As many schools are cutting back on field trips due to budget cuts, teachers are looking for new ways to expose their students to outside resources. The ICN is here to help! Through K-12 Connections and other IPTV sessions, online resources to connect students with professionals or other schools, and individual virtual field trips, teachers can still reach valuable community, state and national resources without leaving the building or, in some cases, the classroom. Read on to learn more about ways to use the ICN as a less expensive and convenient field trip alternative.
Iowa Public Television (IPTV) offers a variety of ICN sessions that include every discipline and grade level. Sessions during this past year included encounters with Polk County and Warren County naturalists, Iowa Capital tour guides, experts at the Hoover Presidential library and educators from the Blank Park Zoo just to name a few. If you can’t take a trip to the zoo or the Capital, give your students the next best thing! Presenters often include real animals and other artifacts that bring the topics to life for the students.
In addition to these sessions geared toward elementary students, IPTV also offers Transitions and School to Career sessions for high school and middle school students. Transitions sessions connect students with various experts to assist with the transition from high school to college and adult life. In one upcoming session, students can join staff from Iowa Workforce Development to learn about employment trends and how the recession may impact the job market forecast. School to Career sessions connect students with professionals working in a variety of careers. This year, IPTV has offered a series of sessions specifically geared toward science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. In a March session, naturalists from the Dallas County Conservation Department discussed their careers with Bettendorf and IKM-Manning High School students. During the session, they discussed the habitat, nesting and survival of Iowa eagles and talked about other animals they monitor and study. As always, all IPTV ICN sessions are offered at no cost to the school and often include free classroom resources.
Several high schools have sponsored sessions connecting students and experts in Iowa and other states. In January 2008, students at Hoover High School met via the ICN with students in New Hampshire, another early voting state. During this session, students from the two states were able to ask each other questions about the caucus process, the differing results of the two states and student involvement in the campaigns. Students at both Hoover High School and PCM High School have had the opportunity to meet with Sen. Chuck Grassley in Washington, D.C. via ICN sessions. On both of these occasions, students participated in town meeting sessions where they initiated questions answered by Sen. Grassley. Further student reflection and follow-up questions were addressed as the meetings progressed.
During The Great Debaters session, Roosevelt High School debate team members, one graduate of the team and the Roosevelt debate team coach discussed the skills they have honed through involvement in debate. This session provided information and advice for those around the state interested or involved in high school debate.
If you are interested in any of the options discussed above, please check the K-12 Connections Calendar or contact Lyneé Casper. Casper is also available to help plan more individualized “field trips.” Please contact her for ideas or share your ideas with her, and she’ll work to make them happen. Schools can also work together on the ICN to share resources. Make every budget dollar count. If you are a K-12 building or have an ICN room nearby – be sure to take advantage of it!
Fiscal year 2008 marked another successful year for the ICN as indicated by the 2008 annual report. Over 9,200 hours of video sessions were delivered through the K-12 Connections program, a 26% increase over the previous year. Professional development, in particular, has become a major component of the K-12 Connections sessions as approximately 25% of the 43,000 participants were adults taking part in professional development opportunities. Sessions included topics such as bullying prevention, school nurse certification and food safety. One session brought together over 2,000 food and nutrition workers at 236 ICN video classrooms in the largest session held in the Network’s 15-year history.
High school students continued to benefit academically from high school, college-credit and Advanced Placement classes offered over the ICN. During the 2007-08 school year, classes in foreign languages, health science/medicine and science made up many of the hours of classes offered to students through high school class-sharing agreements or by two- and four-year colleges. Iowa Learning Online (ILO) continues to help connect high school students and teachers across the state to broaden the educational possibilities for Iowa students. In addition, ILO’s new struggling learners initiative, which is currently in development, will increase opportunities for students who are identified as high risk to finish courses and meet high school graduation requirements.
Rapid advancements in conferencing technologies, combined with the widespread presence of IP (Internet Protocol) networks, are changing the way organizations do business. Critical for achieving business goals, conferencing technologies are essential for any organization that wants to advance its business. To answer that need, in the spring ICN Service Delivery introduced a new managed IP video system to Network customers. As discussed in last month’s ICN News blog, PerfectMeetings Managed Video allows users to communicate from desktop and laptop computers in videoconferences across the office, town, country or ocean. Desktop video participants and board room video sites can come together in the same video meeting using the PerfectMeetings Managed Video environment and can be joined with those connecting by phone or viewing through Web streaming. The automated, on-demand and intuitive features of PerfectMeetings Managed Video allows anyone to easily initiate a multi-site video meeting, and any session can be recorded and stored for later viewing.
Changes throughout ICN modes of communication have improved the flow of information and publicity of the network. The ICN site is moving toward a Web 2.0 platform that allows for increased multimedia and more relevant information. Heartland AEA’s ICN information site was redesigned earlier in the year by ICN consultant Lyneé Casper to improve ease of use and include more relevant information. The new blog format of the ICN News has greatly increased the number of articles able to be featured and provides information in a timelier manner.
These are just a few of the many successes seen throughout the ICN in the past year. Please feel free to add comments and share your successful stories from the past year on the blog. What have you seen in your classroom and with your students that might interest others considering the ICN?
Lyneé Casper is the ICN/RTC consultant for Heartland AEA 11. She visits with schools about courses and ICN curriculum-based sessions, including ICN multimedia classroom technologies and supporting Internet Web 2.0 technologies. Casper is also available to provide personal, customized ICN training and ICN related staff development. Casper promotes new and developing ICN networking capabilities, such as bridging an ICN classroom beyond our Iowa borders to national or global connections through Internet IP video conferencing, or via desktop IP videoconferencing. Casper is currently collaborating with the ICN to further promote this area. She communicates ICN awareness through web-based communications, such as the Heartland ICN Distance Learning Web Site, at http://www.aea11.k12.ia.us/tech/icn/. She is involved in planning and promoting news for the ICN News Blog, and is currently developing online ICN resources, such as online training, courses and a collaborative Wiki.
Casper feels strongly that the ICN, together with new technologies, can continue to bring significant benefits to education in Iowa. Read her reflections and thoughts concerning the ICN below:
In 2008, the World Future Society predicted that virtual education and distance learning would be one of the emerging top 10 breakthroughs transforming life in the next 20-30 years. (http://tinyurl.com/cnoo53) In addition, 32 states currently have virtual schools and 44 states have significant virtual schools policies or programs. (Watson, Keeping Pace, 2008) More than 50% of all school districts across the U.S. offer online and distance learning. (America’s Digital Schools Report) The Iowa Communications Network is the infrastructure poised to meet the many learning needs for our teachers and students as this shift in education occurs.
With financial constraints and teacher shortages prevalent in school districts, the ICN offers low cost alternatives and cost cutting options. Iowa Learning Online continues to build a quality list of high school online course offerings, just when schools may be struggling to provide classes in needed subject-areas. Schools can seek economical ways to work or collaborate in this area. The ICN video classroom, the Internet, desktop videoconferencing, or even telephone conferencing are connectivity options available through the ICN. In addition, many Iowa schools get their Internet connectivity through the ICN. Did you know that the ICN is the Internet provider for all but nine Heartland AEA 11 public school districts and some private schools? Heartland pays for the aggregation services to connect these schools to the Internet via the ICN. The Iowa AEA Online Databases provided to Iowa schools, their students, and their parents (for home use as well), also opens up great opportunities to enhance online learning.
Educators should look at online learning via the ICN in new and innovative ways. Web 2.0 tools, online course offerings, or videoconferencing sessions can be combined in various ways, bringing together 21st Century learning opportunities unique to Iowa. An ICN Learning Scenario starting with the planning and carrying out of an ICN session at a distance takes on new possibilities. In this new scenario, teachers and their students’ can communicate with each other about the shared topic using the Internet before and after an ICN session. Teachers might upload and share online student resources or facilitate online exchanges to help students learn more about each other and their communities. This can be done via a wiki, blog, or other Web 2.0 collaborative online tools. Following the ICN session, teachers can moderate the posting of students’ reflective comments to the wiki or blog, and create surveys using Web 2.0 tools to compile students’ responses using of cell phones. Results can be shared on that same wiki or blog, or right on the cell phone. The sharing of ideas, the exchange of different points of view, and the resulting conclusions about what has been learned together results in higher-level learning for students. Teachers can foster 21st Century Learning through the application of real world, collaborative learning skills through a teaching model such as this. This blended learning scenario, meeting via ICN and the Internet in flexible ways could take place in Iowa, nationally, or globally. Read the ISTE Publication, Interactive Videoconferencing: K-12 Lessons that Work, edited by Kecia Ray and Jan Zanetis, for more excellent examples.
Learning with the ICN and/or the Internet no longer has to be scheduled as synchronous, or in real time. An a-synchronous example, such as an online Webinar, offers individuals the opportunity to meet and collaborate via the Internet through desktop videoconferencing. The communication and collaboration takes place from computer to computer. The meeting can be archived, with necessary documents and resources uploaded so that a learner can return to the archived session at any time. Individuals can access and assimilate online content at their own pace and convenience. Our students as digital natives are motivated to learn in this way. Iowa is clearly set apart from other states with the ICN communications infrastructure already in place, ready for learners seeking flexibility. Teachers and schools should take full advantage of this flexible, valuable technology resource.
Richard “Dick” Stufflebeem is the Regional Telecommunications Council (RTC) technician assigned to oversee the operation and maintenance of ICN classrooms. The state legislature provides funding through Des Moines Area Community College for his services to your classroom. Area 11 is the largest of the ICN areas in the state, and Stufflebeem is responsible for approximately 72 school and library classroom sites in the area. Although the schools own and are responsible for the majority of the equipment in their classrooms, the ICN does provide equipment service through Stufflebeem. His main responsibility is to fix any problem that should arise in an ICN classroom. If a student microphone or a camera is not working, he will come to the school’s ICN room and repair it. While the service is at no charge to the school, the cost of repairing the camera, microphone or any of the electronic equipment in the room is the school’s responsibility. Replacement of TVs, tables, chairs and/ or any other items in the room is also the school’s responsibility.
Stufflebeem’s additional responsibilities include providing assistance and advice concerning equipment purchases for ICN classrooms. For example, he is currently assisting many schools as they replace existing television sets. The original televisions purchased for the ICN rooms were the analog CRT picture tube type, and these televisions are rapidly becoming obsolete. Schools are now upgrading to new flat screen televisions, but not all of these televisions work well in an ICN room. Stufflebeem works with vendors to review flat screen television specifications and find schools the right television for the best price. He is also working closely with many schools as they upgrade their classroom controller unit. The controller unit configures an ICN classroom as an origination or remote site and is responsible for the switching of the cameras. This unit has been discontinued, and thus if it should fail and no used cards are available to repair it, the classroom will no longer function. Stufflebeem can assist in the installation of the upgrade unit to prevent this problem.
If teachers are having problems in their ICN classroom, they can contact the ICN for help by using the telephone located on the side of the equipment rack in the ICN room. Calling the phone number located on the telephone will connect individuals with the help desk at the ICN control/test room. Callers can describe the problem to help desk personnel, and they will assist in fixing the problem if possible. If the problem cannot be solved, the ICN will open a repair ticket, which will then be e-mailed to Stufflebeem to bring his attention to the problem. He will respond to the ticket by coming to the site and checking out the problem, at no charge to the school. If teachers or administrators would like to speak with Stufflebeem to personally answer questions concerning the operation of the room or to talk about the controller upgrade, please call him at (515) 964-6831 (office) or (515) 210-8043 (cell phone) or e-mail him at email@example.com.
Stufflebeem’s vision of the future of the ICN is built upon his perspective as the RTC technician and his past work experiences. He has been around this system since its conception. For 28 years he was the Assistant Director of Engineering at Iowa Public Television, and his engineering group was responsible for the design and implementation of the 700+ ICN classrooms. Upon retirement from IPTV six years ago, he came to DMACC to help with the college’s rooms. He has seen this $185,000,000 system work in colleges, high schools and libraries all over the state. In addition, he has traveled all over the United States to visit other distant learning classroom systems and he has never seen a system comparable to what we have in Iowa. He feels that there is not a system like ours anywhere in the world.
Two major factors make the Iowa system very different from the others. In other systems Stufflebeem has studied, the origination classroom is located on a central campus and the remote sites are located in other buildings or in a different town. The origination point is always the classroom on the central campus. In the Iowa system, any ICN classroom can be configured as an origination or a remote site. At any given hour, an instructor can come into an ICN classroom and teach from that room as the origination site to as many classrooms as desired. Students can come into that same room the next hour and receive a class as a remote site with the instructor in a distant origination site. The huge advantage of this type of system, unique to Iowa, is that it gives every school district the opportunity to originate programming from any of its schools. The ICN is also not limited to a certain number of remote classrooms connected to an origination site. In other systems, as many as four or even five rooms may be connected at one time with monitors across the back of the room. Due of the distant proximity, the figures on the screen are so small and so far away that students and teachers cannot clearly discern which individual they are speaking with. In the ICN, participants have one monitor to look at and the video on that monitor is always focused clearly on the site that is currently communicating.
Stufflebeem feels strongly that the ICN is still very relevant in today’s world and is dismayed by the underutilization of this valuable Iowa educational tool. He finds that ICN classrooms are used for many things other than distant learning. His question to the education community is, “Why are we not using this great system more?” Although he realizes that Video over IPs popularity is rising, he feels that this new technology has “a long ways to go before it can come close to matching the quality and dependability of the ICN classroom.” No other current technology will allow teachers to go into a classroom, (not a conference room or office, but a classroom), turn on the equipment with a switch and teach day in and day out. Video over IP currently requires a technician to set up and program the equipment for each meeting. In addition, if the speed of the session is slow, the video is poor quality and the audio fades in and out. Alternatively, teachers and students can walk into an ICN room, turn on the system and teach or participate with full motion video and full duplex audio. For those wishing to communicate with people outside of Iowa, the new Video over IP technology can be incorporated right into the ICN classroom. Stufflebeem feels we should “add new technology to the working existing technology instead of throwing away what works.” He feels that Iowa currently has the greatest system in the world and that we should continue to refine it and to find more ways to use it.
Stufflebeem feels that any decline in ICN use can be attributed to a lack of understanding concerning appropriate content and specific effective uses for the system. The ICN is not a content provider, but it is a transport provider. The role of the ICN is to get information, like a phone company, from one point to another. According to Stufflebeem, leadership in providing appropriate content to be used on the system is the most important factor toward continued effective use of the ICN. Teachers and administrators need to become aware of reasons they should use their ICN classrooms. They must realize the value and benefits of using their ICN classrooms now and as future technologies develop.
As the Area XI ICN Scheduler, Janelle Archer provides support to educational institution personnel concerning video classroom scheduling procedures. She processes requests and alerts personnel of scheduling deadlines, confirmations and conflicts. She also works with fellow schedulers across the state and trains local site contacts in working with the daily schedule and submitting reservations. Archer is available to visit ICN classroom sites and to discuss scheduling questions.
Prior to her current position at the ICN, Archer worked at Pioneer Hi-Bred as a receptionist, administrative assistant and distribution assistant. This background, which included scheduling work and deadlines, prepared her well for the demands of her current position. She has been the Area XI ICN Scheduler for five years.
Like Stufflebeem and Casper, Archer would love to see schools use their ICN classrooms more. She feels that although many classes are shifting to online formats, the ICN provides, “a ‘face-to-face’ meeting from a distance to connect with the students.” The ICN provides a way to share instructors in this more personal manner without the cost and time of driving to another location.
For teachers using the ICN for the first time, she suggests scheduling a training session and allowing time to practice before the session. If they have any questions, she would be happy to help them out. She also recommends keeping presentations and appearance simple. Too much flash can take away from the content and distract the students. If teachers have any questions or concerns or would like Archer to visit them, they can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 515-964-6856.
This summer, the Consortium of Iowa Community Colleges, Iowa Public Television and the Iowa Communications Network are sponsoring a new school food service program for K-12 school food service personnel. This three-day, 20-hour program will provide current information for all school food service personnel and encompass two School Nutrition Association (SNA) approved classes. The first class, Food Safety and Sanitation, uses the curriculum Serving It Safe and is designed specifically for school food service personnel to learn about methods of safe food handling, sanitation, and safety in all areas. The second class, School Food Service Nutrition 101, includes the most current information on nutrition needs, program requirements and practical how-to’s on implementing good nutrition practices. Together, these classes meet the Nutrition Education and Sanitation and Safety components of the new Level I Certification requirements with SNA.
The presenter for both classes is Ann Feilmann, a SNA Certified Trainer. Interested individuals can attend the program at various ICN locations throughout the state of Iowa. Online registration for the program includes selection of a preferred ICN room. Food Safety and Sanitation will meet on June 16 from 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. and on June 17 from 8:00-11:45 a.m. School Food Service Nutrition 101 will meet on June 17 from 1:00-4:30 p.m. and on June 18 from 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Cost for the entire course (two sessions, three days) is $180 which includes presenter fees, materials and CEUs. Sessions priced individually are $90 each. Please check with your school district to see if it will cover the class costs or if you will need to pay them yourself. If you are paying personally, an Iowa Community College representative will contact you regarding payment. Registration for both courses ends on June 2, 2009.
For questions regarding the program, please contact Cheryl Little, Director Health Education, Cheryl.Little@iavalley.edu, 641-844-5623 with program content questions or contact Marcia Wych at Iowa Public Television, email@example.com, 800-532-1290 with registration questions.
As part of the Raising Readers initiative highlighted in the March ICN News blog, IPTV and K-12 Connections are offering two sessions in May based upon Raising Readers programming. The first session, PBS KIDS Island, will focus on the exciting new PBS KIDS Island website where kids can play and read with their parents, teachers, and caregivers. Students can play reading games with favorite PBS KIDS characters, earn tickets and win prizes. Parents or teachers can track their progress and find fun reading activities to do every day. Bring your students to this ICN session to learn how to register for free and build their own island carnival. In this session, the facilitator and participants will take a tour of PBS KIDS Island, preview PBS KIDS Island Games, learn how to customize their own tree house, check out the Child Progress Tracker and learn about other Raising Readers resources.
The PBS KIDS Island session is offered on May 11th at several times throughout the day. Confirmed registrants for the session will receive a pack of Raising Readers materials including a DVD containing episodes of WordWorld and Super Why! programs, a Martha Speaks book, and other educational materials by mail. As always, sessions are provided at no cost to PK-12 students and the adults working with or on behalf of PK-12 students in Iowa. Please call Trista Peitzman or Marcia Wych at (800) 532-1290 or (515) 242-6663 or (515) 242-4187 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
The second session, The NEW Electric Company!, will focus on the new series by PBS that is broadcast on IPTV. That’s right, The Electric Company is back and better than ever! In the 2009 version of the popular show, the power of the original show is surging back with a cool cast of characters, amazing literacy superpowers, side-splitting cartoons, and songs that will make you dance. The Electric Company aims to entertain children between the ages of 6 and 9 while simultaneously teaching four crucial areas of literacy that are challenging for struggling readers: decoding, vocabulary, comprehension of connected text and motivation. Like the original series, the new show filters these educational goals through pop culture — music, comedy, technology, and celebrities — to create a playful, hip, multimedia experience. Unlike the original series, each new episode of The Electric Company includes a narrative with regular characters and three "curriculum commercial breaks" that consist of a variety of short-form segments: sketches, animations and songs. In this ICN session, Trista Peitzman will show video clips from the program, view games online, and engage your students in a learning activity.
The Electric Company session is offered on May 21st at several times throughout the day. Confirmed registrants receive the book The Kit: Educator's Guide for The Electric Company by mail after the session. Please contact Trista Peitzman or Marcia Wych at the numbers listed above with any questions about this new Raising Readers session.