Posted on November 30, 2007 by Janine Lim
What is GDS?
Last year about this time, we started working on getting on the Global Dialing Scheme. GDS is basically a gatekeeper neighboring structure that allows endpoints to register to their local gatekeeper. Their local gatekeeper is then connected into a hierarchical global structure. This way, in theory, you can neighbor with just one gatekeeper, and then connect with anyone who is also connected to GDS by dialing their GDS e.164 number.
The concept is very slick, and in some ways provides a solution to the interesting dialing schemes and VC islands that cause problems for our projects.
Since we keep increasing our connections with the UK, I’ve wanted to get on GDS so that we could connect directly without having to go through the Janet/JVCS MCU.
After experimenting with GDS unsuccessfully in January and February 2007, I left it alone for several months. This fall, I finally opened a ticket with Tandberg to get it up and running. With a few settings here, and an upgrade there, here a little, there a little, now it works!!
GDS in Real Life
In the process of experimenting with GDS connecting to the UK, I discovered that many of their gatekeepers are still configured only to allow calls to and from Janet/JVCS and not from those outside the country. This explains why I’ve had trouble with GDS and the UK. However this morning we tested a call for an Eco-Conversations project coming up, and this particular area in the UK allows incoming and outgoing GDS calls.
So, the upshot is, the new Collaborations Around the Planet & Read Around the Planet database collects GDS numbers as well as IP addresses. While there are still many schools that don’t use GDS, it’s yet another way to make a call work. Because of that, I think it’s worth the trouble to get it set up.
The next question is, how do I get on? First check with the Internet2 contacts in your state/area. If that doesn’t get you anywhere, try the Internet2 Commons. And if any of you reading my blog have additional tips on how to get on GDS, please add in the comments section!
Filed under: Techie Stuff | Comments Off
Posted on November 28, 2007 by Janine Lim
Here’s another reflection from Deb Kraska, Eagle Lake Elementary, teacher/videoconference coordinator at another of my high-use videoconference schools. Deb just finished the Kid2Kid Videoconference Connections class. This is her reflection on how her Math Mania project went. (Actually it’s on one of them; she did three of these!) I think it’s very important to understand the thinking process teachers go through as they prepare and plan a videoconference. This knowledge and understanding helps us support our teachers more effectively.
After figuring out that my connecting school couldn’t dial my extension and I couldn’t get through to their IP address, we were able to connect through the bridge. Everything went well connecting on Friday. We used the document camera to show our riddles. They read theirs to us. It would have been helpful if they would have written their riddles on a poster. It worked out well, they just read them a few times to us. We exchanged riddles back and forth for about 45 minutes.
Notice how projects that are fairly content dependent (think MysteryQuest and this program) really need a visual to back up the presentation. So when planning projects, consider if the content needs to be reinforced with a visual. In this particular session, the partner school was so new to VC. Just making the connection was an accomplishment. But nudging them a bit further to prepare a visual would have been helpful as Deb indicated.
I evaluated my student learning by monitoring their participation during the videoconference. The student had to solve the problems on notebook paper and then turned it in. After the videoconference we discussed as a class what we would do differently next time. We also like being able to hear the other class solving their problems. I felt that was a major part of the learning process. The other class had used dry erase boards, my class liked that idea. For the next videoconference we are going to redo a few of the problems that need to be more challenging.
How do you evaluate your videoconference experiences and student learning?
I thought everything went well for this VC. I was happy with my student’s problems. I was unsure if the difficulty level was going to match up with the other class. It turned out to be a good match for both classes.
Deb’s concern about the difficulty level or the match between the classes is a common concern that we rarely think about when planning these projects. It’s hard to tell this ahead of time. I can’t think of a good way to know this ahead of time other than talking to the teacher. Sometimes that doesn’t let you know either. On the other sometimes really great learning happens with an unevenly matched (age or grade) connection. It does require flexible and creative thinking. Another one of those hidden challenges that we need to remember when planning collaborative projects.
Using the document camera went well. Freezing the picture whenever I wanted to move it was very helpful in keeping the picture clear. I also learned how to use the picture in picture button to view the other class and the document camera at same time.
Freezing the picture is a feature on the new Lumens Digital Visualizer installed at our 35 RUS grant schools. A Freeze button allows you to freeze the image, move the papers for the next visual, then unfreeze. This way none of that annoying transition movement is sent across the videoconference.
Integrating VC into the curriculum was much easier than I was initially making it. This was an easy way to help the students work on their problem solving skills and writing skills.
Yeah!! The simple VCs are the ones that really break the ice for teachers and get them started on their videoconferencing journey!
Filed under: Collaborations | Comments Off
Posted on November 27, 2007 by Janine Lim
This afternoon I had a chat with one of my videoconference coordinators, Linda Johnson, coordinator for Mars Elementary, Berrien Springs. Mars is a K-2 building with 25 teachers. Last year was their first year with videoconferencing, and they did 44 videoconferences. This year they already have 26 programs scheduled.
A few weeks ago I sent a collaboration request from a school in Ontario to Linda. The Ontario school originally wanted to do one exchange, but now they have 10 exchanges in the process of scheduling. Here’s the interesting part: instead of the two videoconference coordinators hashing it out, Linda gave her teachers their Ontario partner’s email address. The teachers are negotiating their times & submitting several potential times to the coordinator to finalize the schedule after checking the district’s VC calendar.
As we all know, scheduling is the bane of videoconferencing. When we first started videoconferencing, I did the scheduling for all of our schools. This year is the first year I’ve started training my videoconference coordinators to do their own scheduling. And now Linda is sharing some of that scheduling labor with her teachers. It seems evident that the way to sustain growth is to keep training the next level down to create more independence in scheduling & planning collaborations.
Do you know any other tips for several collaborative projects between the same two schools?
Filed under: Collaborations, Implementation, International VCs | Comments Off
Posted on November 26, 2007 by Janine Lim
As the use of videoconferencing increases in schools, the challenge of supporting the videoconferences also grows larger. Here’s a comment from one of my media specialists (finishing up the Kid2Kid Videoconference Connections online class).
I am a media specialist and I think folks sometimes forget that the media center is my classroom, not just a location for videoconferencing. Luckily, we have the option of our science lab and the classroom as alternative vc sites; however, if a vc is scheduled during one of my class periods, I am running to make the test call and set up as well as cover my class. I am fortunate in that a few of my teachers have been enthusiastic about learning the set up of the equipment and are comfortable using the remote and running the actual program themselves. I don’t always have to be in the room while the vc is taking place. It always seems to work out even though it can be hectic at times.
Whether a media specialist or a teacher is the coordinator for videoconferencing, it still helps to have other teachers in the building trained and comfortable with the equipment. This means using it often enough to get over the fear of it! There’s a circle of support: the more you use it, the more comfortable people are, the easier it is, to use it more! What do you think? Does this scenario happen in your area too?
Filed under: Implementation | 1 Comment »
Posted on November 19, 2007 by Janine Lim
My Kid2Kid Videoconference Connections class is just winding up. One of the side conversations that popped up during the discussion was as follows. Both of these schools have a room for the videoconference cart. Both videoconference coordinators are full time teachers with no release time to support VC.
Teacher coordinator A: I think the scheduling works well in our district (I just always check the district calander first to see if anything else is scheduled at that time and day). It’s just sort of a hassle to make sure that everyone knows that I’m using the room in our school (our title 1 aides use it too to work with students in) and then make sure that they remember when I’m using it! Sometimes the testing times aren’t during my planning time either and it’s hard to get someone to cover my class so I can test the connection. If I do move up to our Middle School next year, I’m guessing it will all be different there anyway!
Teacher coordinator B: I have the same difficulties in my building. The room is shared by title 1 and I try to schedule test calls for before or after school and then not forget that I’ve scheduled them. I keep a calendar on the door of the room, a calendar for myself and then I have to update the calendar in the office in order to check out the room. Sometimes I don’t get things updated in time though. It can become overwhelming.
Teacher coordinator A: We have a book in the office where we are supposed to sign up for the days and times we will need the VC room. Although I don’t even think the people who use that room know the book exists, or where it is kept. Plus whoever printed out the calendar pages for the book didn’t have the right year, so all the days/dates are wrong! So everytime I got to put a program in there, I have to scratch out the dates and put in the right ones. I have a thought as to who printed those pages out, and because of who it might be, I’m not going to tell them they did it all wrong. It’s pretty much just me using the book anyway. lol
Do your schools deal with these room scheduling issues, too? Any ideas for solutions?
Filed under: Implementation, VC Community | 3 Comments »
Posted on November 19, 2007 by Janine Lim
This morning while the Thankgiving program was going on, one of my schools connected directly with author Janie Panagopoulos for her Adventures in Writing program.
Janie is set up with videoconferencing in her home now; and she is very experienced with VC, including multi-points. She’s been doing ASK programs in Michigan since at least 2000. Polycom has assisted her with an upgrade to a Viewstation and she also invested in a document camera for showing the writing process.
I chatted with her via Skype to find out how it went. I thought you’d be interested in the support she’s providing to the school along with the VC program. She’s creating a personalized handout for the teacher as a follow-up to the program. In addition, the students will be writing a story for her and she will post it on her website.
So if you’re looking for an author videoconference that can be scheduled when you need it, you should definitely check out Janie Panagopoulos as a potential author to connect with.
Filed under: Content Providers | Comments Off
Posted on November 19, 2007 by Janine Lim
This morning Mars Elementary (K) is connected to Riesel Elementary (2nd grade), TX for a Thanksgiving exchange. This project is a result of the Mini-Jazz training that Roxanne and I offered together in September.
After introductions, the students shared turkey artwork and read several things they were thankful for (pets, family, etc.). One thing that worked well in this exchange was the format: each class had 3 students share; then the other class had 3 students share. This made it easier for short attention spans!
Next the students named different things they would be eating for Thanksgiving.
All good collaborative projects include a map lesson. The Riesel kids were sitting on a carpet that was a map of the world. This started a discussion of where each class was located and how similar they were.
This quick 15 minute exchange was simple and easy for both classes involved. Students practiced reading, speaking, and listening. Great job, teachers!
Filed under: Collaborations | Comments Off
Posted on November 16, 2007 by Janine Lim
Here’s a little thing that sometimes drives me crazy. Especially when I’m bridging a more than one event at a time.
When an endpoint outside my network dials into my bridge (Tandberg MPS MCU), the bridge displays the H323 name or the system name set on the endpoint. I really like it when the name accurately describes the endpoint – the name of the school, or “district name mobile unit” or something useful like that.
What’s frustrating is having a conference full of just numbers. 123678, 543723, etc. Those are fairly useless. Then I have to pay attention and write down their number if I need to mute them or force video to them; two functions I do a lot when facilitating MysteryQuest and ASK programs.
So, do me a favor if you’re participating in one of our connections. Make sure there’s a good useful name on your endpoint! It’s usually set in System Settings or H323 Settings. Thanks!!
Filed under: Techie Stuff | 1 Comment »
Posted on November 15, 2007 by Janine Lim
This morning we have an ASK program in celebration of National Homeless Awareness Week. Students have read the book Monkey Island, and followed the ASK process. They are interviewing a panel of experts who work with the homeless or precariously housed in our county. Here is a sample of the questions:
- Do kids in the homeless shelter get a Christmas?
- How can we help the homeless?
- What are some of the reasons that people become homeless?
- Are run-aways considered homeless?
- What is it like to work with homeless people?
- Are there a lot of children in the homeless shelters? (55% of them are children; the average age of a homeless person is 9.)
- Where do homeless people go if they are sick?
- Why doesn’t the government do more to help the homeless?
- How did you become interested in helping the homeless?
- What’s the most common race in our homeless shelter?
- Is there a time limit for people to stay in shelters?
- Why don’t people want to stay in shelters?
- What do most homeless people do with their pets when they are homeless?
- Is it illegal to be homeless?
- In the book, Clay is scared to go to foster care. What would you say to him?
These programs always emphasize to kids the necessity of a post secondary education and the problems with minimum wage and affordable housing. In Michigan, a person working minimum wage would need to work 104 hours a week to afford a 2 bedroom apartment. In addition, our panelists are always thrilled to see the empathy of the kids and their plans to help the homeless. This is another easy ASK program to copy if you want to get started running ASK programs for your own schools.
Filed under: ASK Programs | 3 Comments »
Posted on November 14, 2007 by Janine Lim
Last post from the CILC Symposium 2007.
Yesterday, November 13, at the luncheon, the NDLW awards were given out. I was glad that some of my favorite people won – COSI Columbus, and the AT&T Videoconferencing website (which started so many of us on our videoconferencing journey.)
But my favorite award winners were Roxanne Glaser and Shane Howard from Region 12, TX. We collaborate on so many events with Region 12 – the sharing goes both ways for projects like MysteryQuest, ASK, Monster Match, Jazz, Mini-Jazz, etc. etc.
Dona Weber, OH, was gracious enough to take this picture of the three of us. And Roxanne was so kind to let me hold her award for the MysteryGuest PD model – which is a really cool extension of the MQ idea and you should check it out.
Congratulations Roxanne & Shane for awards well deserved! And also to all the others who also won or who were nominated.
Filed under: Collaborations, VC Community | 5 Comments »