Monday, February 21, 2011

Something new in Learning Village ....

Did you know a new section has been added to the dashboard of WSFCS Learning Village?

There is now an Instructional Tip of the Week area (in the first column above the calendar). So far this month, the tips have covered:
  • Presidents Day
  • This Month in NC History (information about any month in NC History)
  • Tripttico
You should go to Learning Village (3rd quick link on the WSFCS Homepage) and check out the tips of the week. We try to update the tips each Monday.

If you have ideas for things we can include in this section, please let us know. The tips don't have to be websites or even have anything to do with technology. If you have a reading or math strategy that works really well in your class, please let us know so we can share. If you found a great instructional tip that should be shared with others, this is the way to share it!

I wonder what next week's Instructional Tip of the Week will be ...

Getting Activ with Promethean!!

  • Do you use a Promethean ActivBoard?
  • Are you going to have an ActivBoard in your classroom soon?
  • Do you have great ideas for using one that you would like to share with others?
  • Would you like to learn some tips and tricks for ways to better use you ActivBoard?
  • Did you know there are other people in this school system that would like to hear/see things you are doing with the ActivBoard in a classroom?

We are looking for more members for our WSFCS Promethean Users Group. This group of educators meets to share ideas, resources, best practices and more. We will be sharing information in actual meetings and online. Please fill out this form if you would like more information about joining this group.

We hope to continue the learning that took place at the ActivCarolina Conference last weekend. Even if you did not attend the conference, please come join the fun!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Document Cameras and Skype

In our district we have been working over the past few years to really ramp up the technology that is in the classrooms to benefit both our teachers and students. We have instituted a Classroom Solution specific to the grade levels with one design for the Elementary and one for the Middle/High Schools. Included in this solution we have chosen to provide document cameras as an additional input device for teachers and students to use.

Over the past couple of years I have blogged about the benefits of document cameras versus the traditional overhead projector. I have discussed its uses as a digital camera and camcorder as well as techniques to integrate it into classroom instruction. One thing I have yet to talk about is how the document camera camera can be used as a(n) webcam. Yes I said webcam.

The primary version of document cameras that we have in our district are made by the Lumens Company, but we also have others versions which will act in the same manner. When the document cameras are installed correctly and the included software is setup the computers will see them as webcams, depending of course on what programs or websites you are utilizing. In our district we have been using Skype as a method of global communications in which our teachers are collaborating with in and out of county schools, businesses, colleges and universities and interesting people.

You have to make sure that when you are using Skype the program must be able to see the doc cam and set it as the default visual device. To do this you will have to make sure that the doc cam drivers are installed on the computer you are using, see specific doc cam installation guide for setup informaiton. Once the doc cam is installed properly make sure that it is turned on and open the Skype program and log in. After you are on the Skype dashboard you will click on Tools--> Options and then Video Settings. In the video settings, depending on your setup, the live video should show up. Now one thing to remember on the video settings for Skype, in order to make sure you do not get any random video calls you need to make sure that your settings are checked to only accept video from people in your contact list. This alleviates any issues that could arise during a Skype call.

Now for two technical issues that have come up, in our district that is, when we have been using the doc cams with Skype. I will list them out and the solutions we have used to correct the problem.
  1. Image shows upside down in Skype - This usually happens when using older doc cams like the Lumens DC-133, 150, 155, 160 or 162. The solution is to turn the doc cam around and the lens unit turns down so that the image will be right-side-up.
  2. The image does not show up at all and you have an error on the screen - This has been just recently discovered. From what I have ascertained it is due to the recent upgrade of software by Skype to version 5.1 from version 4.1 - In our network version 4.1 is stable and has been the standard so what we have done is to uninstall the 5.1 software and reinstall the 4.1 which will then allow Skype to see the doc cam again.

Now this is just one of the things that you can do with your doc cam, but if you are looking for more ideas you can click on my LiveBinder below to get some additional resources.

You can also hear more about this topic and resources in our Weekly Podcast as WSFCS DIT Unplugged - Episode 11