Saturday, February 21, 2009

tt4t_075 Video conferencing, 8th graders, and snowflakes

It’s Saturday, February 21st, 2009 and welcome to episode 75 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Another busy and productive week at the ITC has just wrapped up. This week we provided several technology training sessions for our undergraduate students and are in the process of testing some new software for a possible future purchase.

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Yesterday our college assisted a local middle school class with a video conference between Charleston, Illinois 8th graders and NASA researchers that were located in Lake Placid, New York. I will have more on this video conference in a moment.

But first, before I begin the show today I would like to comment on a couple of developments regarding the ongoing digital TV transition. On February 17th of this week many television stations across the country were scheduled to stop broadcasting analog signals using the NTSC system. As previously reported on TechTalk4Teachers the United States Congress passed legislation that delayed the February 17th cutoff date until June 12th of this year, permitting TV stations the option to delay this analog cutoff date. However, several TV stations in this area of Illinois have elected to stop broadcasting their analog TV signal programming as originally planned. Our local WEIU TV PBS station now has a still image on the analog broadcast signal announcing that the cutover to digital has occurred. Several other TV stations in this part of Illinois have also stopped broadcasting their programming using analog signals. So, if you were one of the few that still relied upon analog reception you now must move to the digital format if your TV station has stopped analog broadcasting. You will now need to buy a digital converter box if your current TV does not support digital signals.

This cutover is necessary to move forward with new plans for using the freed up frequency spectrum. PC manufactures are already taking advantage of the new digital broadcasts that many TV stations now offer by incorporating DTV tuners into computers. Companies like Dell, ASUS, and others are offering laptops with optional built-in digital TV tuners in new models so that users can watch DTV using their computers. The world is yet again changing and it will be interesting watching new and innovative uses of DTV technologies in the months to come.

It is snowing here today in Illinois so my topic today is very timely. Yesterday I assisted a local middle school class with a video conference event sponsored by NASA. Over the past few months a local class of 8th grade students have been active participants in scientific research investigating the different types of snowflakes produced by various weather patterns. I have provided a link in the show notes to the class project website with more information about this project and the scientific equipment used for the project.

Charleston Middle School Snowflake Project

This week the Charleston 8th graders presented their material to a group of teachers and scientists gathered at Lake Placid, New York. The group made a video conference presentation to the teachers and also to two other middle school classes using video conferencing technologies that our university provided and setup for this special event. The 8th grade teacher worked with an EIU faculty member and other scientists across the nation on this collaborative project and shared the results with NASA and other schools across the nation.

No two snowflakes are identical and each student presented information about a snowflake that they captured themselves and classified using state-of-the-art scientific equipment provided for this project. The 8th grade students did a great job and were all very knowledgeable about the subject matter and their presentation was delivered in a professional manner. I encourage you to visit their project website to see the great work that these Illinois students have done and to learn more about their project. You can visit to learn more.

Technology Pick of the Week

I have been doing a ton of SMART Board training recently so my Technology Pick of the Week this week is a blog for teachers using SMART Boards in the classroom. The name of this blog is “getting smarter with smart boards” and a link is available in the show notes.

Getting smarter with smart boards blog:

This blog offers teachers suggestions for using SMART Boards including interactive sites to use with a SMART Board for classroom activities. Be sure to checkout the blog archive on the right-side of the screen for additional ideas for using a SMART Board in the classroom.

If you have some time please review the embedded slide share presentation on this blog called “IWBs in the Secondary: Where is the Interaction?” by Jason de Nys It is 81 slides and offers a glimpse into the pedagogy necessary to be a successful teacher. Remember it is not about the technology but rather the pedagogy that makes for effective teaching.

That wraps it up for episode 75 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have a comment of suggestion please send an email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.


Net Meeting said...

Nice post very interesting I am really pleased to post my comment.. I gotta say videoconferencing is very useful it is a big help for us especially in business industry..

TechTalk4Teachers said...

Thank you for the comment, many schools are using video conferenceing but the biggest hinderance is firewall issues that often make H323 video conferencing difficult. Skype is becoming more and more prevalent.