P/T Conference via Skype

First let me just say that I got up early enough this morning to make it to Starbucks to make this post. Didn't seem like I was every going to post to my blog again lately.

A couple weeks ago my teachers and I had the pleasure of hosting a parent conference through Skype. I have permission from the family to share that experience. I will not be sharing the content of the conference but how it came to be.

Let me first say that I can't even imagine having my husband deployed to Iraq right now. That alone would be more than I could handle. To have 3 kids on top of that is a whole other set of issues. During one of my conversations with the mom she mentioned that they Skype her husband often. I just tucked that piece of info into the back of my mind. At one point I received an email from Dad in Iraq. I thought that it was important that we all talk so I suggested we have conference via Skype. Here some highlights/pointers if you ever need to do this:
  • I emailed dad my contact information and asked if he could add me as a contact over the weekend so I could be sure that everything was set by Monday morning when we met.
  • In my email I said I would be available 15 min. before the official conference so we could work on settings. He didn't add me over the weekend but at the designated time he added me as a contact, I accepted, and he called right on time.
  • Iraq time was 7:30 PM and our time was 10:30 AM
  • My laptop was set up on a cart with a webcam hooked up and sitting on top of the laptop. I didn't want to place my laptop too far away from the table becaue I knew it would be hard to hear if the camera was too far away and I didn't have a mic hooked up. We had to use the built in mic in the camera. Ther was limited view but I aimed the camera on the mom and her family.
  • Yes, the mother brought her mom and her brother to the conference. Keep in mind she is trying to raise 3 children while her husband is in Iraq. I have enough trouble raising just two with my husband home more than he is gone:):):)
  • Sound - Here is where we had the most trouble. Dad could not hear very well so I had to sit by the camera and pretty much yell all the information to him. One other teacher would talk loud enough he could hear her but not very well. It sounded like we were all yelling the whole time but we had to. It was not a negative yelling.
  • Paperwork - I would like to email the paperwork in advance this time. I read all the paperwork or explained it as we were going. I think I have enough notice this time that I could email the paperwork in advance so he has it in front of him.
  • Snowball Mic - I am actually going to try to use my Snowball mic this time. It has a long enough cord that I could place it in the middle of the table and he will probably be able to hear better this time.
  • Training on the spot - The teachers didn't realize there was a little bit of a time lag in the sound. Not huge but a couple of seconds. You can't really have a "conversation" you have to talk and then stop and wait to make sure the person on the other end heard you or has any questions. I didn't clarify this very well with the teachers before the meeting but will next time.
My advice: Keep in mind that this is the first time I have done this. Other teachers have done this alot or at least more than me and probably have better advice. My main advice is to get contected on Skype 15 min. before the actual conference is suppose to start. I also tested all my camera views that morning by calling my IT on Skype and having her watch me around the room to see where she could see and hear better. That helped a lot.

Highlight of the conference: After we were done I called for the student to come down so he could talk to his dad. He was so excited. He thought he was in trouble at first when he saw all of us but we left the room and just let them talk for a while. I also think that is why mom brought her family so they could all talk to him.

There are way too many ways to include parents that are unconventional that we need to take advantage of.

You've Gotta Start Somewhere

As the old saying goes...You've gotta start somewhere...That somewhere for me is going to be the Colorado Conversation this weekend.

All the virtual conferences/webcasts/podcasts etc. have been so beneficial that I want to share that with others. Especially my teachers.

Below is the email I sent our district about hosting the Colorado Conversation "virtually" in Missouri. If you read my blog and you live close by, feel free to join us. You will need to fill out the form below so I can keep an accurate count.

So far I have 10 signed up!!!

"Willard Staff,
Free PD is filling up!!
This is just a reminder email regarding this coming
Saturday PD opportunity. Below are the details and form
for you to sign up that you are attending.

Sat. Feb.21st 9AM-1PM Library Station

This will be very informal. Panera next door. You are
welcome to come and go.

I will have PD forms signed for you to receive credit.
What: Live streaming into a technology conference in
Colorado. ((There are MANY live workshops/conferences
every day that you can attend in the comfort of your own
home. We will attend this one together and then you will
be able to "attend" on your own in the future:)

BYOL - Bring your own laptop and headphones. I will have
some extras if needed. You need to have wireless
Link to conference topics you can choose from.
I will set you up but you can "attend" any session you
would like.

Please click on the link below and fill out the form if
you plan to attend. I need to get an estimate of how many
will be attending.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions. I will be
sending a clarifying email before the end of the week.

Melinda Miller, Principal
Willard East Elementary"

Input Re: Pre-Packaged School Supplies

For the past 5 years I have been in charge of our district's elementary school supply list. This is the supply list that is given to the children at the beginning of the year and posted at all the school supply stores in the fall.

This year our committee decided to investigate pre-packaged school supplies. As you will see in the feedback I received, this means a lot of different things to a lot of different people/schools.

I requested feedback from Missouri principals by sending and email through our elementary principals association. Approximately 600 principals were emailed and many responded with info or that they too wanted the info that I collected.

ANONYMOUS - I copy and pasted all of the information into a google document and the link is included below. By clicking on the link you can view all the input that was emailed to me.

ROUGH DRAFT - My apologies for the mess of the document. There is so much information that I do not have time to reformat everything and get the information out in a timely manner.

DISCLAIMER - If you would like to know more information from a particular school (they are only identified by number in the document) email me and I can put you in contact with that school.

School Supply Feedback Link