Thursday, 26 November 2009

Desktop VC to H323

This morning i joined with Craig from GCI in Alaska, Janine from Michigan, & Janet my ePrincipal colleague from Baylink cluster to have a conversation about desktop video conferencing and integrating webconferencing (think Adobe, Elluminate) with H323 connections (what we know as ‘VC’).

Firstly we looked at the lower cost hardware options of webcam & echo cancelling microphone running through the desktop compared to an integrated H323 VC unit. Craig demonstrated the difference by switching between the two during our call. There was no noticeable difference at all. With USB extension cables attached to the camera set back from the laptop you can have a wider view (potentially including more people) than the close up view (compare my & Craig’s pictures). The only drawback is that the webcam (currently) doesn’t have the same functionality as a polycom camera of zoom, pan & tilt.

We then went onto discuss the Vidyo platform we were meeting in. Craig & Janine were both coming into the VC with their regular VC IP connections, Janet & I were coming through the open internet using our webcams from home. The beauty of this is that you don’t need expensive hardware or even a connection with Qos – Quality of Service (such as we currently have to use with SchoolZone to be able to VC). You can bring people in from just about anywhere providing they have sufficient bandwidth (I have nearly 2mb download & 512kps upload) & you can bring in users on a standard vc connection as well.

The possibilities here are being able to open up our online classes that are currently only VC to any school with web access or vice-versa. Those schools such as in SILC cluster with only web conferencing would be able to bring in VC connections also. Schools, particularly primary schools who want to join virtual fieldtrips won’t have to pay crippling internet service prices for a video connection or traipse down to a VC room at the local high school but be able to connect from their own classrooms.

This sort of solution to current VC constraints will really open up accessibility for the Virtual Learning Network and is something that our VLNC community needs to investigate further & put to the MOE to provide the support we need. The VLC has an infrastructure working party that has been looking at EVO which is being used by users on the KAREN network – very similar i believe. Hopefully something will come of this as we move into the high speed network era.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

LEARNZ Antarctica Field Trip

Today i supported St Joseph’s Stratford students make a VC connection to Scott Base in Antarctica for a conversation with Scott Base staff about the Wind Farm they are developing there. It is great that St Josephs have been able to link into our local secondary school & use the resources & expertise available to reach out beyond the walls of the classroom. I would really encourage Primary Schools to foster those links with their local schools to enable these VC opportunities for our students. Secondary Schools also should be reaching back to their feeder schools and invite them in to share their facilities.

The field trip itself was great with a view out of the window (I didn’t know Polar Bears lived that far south ;-) and lots of questions and answers from the students, ably assisted by the presenters penguin bringing up pictures and video on the laptop to share. LEARNZ fieldtrips are now supported by the MOE and free of charge to schools wishing to participate. They are not just one off VC or audio conversations but are part of a whole unit of study.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

MOE VLN-IS Lead Teacher Meeting

eddie Eddie Reisch from the MOE joined our TaraNet Lead Teacher meeting this afternoon. Although we didn’t have many Lead Teachers attend this meeting, those that did attend heard from Eddie about an overview of the VLN Internet Services, the roles of people involved, what Internet Services are being provided for schools behind the scenes (such as Adobe, Tandberg etc), how it is managed, and how through their cluster they can tap into these services. Eddie also spoke about how is Moodle is being supported by MOE for clusters and future developments with that. It is good to have our teachers engage directly with people like Eddie to be able to discuss their needs, concerns & give feedback to the MOE.

Friday, 13 November 2009

eTeacher Professional Learning.

I have spent some time with eteachers over the last few weeks reviewing their professional learning goals from the year. Joel has now put his L3 Statistics and Modelling class into Facebook. I am looking forward to following this in 2010. One of the areas that our eteachers have sometimes struggled with is engaging their students with communication & interaction online. This was also identified by our students as something they felt they needed more of in their VLN classes – more opportunities to interact. This is one way to produce an Open Educational Resource and to engage our students in interactive environments.



I have been collaborating with Conor & Jan from the Volcanics & CoroNet cluster to provide 2 face to face days of professional development for our eteachers & possibly also could include others in our schools who are interested in any of our workshop sessions. So far we have planned out the programme. Now to spend some time on developing the workshops so they are ready to run. I am really looking forward to hearing from Derek and also from Lynda with feedback from the NZCER research.

Inspiring our School Leavers

Last week i had the privilege of attending Senior Prizegivings at two of our TaraNet Schools. Apart from recognising the achievements of our students in the awards that are given, this is also a time to farewell them in their journey into the wider world beyond the school gates. (As one student put it ‘the real world’ – though we should be bringing  more of the ‘real world’ into school but that’s another story). Speakers at both of these events talked about the rapidly changing world our young people are moving into, the skills, values & dispositions they will need to develop to thrive there, and what changes schools will need to make to enable  young people to develop as life long learners. Both speakers specifically focussed on the power of web 2.0/3.0 to enable students to collaborate, connect, innovate & become global citizens.

Kelvin spoke at Stratford High School and shared this video to illustrate his point of being connected, collaborative global citizens:


Marg spoke at Inglewood High School and the video she used to illustrate her speech was this one:

Thursday, 12 November 2009

20/20 ICT in Schools 2009


New Report on ICT in Schools Released: Cost the biggest barrier to computer usage in schools

Schools have given a strong message to IT suppliers and government that they'd like more centralised procurement of computer equipment and services to help reduce costs. This was revealed in the 2009 ICT in Schools survey, released today by the 2020 Communications Trust.”

read more or download the full report here.

“In spite of equipment costs, the 2009 report found that New Zealand students have good access to ICTs in their schools. With one computer for every four primary students and one for every three secondary students, access is significantly better in New Zealand than in the UK.”

I think this idea of student access to ICTs measured by the ratio of numbers of computers in schools per student is fundamentally flawed. These statistics show that a student should be able to use a computer at least a third of the time at school? I don’t believe this gives a true measure of access at all and is too simplistic. Sure there may be lots of computers in a school  but are they readily available to students & when they do manage to get their hands on one what are they able to do with them? We should be asking our students questions to gain a true measure of access:

  • How often do you use a computer at school?
  • Can you independently access ICT equipment at school when you need to?
  • How do you gain access to a computer? (Where do you go, who do you ask?)
  • Do you know your user name & password?
  • Do you have a school email address?
  • What do you use ICT for at school?
  • Can you access sites you need on the internet?
  • Are the computers you use up to date?

Here are the answers to those questions from my Year 9 daughter (who by the way lives on the computer at home).

I can’t remember the last time i used a computer at school. I think it was for our Science Projects for research in August. I guess i could gain access to a computer if I needed to i would ask my teacher but i haven’t needed to. Yes i know my username & password. I don’t know if i have an email address i don’t think so. We wrote our essays for English on the computer. When we did computers i used a computer but thats obvious. In Maths at the beginning of the year we did a mini-project – research & publishing. In Wood we used the computers to find images for our work. Sometimes sites are blocked that we need to use but you can find other sites but it takes longer. Sometimes when i try and get onto a webpage it asks for plugins – not all the time though.

So its not just numbers of computers in a school that show the true access our students have to computers. It’s there ease of availability to our students – it shouldn’t have to be a mission to get your hands on one. It’s also about their need to use computers – why aren’t our kids needing to use a computer in school? 

I don’t think that students will have true access to ICTs unless they can use their own. With the costs of notebooks coming down that day may not be too far away. Who is of the generation that remembers when calculators came into general use at schools. How expensive they were yet some parents brought them for their kids & they took them to school. Before too long they became a standard item as they still are today.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Te Papa Colossal Squid VC

I am cross posting this from our C4 blog as this was such a great VC. I highly recommend you book this for your students!

Today was one of the highlights of our C4 class when we had Diana-Grace Morris & Melanie from Te Papa join our class to talk about and show us the Colossal Squid. Diana told us the story of how the Colossal Squid was caught and came to be on display at Te Papa. We learnt about the anatomy of a squid as Melanie dissected a smaller version. This would be a great VC to do with our own squids & scapels in front of us.


Students can follow-up (or prepare for) this VC with hooking into the Colossal Squid Website and ask anymore questions on their blog there. Good question Lewis about what they are going to do with the Squid when it comes off exhibition. Given that the little squid in the dissection above was pretty stinky (thank goodness you don’t get the smells over VC ;-) imagine how stinky the colossal one will be!


This is a great website, you can engage in questions and discussions through the blogs linked from there and ‘play’ with the interactives. I really liked the build a squid interactive, not only do you learn about the body parts of a squid but when you have finished it you set it free and can check in later to see how big it has grown and what it’s been doing.


Do you know that as of today there are 1071 Squids named Squidward swimming around in the Te Papa interactive!! Here is my Squidward above.

Remembrance Day


Today the RSA launched their speech competition for next year. This one is worth following up with your students as the winner gets to travel to Gallipoli next Anzac Day. (Yr 12 & 13’s only)

The resource page that supports the Speech Competitions is an awesome collection of links for all students studying the Wars.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Wordspace: The Sky is the Limit When You Read

image  image image

I facilitated another great WordSpace VC with authors Melanie Drewery, Joy Watson & Brian Falkner today. These authors were visiting schools in South Taranaki and so delivered their VC from Stratford High School. Brian is now an old hand at connecting with kids online and he was great at breaking the ice with students and drawing out the conversation with the other authors.

Students hooked in from Northern Southland College, Roxborough Area School, Te Aroha College, Mercury Bay Area School, St Kevin’s College & Ashburton College.