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The VC7 – Get Them Involved









The second of the VC7, found here, is:

2. Get Them Involved.

o Build in opportunities to:
o Move
o Talk
o Draw
o Role-play
o Play games
o Sing/dance
o Build

Active participation in VC collaborative projects makes sense for a variety of reasons, and point 2 of the VC7 relates directly to several other points of the VC7 which I’ll reflect upon in later posts as I address them.  For now, a couple reflections:

  • When you consider the diverse needs, abilities, and interests of an entire group of learners, building in many different opportunities to create, express, and learn allows more students to become personally connected and engaged to the project.  As a classroom teacher I realized that I’d have a difficult time building in all of the elements of differentiated instruction into each project we did, however I’d attempt to build in at least a couple elements each time, varying the elements each project, so that all student abilities, interests, and learning styles would be hit over time.  For example, in the WasteQuest project (not a VC project) students were given options for the topic of study based on interest, the end product they created (a multimedia presentation which they would represent ideas visually with, a language-based report that they would present orally, or a kinesthetic physical representation they would create using materials readily available in class), and other options based on their ability level and interest.  Student choice can not only be a motivating factor for students, but it’s also something that helps meet them where they are at and increase buy-in and ownership in an activity or project.  Relating this back directly to videoconferencing, seeing the types of suggested ways to ‘get them involved’ 
  • These suggested ways of getting students involved all integrate language, physical movement (i.e. increased blood flow through the body and brain), representing ideas in multiple modes – all things we know positively affect a person’s ability to learn and think.

Question: How do you get students involved in VC activities? Are there any drawbacks or considerations for getting students involved we ought to be reminded of?

The VC7 – Make it Meaningful



I’d like to examine the first of the VC7, created by James Tapankov, found on this wiki: 1. Make it meaningful.

o Involve participants from Day 1
o Curricular alignment
o Define purpose right away
o Input into the “how”
o Learn, solve problems TOGETHER
o Deliver learning in multiple modes
o Remember your audience
o Build in reflection
o Provide opportunity afterwards to continue the experience / relationship


These points, for the most part, seem obvious but I guess that’s the point – putting a name to what we intuitively know as educators.


Involve participants from day 1 – Allowing students to buy in and share ownership of a project or learning experience is important.  Group discussions and planning for an event, co-creating the environment (I love seeing the school signs that students create to identify themselves or special clothing or items they bring to the experience.  Assigning roles beforehand for various aspects of the experience helps; camera person, designated speakers, pre-event organizers or facilitators – these are things that can be worked into a VC experience right from the project’s or activity’s inception.

Question: Do any of you involve parents, school administrators, or others in your class-to-class collaborations, and if so, how?


Curricular alignment – this is obvious but important.  I like the idea of talking with the students beforehand about where exactly those curricular ties will be in a VC experience to prepare them in advance.  When I was in the classroom, there were years where I printed and posted a copy of all the curricular outcomes on a bulletin board in the class, and we’d all refer to it from time to time to ensure we were covering all we needed to.


Define the purpose right away – I know it’s good VC etiquette to talk about the expectations of the event right off the bat – especially when it comes to communication protocols.  Mute your mic when your site isn’t talking, give hand signals or providing some other communication protocol the moment you start a conference.  But defining the purpose in terms of what’s being learned or shared, what types of skills or attitudes will be developed, and/or what the intended outcomes seem to me a great way of making a VC activity meaningful for all.

Question: Do you as a VC coordinator or teacher define that for the participants at the beginning of a VC session, or would it be better to have a brainstorm/discussion on what they think is the purpose? Do you have time to do this at all?


Input into the “how” – This is an interesting one for me.  I’m a big believer in scaffolded activity structures (i.e. Read Around the Planet, MysteryQuest, Monster Match), particularly for teachers new to the technology or the process.  If we can build in interaction, engaging activities, higher-level thinking, etc. we increase the likelihood that it will take place.  So allowing participants to have input into the process (the “how”) intrigues me.  Obviously working with kids to prepare for the “how”, talking about the “how”, even rehearsing the “how” all make sense, but do we want students to have input on what the “how” will be?  I wonder what type of input James had intended? (I’ll ask him to comment).


Learn, solve problems TOGETHER – Large group or small, student interaction and collaboration is a must.  I’ve long been an admirer of the work that Terry Godwaldt and John Spence have done bringing extremely large numbers of high school students together and yet having all participants engaged and interacting.  In a large event involving, say 400 students, there are opening comments and instructions, followed by small group work where students discuss/debate an issue or develop a solution of some type.  Those students, using an online video recording device which records only 60 second videos (forces students to be succinct and directed in their thoughts or reflections), record a short response which is posted instantly for online viewing.  Following this, the students view several other 60-second clips and provide online text responses.  The large group reconvenes and gets focused for the next element, and on the process goes.

How can you say the words collaborative projects without mentioning Janine Lim, Roxanne Glaser, and Arnie Cormier? They have just released the latest version of their VC projects booklet, and it’s absolutely fantastic!  Please visit http://www.remc11.k12.mi.us/dl/media/ProjectsBooklet.doc to download it!


Deliver learning in multiple modes – This definitely resonates with me, given my admiration of a Kathy Sierra blog post which I often reference which reminds us that communicating the same idea in different ways or from different perspectives increases retention, and that “the more senses you engage, the greater the potential for retention and recall”.


Remember your audience – This makes sense. Age, ability level, cultural background, geographic location, and lived experiences all play a part in what and how people can learn.  As a classroom teacher I always tried to touch on various learning styles (e.g. auditory, visual, kinesthetic) at various times throughout the year.  An expert VC Coordinator, Gord Booth, told me that when he gives advice to potential new VC content providers, he always suggests they create a ‘kit’ which is mailed to the school ahead of time to allow those kinesthetic learners to be engaged.  Tommy Beardon from Texas (scroll down to read about Tommy if you click the link) even mailed out cotton bolls to students participating in the “Cotton: Plant of Many Uses” VC.  Finally, one could interpret “remember your audience” as reminding ourselves of today’s learner who is often connected to friends through social networks and text messaging, who may learn in smaller, focused ‘chunks’ of time or information, and who thrive on multimedia.

Question: Do you recommend ‘kits’ for content providers to send out to schools? Do you look for other ways to reach different learning styles?


Build in reflection – I don’t remember where I heard it, but I remember reading once that learning takes place not from doing, but from reflecting on what you’ve done.  If you (like I) believe that learning takes place using language, then writing, blogging, or discussing an idea or experience makes a lot of sense.

Question: Do you build in reflection or is it the thing that is typically left out due to time?


Provide opportunity afterward to continue the experience / relationship – I see several things in this statement that resonate with me.  Being able to participate in one part of an activity, go away from the session to do follow-up activities on their own, then return to the second (or third or fourth, be it an ongoing collaboration) to continue the experience or relationship.  As well, I like the cohort model where the same learners move through a learning experience over time.  I did my masters in a cohort model and found that the relationships built early on transferred to subsequent courses so well to create an environment where people felt very comfortable and at ease in learning with one another and in sharing successes (and challenges) they faced in their teaching practices.  This would seem to me to hold true for student learning groups as well.

Question: Do you have success finding people who are willing to commit to more than one VC session at a time to continue that experience/relationship?

All in all, “Make it Meaningful” is a great way to begin the VC7.  Do you have any stories to share which either connect with or refute any of these points?

The VC7

When a friend of mine, James Tapankov, was working as a technology/VC coordinator for Pembina Hills Regional District, he began a process to define the elements of projects and activities which involve students using videoconferencing “that develop engaging, meaningful relationships and learning”.  From that work was born “The VC7” – seven essential components that should be addressed when learning through this medium.

This list currently lives on a Wikispace and while it’s not currently editable, I’m going to email James (now a learning technologies consultant for Evolution Learning Technologies, and ask him if we can crack the lock on this wiki to re-invigorate the discussion.

The VC7 are:

1. Make it meaningful.
2. Get them involved.
3. Keep it fresh.
4. Engage their senses.
5. Make it personal.
6. Involve their emotions.
7. Celebrate the experience

This list is based on the work of many, including:

Dr. Marcia Tate – http://www.developingmindsinc.com
Dr. Viktor Frankl – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Frankl
Dr. Stephen R. Covey and his Seven Habits – https://www.stephencovey.com/
James Surowiecki and the Wisdom of Crowds – http://itc.conversationsnetwork.org/shows/detail468.html

I’m going to examine each of the VC7 more deeply over the next while.  Especially as I read “Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works” (thanks Janine), it’ll be interesting to see how the thoughts of others, combined with my own beliefs and understandings, as well as those in this book, all co-exist.  What’s more important, though, is what to do with those beliefs as a VC coordinator once we have them.

Focusing on Learning, Engagement, & Motivation

I mentioned in the last blog post that we’re looking to expand our VC support activities to include a greater emphasis on class-to-class collaborations. Janine Lim wrote a great blog post about the types of interactions that can take place through VC as she updates her Project Booklet. As the VC Regional Leads Network looks for specific class-to-class collaborations to support next year, drawing upon this lived experience of experts like Janine and Roxanne is a no-brainer.

For me though, if I want to truly make personal sense of where we’re going and why we’re going there, I’ve got to start by focusing on my beliefs and understandings of:

  • How people learn
  • How people are engaged
  • How people are motivated
One of the best self-learning activities I have experienced related to a video podcast episode I created on another blog (that I desperately need to re-invigorate) a couple years ago.  I think I need to revisit that episode and watch it again to remind myself about various learning theories I subscribe to.

In terms of engagement and motivation as well as learning, likely the single most influential piece of writing I’ve ever read on this came from Kathy Sierra’s blog in a post called, “A Crash Course on Learning Theory“.
2Learn.ca, the organization that I work for which manages the VC Regional Leads Network, has a long history of leading and supporting telecollaborative projects with K-12 teachers, largely based on the work of Dr. Judy Harris.  As part of the Ambassador Project, Catherine Macklam (2Learn.ca Provincial Team Leader) expanded the work of Dr. Harris to include telecollaborative activities that can take place using VC.  Here is the list of activity structures which I also need to examine as we move forward with our plans for next year.
Finally, based on Janine’s recent posts about Marzano I ordered 2 copies of the book – one for myself/ourselves at the VCRLN and one to give away as a prize at our June 5 VCRLN Provincial In-Service.  I can’t wait to read this book as well as re-read Janine’s blog posts which connect this book’s ideas to VC collaborative projects.
Does anyone else out there have any recommendations of great resources of any kind which focus on learning, engagement, and/or motivation?  It seems to me the logical place to start as far as deciding on the types of class-to-class collaborations to offer next year.


Renewing this blog

I’d like to re-invigorate this blog, originally created for the ELEVATE conference in August 2008, as a tool for a personal learning journey that I invite you all to take part in.  This year with the VCRLN, we’ve done a pretty good job of getting a lot of teachers new to VC to take part in our sessions by creating a lot of multi-point events:

  • Expert guest presenters that kids ask questions to
  • Student-led VC events where kids prepare something to share in a scheduled, multi-point event around a topic
  • Teacher professional development sessions around a variety of topics
One area we haven’t explored as much as I’d like are supporting class-to-class collaborations.  I see the great work that people like Janine Lim and Roxanne Glaser are doing in this area, and it’s an area I’d like to focus a lot more on for next year.  We learned early – when we tried our first Monster Match last fall – that teachers new to VC really like the ‘easy’ VC sessions – those where they simply bring their students, take part in something, and leave.  Not highly engaging or immersive, but quick, easy, and interesting.  Those teachers, in theory, should have a bit more of a comfort level with the technology now, and for that reason we’d like to challenge them a bit more to go a bit ‘further’ with the technology for meaningful student learning taking place.
Any suggestions or comments you have along the way are very much appreciated!