Adobe Connect: Presenting Live on the Web

I have participated in many online meetings with audio and screen sharing of agendas etc. Yesterday I had a chance to do a presentation using Adobe Connect, a professional web conferencing solution with our elementary school computer contact team.  This product is licensed for use in Ontario publicly funded schools.

I was the remote presenter – but not too remote in this case, just tucked away in my office, although I could have been anywhere with a decent internet connection. I was viewed at the meeting on a projection screen via the client laptop and data projector setup in the meeting room. This seemed like a good test run environment as I could attend the meeting if we had any technical issues. I was really interested to reflect on 3 aspects of the live presentation.

Technical Reliability: Our technical set up worked very well overall – no major issues. On two occasions there was a brief pause in audio and video delivery. In my role as presenter, I was aware this was happening as the green bar which bounces to indicate the mic is active stopped moving, so I was able to pause and wait for the condition to pass. There are many factors which may cause a minor hiccup in the audio and/or video stream including server performance, network traffic, firewall connectivity or local machine performance at either end. We will do some monitoring in future session to gain additional insights into this.

Presentation Considerations: It felt very strange as the presenter as in this particular case I could not see or hear the audience. I felt like I was talking in a vacuum. It is very difficult to get a sense of whether or not you are delivery the presentation well when there is no audience cues or reaction. It is amazing what you pick up standing in front of a live audience. You automatically make eye contact, adjust your voice levels and pace, move around (at least somewhat) and visually you have a sense of whether or not the audience is understanding the content.

In terms of my office setup, we did check web cam clarity, volume levels and adjust lighting (watch for shadows). Having a suitable backdrop is important. My bookcase was acceptable, but many backgrounds are not. I made note of two things in this area.

1. The relative height of the web cam relative to your eyes. You need to think of the ‘shot angle’ in the same way a newscast is done. I think  having the web cam a eye level so you can look straight ahead is better.

2. I had a few notes on my desk to refer to in addition to the powerpoint slides being broadcast along with the web cam images. I want to raise up the notes to minimize the number of times you glance away from the web cam.

Audience Reactions: I was interested in the audience reaction. While many saw this as a useful tool that offered many benefits, some expressed a preference for face to face meetings. No reaction is right or wrong, just interesting to note.

Next Steps: We are running our second meeting presentation tomorrow night so I will try to make some adjustments to my setup. I want to set up a 3rd connection which would show the audience on one of the web cams to give me a better sense of audience reaction. We are also going to monitor the bandwidth usage while the session is occurring, so that will be interesting.  We will offer remote attend to our next set of meetings in February.

It is great to keep moving ahead.

~ Mark

Links: 2009-10-13: Tools for new bloggers

Links: 2009 10 13  — A few tools for new bloggers


1. 20 Simple Blogging Productivity Tools

2. Tips for writing on the web

3. Blogging Secrets

4. Royalty Free  Music and Sound Effects

5. Show yourself  Widget

6. Share this  button

7. Online photo  editing

Happy blogging.

~ Mark

CDN Thanksgiving – Reflecting

Thanksgiving weekend seems to be a time of tradition and reflection. As I write this post, I can see the beautiful trees outside shimmering in their various spectacular colours, observe the table is being set reflecting our family traditions and enjoy the aroma of the turkey cooking.

I certainly have much to be thankful for: good health, a wonderful loving family  and many good friends. In my role as CIO for the Board, I have a career  that is challenging, rewarding, engaging and  filled with opportunity. I have a wonderful staff and work with a talented and dedicated leadership team.

This year I have connected with many new people through professional associations and online collaboration opportunities. I appreciate the opportunity to learn and share with a great group of people. Technology has really been an enabler in facilitating these online connections. What an exciting time to be alive!

I sincerely hope I can return the many blessings I have by giving to others and making a difference.

~ Mark

K-12 Education: Content Filtering

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the first Central Ontario Computer Association (COCA) for the 2009/2010 school year. COCA provides a forum for ICT educators representing approximately 25 school boards to dialogue and collaborate face to face 5 times each school year. I always look forward to these meetings as I know the dialogue will be rich and engaging – a tribute to the forward thinking, action oriented people in these roles. Hats off to you for making a difference!

The agenda for this particular session was organized to provide an opportunity to discuss current educational issues and topics including:

  • Report: Ministry of Education licensed software for Ontario school Boards (OSAPAC committee)
  • Brainstorming: What would a Ministry of Education integrated ICT document look like?
  • Presentation: ICT Ethical Use
  • Presentation: iPods in the classroom project with a research component
  • Discussion: Twitter in the Classroom
  • Discussion: Round Table

I will be interested to follow Mike Redfern’s work on his Ethical Use of ICT project which will provide an in depth look at technology and social networking issues in the K-12 educational setting.  I will provide some information about our (WRDSB) iPod projects and research initiative in a future post.

As I anticipated, I found the round table discussion particularly interesting. Many points were raised, but the one that really stuck with me was content filtering. Content filtering is always an interesting topic for discussion because it is so multifaceted.

  • filter or not?
  • if you do, how much?
  • if you do, is it done centrally or at the school level?
  • how do you align content filtering with educational resource selection processes for print, video etc.?
  • block or allow social networking?
  • keep students safe
  • sufficient band width
  • how do you define ‘educational content’ in a way that makes sense in a K-12 context?
  • should content filtering be more age or grade appropriate?

There are no easy answers. It is easy to find valid reasons to sit on either side of the fence for each point. Oh yes, how do you apply content filtering to keep everyone (students, teachers, school administrators, technicians, parents, school board officials) happy?  That is a $64000 question!

Now, throw another huge component into the discussion: copyright, digital rights, document ownership. Yikes. A few people commented that their Board had recently opened up YouTube as part of the progressive move toward more openness in the content filtering in an effort to teach online safety and digital citizenship.

BUT – What about the YouTube end user Terms of Use policy? Section 5 (see below), in the terms of use policy contains some very specific language. I have emphasized some of the areas that I feel need careful consideration from school Boards when making a determination to allow or deny access to this site.

5. Your Use of Content on the Site

In addition to the general restrictions above, the following restrictions and conditions apply specifically to your use of content on the YouTube Website.

A. The content on the YouTube Website, except all User Submissions (as defined below), including without limitation, the text, software, scripts, graphics, photos, sounds, music, videos, interactive features and the like (“Content”) and the trademarks, service marks and logos contained therein (“Marks”), are owned by or licensed to YouTube, subject to copyright and other intellectual property rights under the law. Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use only and may not be downloaded, copied, modified, produced, reproduced, distributed, transmitted, broadcast, displayed, sold, licensed, translated, published, performed or otherwise exploited for any other purposes whatsoever without the prior written consent of the respective owners. YouTube reserves all rights not expressly granted in and to the Website and the Content.

B. You may access User Submissions solely:

  • for your information and personal use;
  • as intended through the normal functionality of the YouTube Service; and
  • for Streaming.

“Streaming” means a contemporaneous digital transmission of an audiovisual work via the Internet from the YouTube Service to a user’s device in such a manner that the data is intended for real-time viewing and not intended to be copied, stored, permanently downloaded, or redistributed by the user. Accessing User Videos for any purpose or in any manner other than Streaming is expressly prohibited. User Videos are made available “as is.”

C. User Comments are made available to you for your information and personal use solely as intended through the normal functionality of the YouTube Service. User Comments are made available “as is”, and may not be used, copied, modified, produced, reproduced, distributed, transmitted, broadcast, displayed, sold, licensed, downloaded, translated, published, performed or otherwise exploited in any manner not intended by the normal functionality of the YouTube Service or otherwise as prohibited under this Agreement.

D. You may access YouTube Content, User Submissions and other content only as permitted under this Agreement. YouTube reserves all rights not expressly granted in and to the YouTube Content and the YouTube Service.

E. You agree to not engage in the use, copying, or distribution of any of the Content other than expressly permitted herein, including any use, copying, or distribution of User Submissions of third parties obtained through the Website for any commercial purposes.

F. You agree not to circumvent, disable or otherwise interfere with security-related features of the YouTube Website or features that prevent or restrict use or copying of any Content or enforce limitations on use of the YouTube Website or the Content therein.

G. You understand that when using the YouTube Website, you will be exposed to User Submissions from a variety of sources, and that YouTube is not responsible for the accuracy, usefulness, safety, or intellectual property rights of or relating to such User Submissions. You further understand and acknowledge that you may be exposed to User Submissions that are inaccurate, offensive, indecent, or objectionable, and you agree to waive, and hereby do waive, any legal or equitable rights or remedies you have or may have against YouTube with respect thereto, and agree to indemnify and hold YouTube, its Owners/Operators, affiliates, and/or licensors, harmless to the fullest extent allowed by law regarding all matters related to your use of the site.

Independent of the nature of the content posted on YouTube, and whether or not there is a clean adherence to copyright and digital rights management, the terms of use document specifies that the site is for personal use. In Canada, classrooms are defined as public, not private.  As I understand this, personal use sites such as YouTube, do not have a legal place in Canadian classrooms much in the same way there are restrictions on the use of music and video. There is definitely more studying and thinking ahead in the complex arena. For now, I think we are positioned well with our current approach.

Related Reading

View the full YouTube end user Terms of Use

~ Mark

Technology and higher order thinking

As we continue the journey of developing the best instructional practices around integrating technology to support learning and focus on the collection of literacy skills students need to learn, there has been a positive shift away from the ‘drill and kill’ software application use to a more thoughtful integrated approach to technology integration. Many educational institutions, including mine, are embracing the ISTE Standards for Students to guide the thinking and planning process.

ISTE Nets S

As we investigate and learn more about mobile technologies, I feel it is important to keep this focus. Many of the applications available for mobile devices fall into the ‘drill and kill’ arena from my point of view. While it is important to move forward into this mobile learning world, the journey must continue to be planned in a thoughtful manner to embrace the correct type of engagement and support to the learning process.

The links below offer a variety of ideas centered around using technology, mobile or not, to engage students in using higher order thinking skills. I hope this information helps you to reflect on your current practices and plan your go forward steps in a strategic manner.

Resources

Education World:  a techtorial

Using technology to promote higher order thinking skills

Eric Web Portal:  Developing Higher-Order Thinking Skills through the Use of Technology.

Book:  Beyond Hardware

Slideshare:  Integrating Technology, Higher-Order Thinking, and Student-Centered Learning

Slideshare:  Using technology for higher order thinking.

Ed/ITLib Digital Library:  Assessing Higher Order Thinking in Video Games

eLearn: Case Studies Threading, Tagging, and Higher-Order Thinking

~ Mark

Cell Phones as a Learning Tool

Since mid summer, I have had a running search in Twitter to follow the postings about cell phones in schools. After reading the comments for two months now, the only observation that I can make is that the ‘camps’ are clearly divided.

In some educational organizations, there is a centrally determined policy that is followed by all schools. In other cases, the use of cell phones (or not), is determined at the local school level. Approaches typically fall into two main categories – cell phones are banned, or cell phones are permissible during non class times. A small number of schools allow unrestricted use.

The opinion of teachers is equally divided. Based on my Twitter observations, there seems to be growing interest in the use of cell phones as a mobile learning tool. While it is easy to argue that a cell phone is more likely to be a distraction in the classroom, teachers are finding effective ways to integrate their use in curriculum delivery. My personal view is that cell phones, and other mobile technologies, can be used as effective learning tools. As with many things in education, it all comes down to context, appropriate use and finding the ways in which the device can be used in the learning environment in a positive manner. Teachers willing to take a chance to explore a new approach or integrate a new tool are often rewarded with success.

Reading and Resources

Journal Star:  Should cell Phones be allowed in schools?

Tech Learning:  Cell Phones Welcome Here

K-12 Cellphone  Projects

Slideshow:  K-12 Mobile Learning

Ed Week:  Emerging Mobile Technologies for the K-12 Classroom

The  Mobile Learner blog.

EduCause:  Handheld and Mobile Computing Resources

Text message based  polling.

ISTE Books:  Toys to Tools – Connecting Student Cell Phones to Education

Your opinion? Where do you stand?  Leave a comment, send an email or post on Twitter.

~ Mark

‘Habitudes’ in the Workplace

Synchronicity is an amazing thing.

This past summer, I became aware of the work Angela Maiers was doing through Twitter. I visited Angela’s  website and found a write up on her book – Classroom Habitudes. After reading the summery of the contents, I ordered an e-copy to read. Classroom Habitudes looks at learning by exploring the Habitudes — behaviours, habits and attitudes — that will ensure student success inside and outside classroom walls.  The Habitudes are:

  • Imagination
  • Curiosity
  • Self-Awareness
  • Perseverance
  • Courage
  • Adaptibility

I was extremely impressed by the book and ordered a number of copies to share with various staff members with the intent of stimulating some thinking about work we are doing with technology integration, new library resources and iPod in the classroom projects.

Recently, I read the book again and was thinking that these Habitudes also qualities that I want in my staff. At a recent leadership program I completed, one of the areas studied looked at the importance of knowing your staff well, relating to them on a personal level and knowing how to ‘stretch’ them a little in pursuit of learning and career goals. Stretching, or challenging them to think out of box as they investigate solutions to problems or look at process improvement in new ways, is a key ingredient in the growth process.

This week, I made a few notes about writing a blog post about the notion of these Habitudes in the workplace, a natural extension of student success outside the classroom walls and put things in the perspective of life long learning. Today, I sat down to do some blog reading and write this post. As a faithful reader of Doug Peterson’s blog Off the Record,  I started reading Doug’s blog first. I was amazed to see a link to a post titled Habitudes of Professional Learning Communities.  Talk about SYNCHRONICITY!

In today’s world and workplaces, rapid change and the need to adapt are givens. We are life long learners and 21st century learning applies to adults too. In my view, the Habitudes are just as important in the workplace as they are in the classroom. As leaders, it is important to find ways to continue to nurture these characteristics in our staff. It is great to see how many people are thinking about, setting and leading opportunities for  personal learning and growth plans and professional learning networks.

~ Mark

Data in Education: Times have changed

Earlier this week, I attended our Admin Council meeting, a once a month meeting with our senior administrative team. Admin Council is a great group of people that truly work together to support students and the learning agenda. I am fortunate to have an opportunity to work as a member of this team.

Each of our meetings begins with a round table opportunity for each member to comment on the reflection topic identified for the meeting. This week, our topic was data use in education. It was really quite fascinating to hear the variety of comments from the team members about data use in their particular roles.

A sampling of data uses identified (one or two per person) at the meeting include:

  • capital planning
  • financial reporting
  • special education student tracking and analysis
  • student learning
  • school success planning
  • trends in legal data
  • pandemic planning
  • demographics related to strategic advertising
  • EQAO
  • OnSIS
  • backup verification
  • project planning and sustainability
  • staffing process
  • enrollment projections
  • workflow tracking and analysis
  • student assessment
  • transportation analysis
  • bus route planning

What struck me was the evidence of change. I wondered what the answers to that question would have been 5 or 10 years ago. There is no doubt in my mind, we are solidly in a data driven world in education with data analysis well established as a key element of the planning and decision making process.

That is progress!

~ Mark