Category Archives: tech integration

Webcast Academy Miracle Workers

At the beginning of the summer, I set a personal and professional goal that I would learn how to be a webcaster like the experts on the ‘Women of WoW; or ‘Teachers Teaching Teachers’ shows. I enrolled in the webcast academy led by the wonderful leaders Jeff Lebow and Doug Symington.

Initially, I had some difficulty with the first assignments but I eventually was successful after following the directions at the website. The second assignment was not so easy.

The second assignment was to record both end of a call on Skype. It sounded easy enough but I noticed there was an additional software program that was needed to make this successful and a USB microphone or headset was required for this process. So I followed the directions and started off on my adventure to complete my assignment.

Source: Noheadset Photostream

Things weren’t going so well so I asked my husband to assist me. My husband has a degree in programming and is the Assistant Director for Technical Services in a school district here in town so I thought he would be able to find my problem. We spent several more hours trying to find out why I kept getting an echo when using the program Audacity to record the two way Skype call. Needless to say I was frustrated. He tried on his desktop computer and followed the steps in the screencast video created by Jeff Lebow to demonstrate this process. Instantly it worked for him.

But I wanted to resolve the problem on the laptop I use. I gave up for that evening. Each day that week I tried again and again thinking maybe this time I will get the settings correct using the repeater of the Virtual Audio Cables software used when recording in Audacity. I had no clue what I was adjusting but I tried every combination known to man to get the settings right and still not much luck.

Twitter post from Coordinatortwo

Hour after hour passed and one night I noticed a tweet from Jose Rodriguez. I tweeted back that I was having difficulties and the next thing I knew Jose rounded up Doug and we were using Yugma to look at my settings and share my desktop. Mind you, this was 1:45am CST! My husband was asleep next to me as Jose, Doug and I worked to resolve the echo problem. After about an hour we gave up. Jose and Doug prescribed a 12 hour holiday from trying to fix the problem and I heeded their advice.

By this time I lost count how many hours but I know it was over ten and I was particularly frustrated and discouraged. I tried another hour or two and then gave up and waited for the next webmaster academy class to begin so that we could again share my desktop and review all of the settings with Jeff Lebow and the other webmasters out there. Jeff Lebow and Doug guided me to check this setting and that setting and we were getting nowhere.

Then Jeff asked me to go back to Audacity to look at the preferences a second or third time – I lost count. Jeff suggested that I remove both checks on the Play Through options in the Audio preferences.

Preferences in Audacity Screenshot

As you can see in the yellow circle below, I removed the check marks that activated those two options in the preferences. After removing the checks marks I pressed OK and we tried to record again to see if the echo was suppressed. (Click on the picture for larger image.)
After struggling for about 30 minutes with the community of webcasters, I tried again. I must say I wasn’t feeling especially optimistic. I started the repeater, started recording in Audacity and lo and behold, no echo! Both sides of the Skype call could be heard loud and clear without any echo anywhere.

Talk about relief! I was thinking that I was going to have to move to a different computer if I wanted to webcast and while that wasn’t a terrible option, it wasn’t the favored option for me. I was thrilled and mute the microphone in the Skype and yelled out to my husband that the webcast pros fixed it and worked another miracle again!

Screenshot of Jeff Lebow in a screencast at

Up after me was another webcast academy intern and after about 20 minutes another miracle by Jeff and Doug occured! Several people that night experienced the tech savvy experience and assistance and had problems resolved to move each of us one step close to webcasting. These generous men give of their time and talents each week solely to share their knowledge to create new webcasters who share their knowledge with others further repeating this cyle an infinite number of times.

While we each celebrated when our technical problems were resolved and graciously thanked Jeff and Doug, the two will never know just how many people’s journey of learning have been dramatically changed, improved and furthered by their time, efforts and words. I recorded the details of this episode solely to spotlight these two educators and webcasters so that others who are experiencing similar technical difficulties will be encouraged, persist and be tenacious about tackling these difficulties. The obstacles will come but with their assistance you can be confident the obstacle will be overcome and spur you on to bigger and betters things in webcasting.

A Rock-n-Rollin’ Wiki Webquest

A few minutes ago I was reading an email containing my daily Diigo update and a bookmark from my Project Based Learning Group that submitted the blog site, “Wikis for Everyone“. The post, “A Classroom Wiki Webquest“, caught my attention featuring a teacher conducting a wiki webquest with her students about rock and roll musicians.

“For their first project, they created a Webquest about the 1980’s rock and roll scene. “Students were required to research about music in the 1980s and design a rock exhibit for a rock and roll museum. Students worked in groups to create various products – feature articles, press releases, teaching and student guides, and museum calendars – explaining the exhibit highlights.”

This project led to a project on the 50 greatest rockers resulting in the creation of a project wiki. The “RockWriteListen” wiki is laid out well with an introduction to the project, a webquest and student products. This was so awesome to see the extent and detailed length the wiki was utlized to facilitate this project. Initially, instruction on how to use the wiki and communicate expectations to the students took place.

“There had to be an entire mini-lesson on what was an appropriate response in the discussion section. The experience was useful. Looking though the discussions you will find that a lot of the students had great insights to add. And this insight went beyond `great page, cool graphics.”

Laying the foundation with clear expectations communicated is essential to the success of any project and as elaborate as this project became it was a necessary component that had to be woven into the instruction of the content as well. The teacher featured commented how the students had to work together to complete the components of the webquest project. Eventually, the teacher structured the 50 greatest rockers project so that each student was responsible for editing his/her own page.

Using wikis to their fullest potential is like venturing into new territory. You blaze a trail and learn from trial and error of ways to better facilitate and structure group projects such as those mentioned in the post. The teacher commented that using the wiki really expanded the learning opportunities and she also participated in the learning process.

“As for photobuckets and other widgets, the students really showed me how to do that. Once one student started it, I asked how to do it, then taught other students. We were learning from each other – myself included.”

That comment really struck with me. Students look to us to know all of the answers to their every question. Many teachers feel insecure about saying that they don’t know the answer but this is real world learning. This teacher took a risk, her students took risks and an outstanding project resulted that focused on content but provide so many rich, real learning experiences that is greatly needed for the 21st century flattened world.

Just Call Me a Zealot!

The other day I received a bookmark in the update I receive from Diigo from one of the online groups I am a member of to the edublog entitled, “Betchablog” authored by Chris Betcher. I was reading the post, “You say that like it’s a bad thing“. He shared an anecdote from Will Richardson who was speaking at a conference that I found astonishing. As I reading the post, I made an assumption that most teachers would feel the way I did and would have responded as I would have regarding the student’s assignment below.

“In particular, one of the stories that seemed to rankle a few listeners, including my colleague, was the one about a student who was given a research task by his teacher and how he approached this task.
The student found very little information about the topic, not even on
Wikipedia. What would you do if you were this student?

Here’s what he did. He created a Wikipedia entry using the limited information that he did know. Over the next few days and weeks, the Wikipedia entry on the topic was edited, amended, added-to and improved by many other people. All of their individual little bits of knowledge gradually built up the topic until there was quite a comprehensive article written about it. The student then used this article to submit for his research project.

Apparently, the student’s teacher discovered what had happened and the student was awarded an F – a failing grade.”

Prior to sharing this anecdote, Betcher shared a definition of a ‘zealot’ and went on to describe his views after sharing with his colleagues:

“One of my colleagues from school also attend the event, and when I got back to school the next day I asked how he enjoyed it. His reply was fairly lukewarm, with the comment that he thought a lot of the things Will was saying made him sound like a zealot. Google says that a zealot is a “fanatically committed person“, or “one who espouses a cause… in an immoderately partisan manner.”

I don’t think my colleague used the term zealot in a particularly positive sense – I’m sure it wasn’t meant as a compliment. Personally, if a zealot is a fanatically committed person then I think we need more zealots in education. I also have strong beliefs about the nature of school and learning and think that we need to act quickly and radically if schools are to maintain any sort of relevance in today’s world. I also think we need to be fairly drastic about making these changes, so I guess that makes me a zealot too.”

Similar to Betcher’s response, I too would not have given the student a failing grade. I would have commended him on his ingenuity and tenacity of seeking information on a topic that had been sparsely documented. I would have had a conversation with the student regarding the accuracy of the information received and ways to verify the validity of the information. If all of proved true and his sources were properly cited I would gladly have given him a superior grade.

If we want students to employ and utilize the many web 2.0 tools, we must model and support those strategies in the classroom. Misguided teachers or administrators that do not believe in their students or staff must be shown there are secure, safe ways to instruct students on using blogging, wikis, etc. If that makes me a zealot for tech integration, then please call me a zealot! In my world flattery gets you everywhere.

You can find the UStream recording from Will’s talk here, and his conference wiki here.

“If I were President!”

While searching for educational videos at TeacherTube, I came across this video of kinder students sharing what they would do if they were the President of the United States. With 2008 being an election year, what activities centered around the presidential election are you planning for use in your classroom?

“If I were President” video