Posted on April 6, 2010 by Janine Lim
This post continues the journey to figure out how to get videoconferencing in the 21st century classrooms in our county. I’ve been learning about Vidyo over the last several months. Here are some early posts: first learning about Vidyo, and Craig’s comments about the future of VC in schools, and the results of the fall experiment with Vidyo hosted by Craig.
- Quality. Everytime I see Vidyo I am amazed at the quality. I’ve seen it under a variety of conditions, including the pretty low quality of conference bandwidth at our MACUL workshop and it has been excellent.
- Easy Link. More like a webinar, when you want to participate, the host sends you a link to click and after a little download you are up & running. It’s really easy. Imagine sending this link to an author or expert to talk to your students.
- Mac and PC. It works on both the Mac and the PC, which is an essential feature for our use.
- H323 connectivity through a gateway. This is both a pro and a con, but at least it includes H323 connectivity! That is also a must for us!
- CPU intensive. It requires a newer computer and in some cases you may have to close all the other applications in order for Vidyo to run well.
- Echo-cancellation. The echo-cancellation isn’t totally there yet, but I know they are working on it and it keeps getting better.
- Cost structure. The more I learn about other server based videoconference tools, the less I’m excited about Vidyo. If you have your own server, there is an annual license for the software, as well as the cost per download. However, you could also access Vidyo through a reseller and depending on their plans, just pay for the use you have. However, this scenario seems to be designed for much less frequent use of VC than we have.
- H323 connectivity through a gateway. This is also a con because the gateway is limited in the number of connections it can do. It’s really designed for you to use for mostly Vidyo to Vidyo calls, with a few calls to H323 here and there. Whereas 95% of our calls are off our network via H323. So this solution would drastically limit the number of calls we can do at at time. In addition, a “Hollywood squares” layout within Vidyo doesn’t connect well to a “Hollywood squares” layout on an H323 bridge (the same problem you have with connecting this layout between two H323 bridges).
- Pet Peeve: Legacy. I do have one little pet peeve about how Vidyo refers to H323. They call anything that is H323 “legacy”. Legacy is a term used in the videoconferencing industry to mean a videoconference system that is no longer supported. For example, our Polycom Viewstations are legacy because there are no more software updates coming out for them. But to call ALL H323 legacy is offensive to me. As if no one else is making anything new in H323. Which obviously isn’t true at all. Calling all H323 stuff legacy is really annoying to me! Just my little quirk I guess!
Conclusion. For our area at least, Vidyo does not seem to be the ideal solution. We do too many calls off our network. However, for meetings or professional development or scenarios where most calls are within a district or region, it may be a potential solution. I just prefer to invest in VC that we can use for all applications: content providers, student projects and collaborations, meetings, professional development, classes, etc.
A Couple Places to Get a Demo
If you want to try it out, you could contact one of these places. I’m sure there are more, so feel free to comment if you want to add to this list.
So what do YOU think? Please comment if you have any additional insights or comments on using Vidyo in K12 education.
Filed under: Desktop VC, Techie Stuff, VC Community | Tagged: Vidyo | 18 Comments »
Posted on March 24, 2010 by Janine Lim
If you’ve been following the discussion/investigation on here about desktop videoconferencing, you might be interested in some additional reading:
- “Desktop Videoconferencing Will Challenge the Network“. Note that this is from 2008. Still interesting reading. Be sure to read the comments. What I found most interesting was the comment from Stefan Karapetkov that normal use is about 10% of the users/devices. Even though sometimes I feel like my schools are keeping me too busy, when I think about a really busy hour with 4-7 VCs at the same time; that is still about 10% of our 70 units. This number is useful in planning for capacity with server based desktop videoconferencing.
- Get Out of the Videoconferencing Rooms Already! This article is from just over a week ago; and argues that we shouldn’t have to go to a “room” to communicate. It should be available where we are. It fits in nicely with the concept that instructional tools are most easily used by the teacher when they are available IN the classroom (i.e. computers, videoconferencing, etc.).
Filed under: Desktop VC, Techie Stuff | Tagged: Desktop VC | Comments Off
Posted on December 7, 2009 by Janine Lim
Last Wednesday Craig Mollerstuen from GCI Alaska hosted another experimentation session for desktop videoconferencing options. We keep talking about ways these tools can be used to bring VC to the classroom and to bring outside experts to the classroom.
I’m a little slow writing this up, but the need continues. I had a small private school call me on Friday with a request to get VC. They had a donation for $500. For now we are seeing if Polycom PVX will run on the older computers that the school has.
So on Wednesday, we had a group of people connected on the Vidyo side:
And another set of people connected on the H323 side:
Just like hooking two bridges together, it’s not possible to have all the sides in all the squares.
Notice the great quality of the picture on both sides of the VC (from the Region 12 perspective).
The Vidyo sites are connected through a Vidyo H323 router which was connected to a Polycom MGC which connected the H323 sites.
Audio & Video Gear
One of the things we talked about was different types of mics and video cameras that work well for making desktop VC work in the classroom:
- Clearone Chat 50: Some liked it, some didn’t. The audio was a little low.
- Phoenix Duet: This had more recommendations from the people attending; the Phoenix Quattro also was recommended but is in the $500 range.
- The Logitech 9000 also had high recommendations, but isn’t easily mounted for classroom use. It’s designed for the laptop of course.
Some issues with Vidyo
Issues with Vidyo that came up during the discussion included:
- You can’t change your audio settings during the call – you have to disconnect and reconnect after changing the audio source/settings.
- Another issue is the regular updates that are required – something that can be problematic for schools that can’t upgrade constantly because of computers locked down. This raised another question for me – do all the sites in a Vidyo call have to be on the same version? That could potentially be an issue doing Vidyo across installations of it like we do with H323 between schools.
- Sharing content (h239) doesn’t cross Vidyo to H323. For me, this doesn’t matter as H239 drives me crazy anyway. I prefer AverMedia QuickPlay to connect the computer to H323 unit; and I don’t expect to have h239 on my desktop/classroom VC rigged setup.
Some ideas we discussed of how to use this included:
- Bringing in remote sites without VC
- Bringing in guest speakers, authors, lawyers, any single person who doesn’t have easy access to full VC
Issues with Rigging Desktop VC for Classroom Use
We also talked about some of the challenges of trying this.
- The web camera doesn’t have pan, tilt, zoom. On the other hand, if we’re competing against Skype and/or trying to bring H323 VC content to schools that are using Skype, they don’t really need pan, tilt, zoom.
- USB cables would be good to extend the length of the mic and webcam so that there is more flexibility to classroom use.
- An appliance is simple and easy for the teacher to use; it is much more complex to get all this working. It potentially could take more tech support and tinkering to make this work for cheaper. Is that totally true? One of my district techs called last week for help – the SVideo cable for the main camera was in the wrong place. Even the appliance still needs VC support. Both would need support, I think.
- Mic quality is definitely an issue. Nothing’s going to work as nice as my favorite Polycom VSX 7000 mic or Viewstation mic. The person speaking has to be right in front of the mic to work.
- Integrated sound on an interactive whiteboard could really cause problems – echo – cancellation is an issue too. Vidyo is supposed to have echo cancellation soon.
- Another issue is having a powerful enough computer in the classroom. Schools tend have older computers.
We talked a wee bit about Creative’s InPerson.
- It’s H323.
- It has a fixed camera.
- Costs about $800 ish.
- People on a browser can connect to it.
Some Concluding Thoughts
Some thoughts from the group….
- It’s possible to do this, but could be challenging to make it work. Could take a lot of tinkering.
- If I missed anything that you found important from the meeting, please add comments below!
By the way, this was a pretty cool little meeting. When does it happen that someone sets up a videoconference to continue a discussion that started on a blog? Thanks Craig for making this possible!
Filed under: Desktop VC, Techie Stuff, VC Community | Tagged: Vidyo | 3 Comments »
Posted on January 26, 2009 by Janine Lim
Recently, thanks to the Megaconference Listserv, I found another blog with reviews of technology, including videoconferencing tools: TelBitConsulting Technical Blog. This blogger admits a bias to desktop VC, which shows the corporate focus. However, I still want to see a desktop VC system morphed with Promethean or similar interactive whiteboards to bring curriculum videoconferencing to all classrooms.
Polycom has come out with a new CMA product, which I want to look into further when Read Around the Planet calms down a little. TelBitConsulting has done a review of CMA and other new Polycom products. What caught my eye was this quote:
The CMA Desktop is meant to work most efficiently within the corporate environment. Telecommuters connect via a Virtual Private Network (VPN) but can do so from Starbucks if they so wish. The downside is that external people with H.323 endpoints, like myself, are harder to reach, and the CMA Infrstructure may not be for us loners.
I certainly evaluate all these new products on how well they connect to all the H323 anythings out there – like we do for Read Around the Planet. Sounds like CMA might not work well for these types of collaborative connections, but need to investigate further.
The other new desktop product that has caught my interest in Vidyo. I ran across a Google ad one time wandering on the Internet. I’ve requested some datasheets and intend to learn more about this too (after RAP matching is done!). However, in the meantime, TelBitConsulting has done a review on Vidyo too. It seems that these new models are putting the money & effort into the network infrastructure and using the distributed concept like Skype. Vidyo has a gateway that hooks to h323. Not sure if this is a good plan for K12 curriculum videoconferencing or not, but I intend to explore it further.
Filed under: Desktop VC, Techie Stuff | 7 Comments »
Posted on June 5, 2008 by Janine Lim
Here’s an interesting article published in Feb/March. Did you read it?
A Healthy Education
Videoconferencing allows a Florida boy with an immune system deficiency to attend school for the first time.
Kevin O’Connell is a typical third grader at Spring Hill Elementary. He jumps up from his chair and recites the Pledge of Allegiance with his classmates. He huddles with his small reading group and reads a story when it’s his turn. And when he knows an answer, he raises his hand and patiently waits for his teacher to notice him in the back of the classroom. The only difference is, he’s actually attending class at home.
Take a moment to read it. It’s a pretty cool example of using VC to bring full courses to students.
Filed under: Course Delivery, Desktop VC, Implementation, Opinion Articles, Resources, Techie Stuff | 2 Comments »
Posted on July 25, 2007 by Janine Lim
So I’m admittedly biased to H.323 videoconferencing and all the experiences that come with it. However this morning I had my first experience trying out iChat on my new MacBook Pro. I connected with Sue Porter who is on vacation in the Traverse Bay area in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan. She’s sitting on the deck outside their little cabin. The quality was great! Cell phone coverage up there is spotty at best, but great wireless Internet access. What a fun conversation!
It seems so easy and so cheap compared to room based systems. But I wonder how the sound works in a classroom and if it’s possible to hook up to a projector for a quality classroom experience. Plus of course you’d have to connect to other Macs only. There really ought to be a way to use iChat to connect to H323. Wouldn’t that be awesome? I wonder if Apple is thinking about that.
Anyway, iChat is pretty cool and another option for videoconferencing with other classrooms and schools that have iChat too.
Filed under: Desktop VC | 6 Comments »
Posted on May 5, 2007 by Janine Lim
I was wandering across the Internet recently and found this link to YouTube videos about videoconferencing linked from the AT&T (SBC / Pacbell) Videoconferencing site. These links probably won’t work at school (they don’t for me), so try them at home. (Issues with YouTube include inappropriate comments on the page featuring the clip and that’s an issue with some of these too. Beware!)
Here’s some clips that show the use of videoconferencing outside the school setting:
Video clips that feature school use:
There are many more including Cisco and Tandberg ads (including some funny Russian Tandberg cartoon ads); examples of Cisco’s Telepresence system featured in popular shows, and other odds & ends. If you’re ever looking for some partially work related entertainment, here’s a place to start!
Filed under: Desktop VC, International VCs, Resources, VC Community | Comments Off
Posted on January 10, 2007 by Janine Lim
Here’s a nice little blurb from Tech4Learning about cross platform (Mac to PC) desktop videoconferencing.
Another option the teachers could pursue is using the commercial software Trillian Pro on the Windows-side. Users of Trillian Pro can videoconference directly with Macintosh users running iChat AV videoconferencing software.
Did you know that? It was new to me. If anyone has tried this, please leave a comment as to how well it works.
Filed under: Desktop VC, Resources | 1 Comment »
Posted on December 3, 2006 by Janine Lim
While I am admittedly a fan of H323 videoconferencing and mostly write about that, occasionally I have an experience with desktop VC that I must share with you. This weekend was one of those times.
With two nurses among my in-laws, sometimes we celebrate Christmas at odd times. This year it was last night. All the in-laws gathered at our house, with the exception of my brother- and sister-in-law who are teaching in Taiwan. Last year we connected to them with Yahoo with video one way (to them). This year we wanted to do video both ways. They are a Mac family, so hooking up our PC to them with a full blown VC has been a puzzle since they moved to Taiwan. When we started talking about our celebration this year, we found out that the new version of Skype has video on the Mac FINALLY!
So this year the tech set up in our house included a laptop with Skype, a projector, and a Polycom SoundStation. In Taiwan, a Mac laptop, web camera, and a splitter connecting two headphones completed the setup. The sound was excellent and the video quality just like I see at work with H323 and good bandwidth. The only pixellation and breakup came when they took their laptop outside wireless to show us their yard & surrounding scenery.
But it really wasn’t about the technology this year. It was about being together. Family. Which is what family celebrations are all about anyway! We exchanged gifts long distance, but the real “connected” moment came when my four year old nephew began throwing torn wrapping paper at the wall where we were projecting larger than life full screen of my brother- and sister-in-law. Soon a paper fight broke out. Only once did my nephew turn around to see if the paper had fallen behind him (the one they threw!). Giggles and chuckles from everyone around, the moment continued on, each one feeling the love and connection across the miles. This morning he was still talking about playing with his aunt & uncle in Taiwan.
We also played the trading game. You know, where everyone brings an wrapped un-labeled gift. You draw numbers, and then open the gifts or trade with someone until the game is over and everyone has a gift. Of course we’ll have to mail them their gifts now, but it was very fun to play long distance. The interaction was incredible; almost like being together. My nephew kept trying to touch them and hug them.
So this Christmas, I’m thankful for (among other things) technology that brings us closer together.
1.7.07 Update. Added after reading The Weblog Handbook. The Polycom SoundStation was given to me by a Polycom Sales Specialist.
Filed under: Desktop VC, Techie Stuff | Comments Off