapter to the book, what would it be?
  • Before you wrote this, were you watching society and thinking that you would change things in society to make us more courteous to each other, etc.
  • Have you worked with any celebrities who also had physical disabilities? How was the experience for you?
  • Can you tell us a little about the movie?

Jim’s story is so inspiring for students! Taking the talents you have & blessing the world as you can with them. Not giving up and living in a single little room but getting out and meeting people. Using your resources to do good things for others. Good and bad days are defined by our reaction to them, not by circumstances. A great experience for everyone involved! Hope you can join us next year!

Two Extraordinary Videoconferences

I’m watching two videoconferences at the same time this afternoon (on two different Polycoms of course!) and both are sponsored by Polycom.

Roosevelt Elementary is connecting to Mt. Rushmore for another session (continuing yesterday’s series). Today the students are hearing the story of a man who worked on the mountain and how he carved, what tools he used, etc. Mt. Rushmore does a good job of showing visuals along with the interview to add interest. Some of the student questions included:

  • Where you ever afraid you would fall?
  • What keeps the rocks from eroding? (Great answer on this one. The rocks will erode about 1/4 of an inch in 10,000 years. Mr. Borglum (designer of the monument) said that he took care of that by making the faces 1/4 of an inch larger. )
  • What inspired you to write your book?
  • Did you drop any tools when you were working on the mountain?

One neat thing about this videoconference was the class connecting from Texas had Mr. Borglum’s granddaughter in the class. That was a neat connection.


Also New Buffalo High School is connecting to Global Nobads Group in a discussion on Islam led by David Macquart. He asked the students the following questions – and each school had a chance to give answers. One of the classes participating has 6 Muslim students, so this is definitely enriching the conversation.

  • Do you think the media portrayal of Islam is positive or negative?
  • Are the demonstrations against the cartoons justified?
  • What are the limits to freedom of expression?
  • How can we diminish the clash between the two cultures?
  • Each class also had a chance to ask specific questions directly to the Muslim students. The Muslim students were clear in expressing that the extremists are not following Islam. An analogy was shared by one class – Islamic extremism is to Islam as the KKK is to Christianity. The students participating all agreed that was a good analogy.
  • How do you think that polygamy affects the treatment of women? Out of this conversation came several comments from the Muslim girls in New York that they didn’t want to share a husband with any of each other. Everyone had a great laugh at this. Another great comment that came from this conversation was that the Muslims think we in the U.S. don’t respect our women by how we treat them or how we let them dress or allowing prostitution.

David did a good job of facilitating the conversation. Sometimes you could hear the tension and nervousness in the students’ voices as they commented. David helped the students temper their views and understand the perspectives of others.

This was the first student videoconference I’ve seen with the “extended continuous presence” layout with the speaker in the top left larger box, and the other classes around the right and bottom. We use this layout for the TWICE board meeting all the time and it’s great for conversations. It was definitely the best layout for the conversation today.

On a lighter note, we had a class in Buffalo, New York participating, as well as our local class, New Buffalo, Michigan, which was pretty neat knowing the history of the towns.

These were two great conferences. I wish I could have duplicated myself and watched all of both of them!


March 1, 2006 Addition. Tina Keller, the New Buffalo High School teacher who participated in the Global Nomads videoconference is also taking my Kid2Kid Videoconference Connections class. I am sharing her reflection on the videoconference here with her permission.

The videoconference that I completed for the month of February was sponsored by the Global Nomads Group out of New York City.  The title of the program that my high school world studies class participated in was “Bringing the World Into the Classroom”. 

The conference had a moderator/ David Macquart from the Global Nomads Group.  Four schools participated:  2 from New York, one from Indiana, and us (New Buffalo HIgh School/ Michigan).

I found that this video conference for me was a reflection on one of the articles that I read for January regarding connecting the classroom to the global community.  As a group we were able to discuss the topic of Islam/ particularly the Political Caroons published by many European newspapers depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

All schools had the opportunity to answer the questions and reflect on the following topics: Muslims in the media, Political Cartoons, justified violence?, generalizations of groups of Muslims, the clash between Western values and other religions / proposed solutions to the clash, pologamy, and the Quoran.

It was beneficial for all students to address the above-mentioned topics and answer questions posed to them.  Of particular interest for our school was that one of the New York schools who participated had a Muslim population. It was an awesome global connection for students in Michigan to hear what Muslims thought and believed from a primary source.  My students left this conference with greater understanding of the Muslim faith and of the culture of Islam.

As a teacher I am greatful to have an opportunity such as this. We were able to accomplish more curriculum in one class period on Feb. 15th than I could have in 3-4 days on a block schedule.  I had my students complete an evaluation regarding this program, and they had tons of compliments.  One remark made by a non-Muslim student from another school really stood out to my class.  The individual made a remark that “they” meaning the Muslims from the New York school “must be idiots”. Unfortunately, this individual didn’t understand that the school in New York was simply having audiory interference and thus they couldn’t hear well at some points.  Several of my students commented that racism and prejudice is alive among their generation!

For my students at New Buffalo this was “case and point” that racism is alive.  The topic of generalization that the conference addressed “all/ they” was made on this day, and my class learned from it. (as well did I)