Friday, December 18, 2009

Brand New Youth News Collaborative Project!

And we're looking for some high schools/middle schools to take the lead!

This spring, MAGPI will be launching a brand-new project called "Youth News Collaborative." We'll be looking for schools all across our network to join the project and submit 2-3 minute news segments for a magazine-style news show produced entirely by students. We'll be using videoconferencing to plan and coordinate each program - - and will be webcasting live (and archiving via podcast) so that everyone can see.

We are looking for four high schools/middle schools to take the lead and produce/host one program this spring. By taking the lead, a school agrees to:
  • Determine a 'theme' for the program and submit that theme to Heather for posting by January 15, 2010
  • Run a pre-production meeting videoconference with students at schools submitting content for the new program two weeks before the live event (pre-production meetings will be held two Fridays before the live event, from 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM)
  • Write the script for the 25 minute program that includes videos submitted by 5 other schools
  • Participate in a live rehearsal with the MAGPI Tech Team two days befor the live broadcast (time to be agreed on by the school and the MAGPI Tech Team)
  • "Go Live!" and be the on camera talent for one program (held the last Friday of the month from 12:00 PM - 12:25 PM)
Below, please find the production timeline. If your school would like to take the lead on one of these webcasts, please contact Heather Weisse Walsh at ASAP. Lead roles are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
  • FEBRUARY 2010
    Live Webcast: 2/26/2010 @ 12:00 PM EST
    Pre-Production Meeting VC: 2/12/2010 @ 11:30 AM EST

  • MARCH 2010
    Live Webcast: 3/26/2010 @ 12:00 PM EST
    Pre-Production Meeting VC: 2/12/2010 @ 11:30 AM EST

  • APRIL 2010
    Live Webcast: 4/23/2010 @ 12:00 PM EST
    Pre-Production Meeting VC: 4/9/2010 @ 11:30 AM EST

  • MAY 2010
    Live Webcast: 5/28/2010 @ 12:00 PM EST
    Pre-Production Meeting VC: 5/14/2010 @ 11:30 AM EST
Not interested in taking the lead but want your student journalists to submit content? GREAT! We'll be opening registration for each session January after our lead schools have determined the theme for their production. We will be accepting videos submitted by middle and high school students for this project. And if you don't think you can contribute to the project this spring, start planning to show the webcasts during your school's lunchtime!

At this time, this program is only open to MAGPI member schools.

Thanks for your consideration! We're looking forward to this collaboration!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Virtual Visits to the North Pole

Here are some photos (far end - - so I'm taking images of a screen!) from some of our Virtual Cookies with Santa videoconference programs yesterday. It was so nice to be able to 'visit' the North Pole and so many schools without having to travel! Students got to share their cookie creations with Santa, hear Twas the Night Before Christmas and ask questions. The students at the Kentucky School for the Deaf showed us all how to sign Merry Christmas and we learned the Santa likes to vacation in the southern hemisphere... He also eats sugar cookies for breakfast (although MAGPI does not recommend nor endorse a steady diet of sugar cookie breakfasts). Personally, I was VERY impressed with how many good deeds all of the students were doing, and I know Santa was, too.

We'll be scheduling a week of virtual visits to the North Pole next year for MAGPI members ... so start planning now! :0) View the videoconference agenda and projects at

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Give yourself permission to write bad lines or scenes...

When talking about how to overcome writer's block, playwright Edgar J. Shockley advised 5 classes of high school students to "give yourself permission to write bad lines or scenes ..." He added that when you give yourself permission to do this, you'll never have writer's block.

Rewind five hours earlier: I was working with our fellows during a virtual training session to help them design collaborative projects. As a group, we came up with a great list of best practices for designing videoconference collaborations - - but I wish I had been able to quote Ed when chatting with our fellows.

We are all still learning how to integrate videoconference project-based collaboration into our classrooms. Collectively, we are generating a framework of advice; but every project is different. Although we may not have an exact blueprint for how to put every project together, we can't stop innovating. We need to give ourselves permission to write bad lines or scenes. And then, of course, learn from them.

To me, it's all about iterative design (and if you've participated in one of my training sessions, you might be tired of hearing me say this!). We have to start with the learning objectives, decide what evidences understanding, and then design the learning experiences. But it doesn't end there! During the entire planning and implementation process, we must look critically at what worked well and what didn't work well. And about taking risks.

Ironically, looking back at the 3 hour training session I facilitated about developing collaborative projects and the 75-minute session I coordinated on playwriting (all within the same afternoon!), I've discovered striking synergies between advice given during each session.

For example, Ed told students that "writing something with a moral is rarely successful; but when we see truth on stage, the truth speaks to us. Great art makes the personal universal and the universal personal." Translation to project development? Don't have "this is the right way to do the project" tunnel vision when planning. Allow space for iteration, organic development and retrospection while designing. When you give yourself space to reflect, the project may be more sucessful.

Another theme that emerged during the playwriting session is the idea that in order to be a good playwright, one has to experience (not necessary excel!) all of the different jobs that go into producing a play (i.e. costuming, directing, set design, etc.). Same goes for developing a collaborative project. Educators and students should experience putting together all of the technological pieces that go into a project; technical support and students should assist with the curriculum design; and educators and tech specialist should assume the roles of students at some point. It gives everyone an appreciation of the talents and expertise that goes into designing and partaking in a project - - not that we all need to be experts at each piece!

And lastly, the playwrights joked that one of the best things about being a playwright is that you get to sleep in late and your day doesn't really start until 4:00 p.m. Conversely, by 4:00 p.m., my work day is almost done. :0)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Kaleidoscope Songs and Breaking In the NEW MCU!

Today we had two Kaleidoscope Songs VC sessions (one for grades K-2 and one for grades 3-5) with Alex Mitnick. Alex joins us in our studio every few months to make music with lots of students across PA, NJ, DE and KY! You can learn about Alex and the Kaleidoscope Band on their website.

We had seven elementary schools join our K-2 session, and due to some last-minute issues, only one school in our grades 3-5 session. The lucky students at Hopewell Elementary got some one-on-one time with our guest!

Although we used the Internet2 Commons for the K-2 session, we tried out our BRAND NEW Codian HD MCU for the Grades 3-5 session. It worked great! We're still working out some logistics concerning the MCU, but will be migrating all of our programs to that piece of equipment over the next few months. Look for information about how to book your own program/event/videoconference through our new MCU service VERY SOON. The service will be available to both MAGPI members and non-MAGPI members.

The grade 3-5 event ended with students from Hopewell Elementary and Alex singing "Together." You can listen to Alex sing the song through this mp3 and follow along with the lyrics:

Being together
And being myself
I feel my happiness
Go round about

When I see all my friends
Being happy and free
I know that together
We all love to be

Together, together
Learning today
Together, together,
Freedom is our goal
Together, together
Finding the way
Together, together
Together today.

Each is a light
Each is a spark
Each single life
A star in the dark

Everyone╩╝s faces
Together is us
All of our differences
Gives us a plus

Alex is coming back in December and we still have some spots available. If you're interested, please go to the, find the program under "programs and events" and register!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Behind the Scenes at The Haunted Poe Videoconference

Today's Haunted Poe videoconference, a collaboration between MAGPI, Brat Productions and the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, was a huge success! 12 schools joined us for the program from across Pennsylvania. Here's a brief glimpse 'behind the scenes':

It's the Philly Poe Guy! Edward Pettit shared historical information about Poe, his life and literary works - - specifically related to his time in Philadelphia. Check out Ed's "Ed and Edgar" blog.

Actor Dallas Drummond does a dramatic reading of the Tell Tale Heart.

Here is the dual screen display that Dallas was looking at while performing. He was able to view all 12 schools simultaneously.

Designer Alisa Sickora Kleckner shows off the puppets she created for the show, assisted by Michael Alltop, artistic producer for Brat Productions.

Alyssa shows off the prosthetic toothless mouth, worn by actress Jess Conda during the performance.

Jess shows the audience how the mouth was adhered to her face during make-up.

Michael explains the concept of Haunted Poe and how the production came to be.

Jess demonstrates how to 'move like a ghost' when explaining her scenes in the show.

At the end of the videoconference, the whole crew pulled up chairs to answer questions from our 12 connected schools.

We'll have the podcast of the event up on our iTunes site soon! In the meantime, check out a brief clip of Brat Production's Haunted Poe Production...

Many thanks to all! A great time in the studio and learning experience for the schools.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Innovation Workshop and the Time Sync Question

This past Friday, the MAGPI team organized our first-ever Innovation Workshop at Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit. Approximately 36 educators and technologists took part in this program, which lasted from 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. - - - seven and a half hours of technology integration!

Even though I was facilitating all of my workshop sessions remotely, it was great to get to know the educators and technology specialists who attended. Here's a brief snapshot of some of the things we accomplished that day:
  • MAGPI's Executive Director, Greg Palmer, was onsite and gave a 30 minute overview of Internet2, the K20 Initiative and MAGPI.
  • I conferenced in from my Baltimore-area office and talked about the various applications that educators can take advantage of over Internet2, including: interactive video, digital library and media sources, simulations, educational games, remote instrumentation, and more. Take a look at the innovation workshop link list to learn more about these specific applications.
  • We broke the group into teams of four and each team got to spend 15 minutes in each of the following demonstrations: experimenting with the virtual reality development lab equipment, exploring NOAA's island in Second Life, placing/receiving calls on videoconferencing gear, and an online tour of the K12 Community on MAGPI's new website.
  • After lunch, the educators spent two hours with me taking an indepth look at videoconferencing in the classroom. We took a virtual field trip to Gemini Observatories in Mauna Kea, HI, and talked about best practices for using videoconferencing in the classroom. During our second hour, we talked about how to plan collaborative projects that use interactive video and brainstormed project ideas. Meanwhile, the technology specialists were spending time with UPenn staff members learning about IPv6, unified communications, troubleshooting H.323 and multicast applications.
  • We ended the day with a virtual panel discussion featuring educators who had successfully created collaborative projects. We were joined by Marilyn Puchalski who discussed the We Want the World to Know project, and Allison Carpenter who talked about the Murder Mystery Project and States of Matter project.

One of the most exciting things that came from this workshop was the formulation of a potential collaborative project idea for schools along the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The project would involve schools located in the watershed areas and along the bay to collaborate through data collection and videoconferencing, so students in one area can see how the actions of their community affect other communities located 'downstream.' I was also thrilled to hear about a new service-learning course offered in Souther Lehigh School District that will be able to take advantage of the technologies we discussed to enrich students' inquiry and project-based learning.

Since I was facilitating all of my workshop segments remotely (and there was a bit of a predicament with the camera set-up in the room - - they were mounted in the back of the room and I was looking at the back of people's heads most of the day), it was tough to gauge participants' reactions to the event. Admittedly, it was a lot of information to digest. Our hope for the workshop was to expose participants to the different applications (specialized uses of the network :0)) available to them and inspire/excite them to want to take on a project. Hopefully, we accomplished that without overwhelming. If you attended, we would love to hear your feedback.

At the end of the day, one technology integrator asked me "What would you say to a teacher who said they just didn't have time to try and integrate this technology?" If I'm honest, I'd have to say I don't have a really good answer to that question. As much as we say that integrating technology enhances (and in many cases, can supplement or even substitute for existing learning activities in the classroom), it by no means makes the educator's life easier the first time out. If they are new to the technology, the educator has to learn how it works. After that, they need to think critically about how it makes sense to use the technology to help accomplish their content objectives. It's definitely a time sync when you're learning it. Even if you are an educator lucky enough to have a fantastic technology support network, you're going to need to put some time in. Not to mention that there are so many interactive technologies to choose from; it can certainly be overwhelming to learn about them and become the 'networked teacher.'

But the initial time investment pays off - - exponentially. Not only are your students more engaged in technology-rich learning environments, but you have increased opportunity for authentic, inquiry and project-based learning. Interactive technologies flatten classroom walls and allow you to tap into additional knowledge networks, bring leading experts into your classroom and virtually excpose your students to places and things they might have never seen. So no, I don't have a good answer to the time question except to say the more you use technology in the classroom, the less time it will take to plan for using it.

Adding to the time crunch issue? We really can't start with the technology when planning classroom activities. We have to use backwards design and start with the learning objectives: what is it that I want my students to walk away with? Then think about how we will know students have achieved those objectives... and THEN think about the learning experiences and how technology can mediate those experiences. Again, not really a time-saving strategy - - but one that will make sure our integration efforts are effective and meaningful.

So, interactive technologies in the classroom have leveled geographic barriers. But we're still figuring out time zones... and time syncs...

Networked Teacher Image from: blog

Monday, October 5, 2009

Reflections on the Global Creative Economy Convergence Summit 2009

Today I had the pleasure of attending the Global Creative Economy Convergence Summit 2009. Spending the day with such creative innovators and entrepreneurs was such a treat. Energy pulsed through the conference and it was impossible not to drink the kool aid or take the red pill (as one panelist suggested).

According to the website, the Summit is "a two-day conference which promises to embrace the same values it champions: innovation, creativity, collaboration, shared learning, technology and open source thinking." The sessions I attended today focused primarily on alternative workforce development/management, innovation in education, social networking trends and alternative educational models (i.e. internship/mentorship, project-based learning, civic engagement).

Although I'm still synthesizing all that I learned, here are some of my favorite take-aways from the conference (expect longer posts on some of them when I have time to expound!):
  • Jane McGonigal (evening keynote) suggested that game developers should aspire to win the Nobel Peace Prize in the next 25 years.
  • The Freemium Business Model (term coined by blogger Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures and shared by speaker Paul Wright of Micco World.)
  • Breaking the Cube Panel Discussion: virtual companies, virtual assistants, co-working and making the office obsolete (Food for thought: how will the future of virtual companies affect how we prepare students for the 'real world?' What implications does the concept of the co-working have on education? What role does interactive video play? How about advanced networks? Check out Shift101 and Conjunctured for more on co-working)
  • Redefining the internship model... empowering interns in the work place and making them vital parts of teams... is a virtual intern an extern? How do you manage, mentor and supervise virtual interns? Love the cool cities model and had no idea the UPenn participated in InternU. Need to think about how to succesfully integrate interns into educational program development at MAGPI.
  • Can't wait to try out Google Wave -- sent Google a request but would love to get an invite from someone! :0)
  • Myrikal - - what a fabulous story and talented young woman. How can we foster and nurture such creative individuals in an urban public school environment? And how can we build on her story and inspire others? Young Virtual Artist in Residence Program via interactive video? (Any suggestions about funding?)
  • Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) suggested that everyone explore their curiousity - - which is a much more friendlier term than passion - - and that will lead to innovative entrepreneurship.
  • Still not sure what this crowd sourcing thing is all about - - and a little bummed I missed that session.
  • Co-creation and creative participation seem to be key ideas to all kinds of creative initiatives. People like to contribute. (thanks for the tweet @spragueKS)
  • Pennsylvania is last of the states in terms of new entreprenurial ventures with new entreprenuers according to latest data from the Kauffman Foundation... Ouch...
  • Work is changing: focus, collaboration, learning and socializing -- virtual and coworking situations need to support all. Again, how does this affect career preparedness and what IS the role of technology in education?
  • Where does global education, preparing 21st century students, global networks and how to build global student-based creative economies play into all of the above? Thinking about Thomas Friedman's "flat" concept... how does it translate?
  • Definitely need to rekindle MAGPI's relationship with Innovation Philadelphia... How do/can advanced networks and educational technology applications affect creative economic development?
Just a little food for thought and some of the things that are going to be on my mind for a while... For other thoughts on the summit, search #gcecs2009 on Twitter.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Are your students ready to STAND UP, SPEAK OUT and LEND A HAND against extremism and hunger?

Each year, MAGPI partners with several outstanding non-profit organizations to design interactive educational programming. One of my all-time favorite organizations to work with is The Gerda and Kurt Klein Foundation, and I am very pleased to announce our annual collaborative program: The STAND UP. SPEAK OUT. LEND A HAND! Project.

In the winter of 1945, on the day of her liberation from six years of Nazi rule, Gerda Weissmann clung to life at the end of a 350-mile death march. She weighed 68 pounds, her hair had turned white, and she had not had a bath in three years. She survived with courage, grace and dignity

Gerda Weissmann Klein, renowned motivational speaker and Holocaust survivor, teaches each one of us about tolerance, understanding and making a difference. Gerda Klein’s spirit helped her survive six years under Nazi rule; through her story, and her unique perspective, she continues to help each one of us to understand the dangers of hate and extremism.

Students involved in STAND UP. SPEAK OUT. LEND A HAND will hear from Gerda during a special interactive videoconference event and then embark upon their own service learning projects. Each participating school will be tasked with designing and implementing a service learning project that combats social issues in their community.

In order to maintain an on-going dialogue over the course of the project, each class will create a wiki page and posting bi-weekly updates on their projects. Once a month, schools will be assigned a partner class who will review and comment on their wiki page (and vice versa). Students will then reconvene via videoconference to share their service learning projects with the Klein Foundation during a celebratory "Project Collaboration Videoconference" in March. We will break schools into smaller groups for project sharing to encourage dialogue among students!

Here are the project dates - - mark them on your calendar:

  • You are the Messengers to a Time I Will Not See:
    A Conversation with Gerda Weissmann Klein Videoconference
    December 10, 2009 * 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. ET
  • Supporting Your Students in their Service Learning Projects
    Teacher Workshop Videoconference
    January 21, 2010 * 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. ET
  • Student Service Learning Projects
    December – March
  • Service Project Celebration
    Student Sharing Videoconference Event
    March 24, 2010 * 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
    Students/Classes will be assigned to a 50 minute interactive period during this time.

It's a three-month service learning challenge. Are your students ready to STAND UP, SPEAK OUT, and LEND A HAND against extremism and hunger?

To register for this program, please visit the program website.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Don't miss out on this year's Digital Flat Stanley Project!

Just wanted to make you aware that registration for the 2009-2010 Flat Stanley Project is now open (and closes on October 15th!)! We hope that you and your students will participate!

What happens when a normal boy finds himself flattened by a bulletin board and is sent through the mail to places all across the country? Your students can find out during this fun project, based on the 1964 book written by Jeff Brown! Classes across the country will participate in this project and send their Flat Stanleys around the USA to visit different students. Every journey, one school’s Flat Stanley will visit another partner school. Students will take their new flat friend on different adventures near their school and record the adventures on a wiki page. At the end of each journey, partner schools will meet via videoconference for 30 minutes to greet one another, discuss their hometown and experiences with their flat friends. At the end of the project, Flat Stanley will have visited 4 places and - - and so will your students! Last year more than 130 classes participated! Make sure your class doesn't miss out! This project is open to students in grades K-3.

If you participated in the project in the past, there are some changes this year. Due to increase in postage fees and tight budgets, there is NO scrapbook component to this project (so we'll just be mailing Flat Stanleys in envelopes - - no worries about large packages!) Instead of creating physical scrapbook pages, each class will be creating a wiki page for each of their journeys. Of course, you and your collaborating teacher for a journey may choose to send things to your partner class about your location, but this is not required.

We have a new registration system this year as well. In order to register for the Digital Flat Stanley project, you must work with your technology coordinator to get set-up in our new system. Here are the steps:
  1. Have your videoconference/technology coordinator go to, click on “log in” and then either log in using their existing MUSE username/password (if they have one) or click on “create new account.” When an account is created, it may take up to 24 business hours for it to be approved before you can register.
  2. Your videoconference/technology coordinator must then go to their account information (click on their username which is displayed on the upper right hand corner of the website when he or she is logged in) and then click on the “sites” tab. Your technology coordinator must create a site for every building that wants to participate in this project. This will keep your technical information on file with MAGPI and teachers don’t need to worry about knowing IP addresses!
  3. After your videoconference/technology coordinator has created your sites, YOU need to create an account for yourself (so we have your class information on file!). Go to, click on “log in” and then log in using your existing MUSE username/password (if you have one) or click on “create new account.” When an account is created, it may take up to 24 business hours for it to be approved before you can register.
  4. Before you can register for a program, you must link your account with the appropriate site in our database. To do that, go to your account information (click on your username which is displayed on the upper right hand corner of the website when you are logged in) and then click on the “sites” tab. Click on “other sites,” scroll to find your site and then click “join.” Congrats! You’re now linked to a site!
  5. After your account is approved, you’ll see dates, times and “register now” links on all MAGPI program pages when you are logged into the website. Go to the Digital Flat Stanley project webpage, click “Register Now,” accept the terms and YOU’RE REGISTERED!

I realize that registering for a project the first time using our new system is a bit of a process; however, any time you want to register for a future program – all you will need to do is log in and click “register.”

Please note that if you participated last year, your class wiki page from last year’s project has been archived. We will be creating new templates for registered participants next week - - look for information from me after you register for the program. Please don't go in, delete last year's information and update your old page. We'd like to save those as an archival history of the project!

Thanks! Looking forward to working with all of you on this project and to another fabulous school year!

Friday, September 11, 2009

MAGPI launches new website and logo

Starting a new school year is always an exciting time and that's especially true for all of us at MAGPI this year. We are thrilled to announce the launch of our new logo and redesign of all our print and electronic communications to better serve you - our MAGPI Member Communities!

After many months of conducting user feedback surveys and extensive redesign work with an outside firm everything has been redesigned with a focus on what you, our members, wanted most -- easier access to programs, navigation by community type, and a more simplified consistent visual design.

Many of you may have already noticed our new logo last spring, and the new website has been up for a few weeks now but we are thrilled to finally annunce the final piece in our overhaul which is the new customized MAGPI program and events calendar and registration system. Through the new system, you will be able to search and register for programs without having to go to an external site as you did in the past and searching for program events should be much easier overall.

Our new MAGPI logo represents the connections of networks - both technical and people - that we serve. We feel it is strong and fresh and conveys a sense of the future while retaining a focus on the global connections that are so important to us. We hope you like it as much as we do!

The newly re-branded, re-designed website has been created to overall help you navigate quickly to whatever you are looking for. It has been redesigned to be customized for each of the various communities we support. You'll notice that you can navigate the site by first choosing a community on the left hand side of the homepage. Once you've entered a particular community you will see an About tab that gives you an overview of that community including examples of how it uses advanced networking, then you can browse Programs, Applications, Resources, Initiatives and Funding that are tabbed and sorted for that particular community. The new homepage allows you to quickly see featured programs, current news and our program and events calendar.

We are particularly excited about the new MAGPI calendar and registration system which has been custom designed for us to allow for exactly the functionality needed for our programs. The new Programs page now allows you to view upcoming programs in either calendar view or the program list view. And, you no longer have to leave the MAGPI website to register for any of our programs as it is all built into our new custom calendar and regisiration system. You must first login to be able to register for any program though so be sure to do that as soon as you start browsing the site. Finally, you can jump right to Muse through the new MAGPI site either by the Program menu or the navigation on the left. As a continuation of our work to date with the Muse Development Team, MAGPI will be further working to integrate our calendar and registration system with Muse to allow for a more seamless integration of the two systems. And, if you are already a member of Muse you do not have to recreate a new login for the MAGPI site, all you need to do is login using your Muse username and password and you're ready to go!

We've come a long way in the last ten years and we couldn't have done it without you. We thought it was time our logo and website reflected that journey together. Everything has been designed with you -- our MAGPI Member Communities -- in mind and we hope it shows.

Please do take a moment to browse around and tell us what you think. Your feedback is invaluable to us and will help us to continue to serve you better. Send any comments, questions, or suggestions to "".

Here's to another great year!!
The MAGPI Team

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Discovery Education announces their 2009-2010 FREE webinars

Discovery Education announced their free 2009-2010 webinar schedule earlier this week on the Discovery Educator Network blog. While, admittedly, many of these webinars focus on discovery education products, there are some that focus more on integration of technologies into classroom in general. Since MAGPI does not specifically use Discovery Education products (not yet, anyway!), here are some of the seminars I'm looking forward to attending this fall:
  • Creating Class Communities
    September 22, 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. ET
    Educators know that learning is a social endeavor and that technology can connect students to powerful learning experiences. Learn how to leverage online tools to create vibrant classroom communities that sustain student engagement and empower students to learn from each other. (I'm hoping to learn some new ideas for strenghtening communication/collaboration between students in different geographic locations for specific MAGPI projects).

  • 50 Ways to Spin a Digital Story
    October 13, 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. ET
    An in-depth overview of the digital media available in Discovery Education Streaming and 50 different ways to tell digital stories using it. DE Streaming provides your classroom access to thousands of videos, images and audio clips. Learn how to integrate them into cutting edge Web 2.0 sites to make your students' digital stories come alive! (I've always wanted to cook-up a digital storytelling project and have been in conversation with The Library of Congress about a potential project. Hoping to pick up some tips!)

  • Learning through the Funnies
    October 20, 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. ET
    Learn to use free comic creation programs and websites to enhance your lessons and student projects. These great tools can be used to across all grades and easily integrated into all curricular areas. Learn, Laugh, and Lesson Plan. (One of the most popular projects I work on is Cartooning with Blitz. This might provide some inspiration for additional collaborations with Bruce or between participating schools!)
For more information about DEN webinars or to register, visit:

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Student Blogging Challenge

While easing back into things before I'm back full-time on September 21st, I came across the Student Blogging Challenge announcement in my email from edublogger. I know that a lot of you use edublogger in your classroom, so I thought I'd share the announcement. According to Ms. Wyatt's blog, last year's challenge "had students from 15 countries taking part with either their own blogs or as part of a class blog. In total over 1000 students were writing posts, making conversations through comments and getting to know students and classes around the world." A great way to make some connections!

This year there are two challenges: one for helping students become better bloggers and one for helping students become better commenters.

To register, and for more information, visit Ms. Wyatt's blog. Although the challenge started on September 6th, you can register at any time. If you have your students take part in the challenge, please share your thoughts (especially if you participated last year!). I'm really curious to see how this works, so I've added Ms. Wyatt's blog to my "What I'm Reading." You should, too!

I always like to try and incoporate different web 2.0 technologies into the various programs that MAGPI runs. While reading about Sue Wyatt's annual blog competition, I came across Gail Desler's (@gailhd) blog "5 Tips for Helping Students Become Better Bloggers." Strategies include:
  • Provide students with examples.
  • Include reflection and self-evaluation as part of the blogging process.
  • Teach students how to hyperlink.
  • Invite students to share their strategies for inviting others into their conversations.
  • Begin an ongoing conversation about digital citizenship.
Many thanks to Gail for posting these suggestions! I'm curious what other strategies you might add to this list?

Image from the Student Blogging Challenge blog on Sue Wyatt's blog.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

National Constitution Center Announces September Student Exchange Program

The National Constitution Center has extended an invitation to high school students to participate in the 2009 – 2010 season of its national high school student program, The Exchange: A Marketplace of Student Ideas. The first videoconference event will take place on Friday, September 25th 2009 from 1PM to 2:30 PM EDT. This installment of The Exchange, “Should the U.S. reduce immigration?” asks students to consider ways to address immigration reform and to work together to create an immigration policy for the United States. The discussion will be hosted by SuChin Pak from MTV and Discovery Channel’s Planet Green, and moderated by Dr. Michael Hogan, co-director of the Center for Democratic Deliberation and Pennsylvania State University.

Students will have the opportunity to be heard by and hear from other students around the country using Internet2 video conferencing technology. It is an exciting way for students to discuss current constitutional issues with their classmates and peers in other parts of the nation.

Schools that participate in The Exchange will be asked to use a free lesson provided by the National Constitution Center to prepare their students to be part of the conversation.

Space is in the program is limited. If your school is chosen to participate in The Exchange, you will be asked to select one student to be part of the video conference round table. Only one student, your schools’ student representative, is allowed to speak to the nation audience during the videoconference. If a student other than your student representative speaks without prior authorization, then your school will be disconnected from the video conference.

During the videoconference, students will have an opportunity to interact with each other and share their thoughts on current immigration policy. Students will use this deliberation to recommend immigration reform policies the government should follow.

Participating schools must have connectivity to the INTERNET2 network and the ability to do H.323 videoconferencing. While there is no cost to participate in this event, we do ask schools to work to make sure this event is a success. Participating schools will be responsible for the following:

  • Participation and successful completion of videoconference testing prior to the event with the National Constitution Center
  • Selection of a student representative
  • Preparation of students through the use of the provided Exchange lesson plan and resources
  • Uploading your class’s point of view on the issue of immigration reform at

If you would like to take advantage of this remarkable opportunity, please contact Jason Allen at either or 215.409.6644 by Friday September 18th 2009 for registration and information. Mandatory videoconference testing for all sites will be on Monday September 21st from 1 PM to 3 PM EDT. Please confirm that your school has Internet2 connectivity prior to contacting Jason Allen to reserve a testing time.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Maternity Leave, New Website and MAGPI Fall Programs

I know it's been quite a while since I've posted, but I am happy to announce that on June 28, 2009, my husband and I welcomed our first child, Lila Grace, into the world. Therefore, I've been on maternity leave since then and will continue to be through mid-September.

But things are still very busy with MAGPI! We've launched a brand new website ( and will be launching a brand-new registration system soon. Our fall program descriptions are posted and you can download the fall program listing by clicking on "Program and Events" on the home page and then clicking on "Download Program Catalog" (it's a PDF). Registration will open later this summer. You can read the full program descriptions and see resources for each event on the website by clicking on "programs" under your community; however, dates and times are not posted on the website yet because they are directly linked to the new registration system and that is still under development. Dates and times are published in the PDF version of the program catalog.

We've also selected and announced our 2009 Fellows! The Fellows will be gathering in August for their Summer Institute and I look forward to working with all of them during the coming year. For more information about our Fellowship program, please see:

I'll be posting periodically throughout the summer - - but look for more regular posts this fall!

Friday, June 5, 2009

World Ocean's Day Webcast

On June 8, IGLO, in collaboration with the World Ocean Network (WON), will be celebrating World Oceans Day (WOD) with a live webcast featuring NOAA's Dr. Chris Sabine speaking on Ocean Acidification.

Every year, World Ocean Day brings together more than 250 organizations spanning five continents and reaching more than 150 million visitors in museums and science centers, aquariums, educational charities, institutions and NGOs. Designated by the United Nations and supported by the World Ocean Network and The Ocean Project, World Oceans Day is a celebration designed to raise awareness about the importance of the ocean and the impact of our daily actions on the marine environment. This year's theme is "One Ocean, One Climate, One Future."

Dr. Sabine's presentation on ocean acidification will address one of the most crucial issues linking oceans and climate. View his presentation live at 2:30 p.m. EDT! For more information, visit:

The webstream will be live at 2:15 p.m. EDT on Monday, June 8th. To access the webstream, go to Put 5147 into the conference ID field, choose your preferred stream rate and click ‘stream this conference.’ That will launch the streaming browser. A chat box will appear as well, which will allow individuals at your institution to ask questions of the speaker.

MAGPI is happy to be partnering with ASTC, NOAA and the Internet2 Commons to bring you this program!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Students, Authors and Videoconferencing: Descriptive Writing with Mary Quattlebaum

This week, MAGPI has been wrapping up several projects and programs for the 2008-2009 academic year. Several of these programs revolved around students interacting with authors, so I thought I'd reflect on the different models. (I'm also starting to put together our programs and projects for next year - - so catharsis is always good!). Today, I'm looking at the descriptive writing videoconference with author Mary Quattlebaum.

Children's book author Mary Quattlebaum has been working with MAGPI for three years now, and is truly a pleasure to work with! Over the past three years, we've co-developed two program platforms (one based on haiku poetry that we do in the fall and one based on her book Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns) and offered them twice a year. She graciously donates her time and her publishing companies are always kind enough to donate one copy of her book to each participating class.

Yesterday, we held the Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns videoconference program with five 3rd through 5th classes in Pennsylvania. Students read the short chapter book ahead of time and responded to a prompt (written by Mary) that asked them to write a descriptive paragraph:
In "Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns" (pages 106-107), Jackson describes the garden using many of his senses. How does he seem to feel about it?

In preparation for this videoconference event, students should use their senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch (at least 3 of 5) to write a description of a place special to them. How does being in that place make them feel? Descriptions should be relatively short (about 1 to 3 paragraphs long).

Each school selected one student's work to submit and we posted them on the project website. We then assigned a school to read and reflect on another school's work. The student descriptive pieces are great - - I encourage you to visit the site and take a look! I'm still chuckling about Evan's description of Mickey D's ... and how a bad day at McDonald's is when you get a "prosthetic thumb in your iced coffee." (Bethel Elementary's submission).

During the videoconference, Mary gave a brief presentation on the book making process and then asked each school to read their submission aloud. After skillfully providing thoughtful feedback to the student author (i.e. "I really liked how you used language that...") and asking a few questions of the author about his or her writing process, she invited the school that read the students' piece ahead of time to reflect for the rest of the group. Although students were certainly well prepared, Mary's modeling of the feedback went a tremendous way toward helping students formulate thoughtful critiques and extend their feedback beyond simple statements such as "I really liked your paragraph." Also, Mary's careful attention to detail and kind words provided validation for the student authors -- who bravely read their work in a videoconference environment and answered questions on the spot from a "published author!"

This videoconference event wrapped up with Mary sharing a quick garden craft and answering questions from students at each of the sites. For more about Mary (and for instructions on the sweet potato garden craft she demonstrated), visit her website.

Granted, we've done this program multiple times; however, I really felt like it flowed effortlessly yesterday. Mary was quite the pro 'on-screen' and facilitated interaction between the multiple sites effortlessly. Although any time students get to interact with authors is exciting, I felt this program went particularly well because Mary quickly adapted to the students' needs and continually involved them throughout the 75 minute exchange (a long time to engage elementary school students).

A few notes:

  • Agenda setting was key in making this program work! As students became more aware of the process for sharing and responding to one another's work, they became more at ease with one another, the technology and Mary herself.
  • Planning time was time well spent. These types of author exchanges take more time to set-up: more of my time in terms of coordinating information between the schools; the author's time in terms of reading student work ahead of time and working with me to formulate a more interactive agenda; and the teacher's time in terms of integrating the descriptive writing activity into their classroom and creating time for students to read/respond to another student's work. I would argue, however, that this particular videoconference was more meaningful to students (and me, the author and the teachers!) because of the time invested up front.
  • Time keeping is critical. In a 75 minute videoconference, mixing up instructional strategies is key to keeping students engaged. Equally important is watching the clock -- we ran out of time at the end yesterday and the MCU kicked all of the participants off!
  • Working with individuals who are truly interested and invested in the educational process is WONDERFUL! Mary is such a pro! I can't thank her enough for all of the time she invested into making sure this was a wonderful experience that nurtured burgeoning student writers! While some authors may have perceived this as merely a marketing tool (which, if we're honest, it certainly is), Mary spent time encouraging every student who participated in yesterday's program by providing thoughtful and constructive feedback. This wasn't something that could be done 'on the fly' and required thoughtful preparation.

Although we did get disconnected at the end of the event, Mary was kind enough to write an email to all of the participating teachers that I thought I'd share with you:

Hello Everyone,

I so enjoyed yesterday's video conference. All your students were so well prepared and had much to offer. It was a pleasure to hear and see them on the screen. And many thanks to Heather, who always does a wonderful job of coordinating the series.

I'm sorry, too, that we ran out of time and wanted to make sure I got back to Dunmore with the answer to the final question, which I think was something like this: Did any animals or pets inspire your books?

Answer: Yes! Animals seem to inspire many writers. Do you like to write about your pets? Let's see, for me there's a performing hamster in "Jazz, Pizzazz, and the Silver Threads" inspired by my first childhood hamster, Ginger. "The Magic Squad and the Dog of Great Potential" has a big, goofy dog, Train, based on a childhood dog, Muttsy. I think I mentioned a picture book I'm working on, in which there's a guinea pig, like ours, named Smoochie. And our old dog, Charlie, just inspired an early reader. I also like to write articles and poems about the animals and birds in the natural world. (Which is like Samantha, who shared her writing about her cabin during the

Please do feel free to get in touch with me through my website, if you and your students have other questions. And if you try the sweet-potato craft in your classroom, do let me know if it grows. Sometimes it sprouts leaves and roots, sometimes, alas, it doesn't.

Wishing you a good end to the school year,

Many thanks to Mary and all of the teachers and students who made this program a success!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

100th Day of School Project - Revisited

In March, MAGPI, UNC-Asheville, and Peachtree Publishing sponsored the 100th Day of School Videoconference Celebration with author Dr. Lester Laminack. 12 schools (Grades K-2) from across the MAGPI region read Dr. Laminack's book, Jake's 100th Day of School and created class collections of 100 objects. The projects were incredible. Here are some of my favorites:
  • 100 images of their school mascot
  • 100 images of their community
  • 100 pieces of candy
  • 100 snack ingredients
  • 100 "words we know"
  • 100 kind deeds (or random acts of kindness)
During the videoconference, students listened to Dr. Laminack, presented their collections/projects to one another and asked Dr. Laminack questions. Cathie Cooper from Garnet Valley School District was kind enough to share this video of her students presenting their project. A fabulous example! Thanks to Cathie for sharing (and thanks to the students in the video, and the students' parents for allowing us to post)!

And check out the project students at Hempfield School District did (posted on their blog!)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Supporting Videoconference-Based Learning Events with Virtual Reality

On April 2nd, MAGPI tried our first simultaneous multisite videoconference and virtual reality program. Students at seven schools participated in “Fleshing the Bones: The Art and Science of Drawing Dinosaurs” videoconference with The Academy of Natural Sciences. While students were interacting with one another and the instructor via video, they were also manipulating images and bones in a virtual environment that we provided to each participating school. Virtual environments were installed on computers that individual or pairs of students could access. We decided to this rather than having students access an environment from thirty different computers in a single location while the videoconference was happening; we were concerned about bandwidth limitations within individual classrooms.

Now, the virtual environment containing the digitized images was basic and students weren’t interacting with one another within the virtual environment - - they were only interacting with digital learning objects. But the advantages of structuring the learning experience in this manner were clear:
  • Students were able to clearly see intricate details and individually manipulate images of dinosaur bones on their own computer screens - - rather than view them via content sharing on a videoconference endpoint (which isn’t always ideal). Because students were interpreting the visuals and then drawing dinosaurs based on those visuals, details were very important.
  • There was multifaceted interaction throughout the videoconference, which kept students engaged. They were simultaneously interacting in a class-to-class video environment and an individual student-to-learning object environment. Negotiating both environments takes skill - - but our digital native students are fairly adept at this. How many times have you seen a high school student juggle several interactive technologies at once?
The virtual environment students used was created using Virtual Reality Development Lab equipment. MAGPI has partnered with VRDL and is going to be loaning this equipment to schools for 30 day project periods next school year. We’re excited to see what VRDL environments students and teachers design! As I mentioned before, the VRDL environment we created alongside the Academy of Natural Sciences for this program was fairly basic; however, I see a lot of educational potential for this technology - - especially when we put students in the 'driver's seat.' It’s also a great tool for building realistic immersive experiences for students they cannot experience in ‘real life.’ For example, the creators at VRDL often talk about how middle school students created a Japanese Internment Camp VRDL environment as a history project.

I believe the next challenge for combining high-quality interactive video with virtual environments will be to have students interacting with a more complex virtual environment. After that, we might be ready to try having students simultaneously interact with one another (and an instructor) via video while immersed and interacting with one another in a virtual environment like Second Life or Active Worlds. Of course, there has to be a compelling educational and pedagogical reason to do this - - and there’s the added challenge of finding schools that allow students to participate in immersive interactive virtual environments! However, I’m looking forward to exploring even more ways to enhance videoconferencing with other tools and would love to hear your stories.

Many thanks to Gail Barna at Western Wayne School District for sharing these photos of her students participating in the program!

Take a look at student comments from Keystone School District's Technology Blog! (added 5/13/2009)