Global Collaboration Day! Thursday, Sept. 17

About GCD

Global Education Day is a 24-hour online event taking place on September 17, 2015,  wherever you are located in the world.  Students, teachers, and organizations are encouraged to host an virtual activity that will connect people on this day.

By registering these activities on this site, others can join in and experience global collaboration.  In turn,  we hope that this day will raise greater awareness of the need for connecting classrooms and education organizations around the world. Empowering student and teachers to create authentic, meaningful experiences will deepen learning and improve educational outcomes for all children. Our hope is that this event will build greater understanding of the possibilities of global education!

And, this year, the Distance Learning team is both a host and a partner for the event.  At 9 AM CDT, ESC 13 DL will sponsor an event with retired Judge Laura Weiss who will help bring the US Constitution to life for students of all ages. Other programs during the 24 hour event can be found at
Need more information – contact the DL team at ESC Region 13 –

We the People celebrate Constitution Day

US Consitution as part of Global Collaboration Day 

A former Texas judge will talk about the importance of the US Constitution in building our institutions and working as a society. The judge will also talk about how it is relevant in today’s society and how it compares to more modern constitutions. Questions from participants will guide the discussion after the judge’s opening remarks.  Be ready with questions that will lead to a deeper understanding of the US Constitution. If you would like to send questions ahead of time, please send them to with “constitution” in the subject line.   9 AM Central  September 17, 2015

From the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA

Preamble Challenge
September 17, 2015
7:30 a.m. CDT
To kick off the day, National Constitution Center President and CEO Jeff Rosen will lead students in a rousing reading of the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States on the museum’s front lawn.
Continue reading “We the People celebrate Constitution Day”

FREE and WORTHWHILE Video Conferences for the Classroom

The old adage is that you get what you pay for so how good can a FREE video conference be?  You’ll be pleasantly surprised!                 1309725237_30b3d86a0c_m (1)

Start with NASA!

Providing quality programming for more than a decade, NASA engages students and pushes their thinking with these free programs: Our Planet Earth, Humans in Space,  Our Solar Neighborhood, Our Magnificent Sun, States of Matter, Toys in Space, Aeronautics, Rocketry, or Roving Mars. Find the descriptions and registration information on the DLN catalog page of NASA and get your class soaring through the universe.

 Move to the Smithsonian!

Visit the collections of all of the Smithsonian Institutes as never before…up close and personal.  Most of the museums have docents for online tours of their collections as well as special programming to build meaning for your students.  Check out the pieces in the National Museum of African Art, or find historical references in the collection of the American Art Museum,  then travel the grounds of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center with the help of a roving robot and finally check out the programs from all of the museums on the educator main page.

 Return to Texas!

The Connect2Texas website offers both fee based and FREE programs from zoos, aquariums, museums and cultural institutions across the state.  Check out their upcoming events calendar or the weekly In the News program for some of the best video conference programming on the web.

And, locally!

Always check the calendar of upcoming events from ESC Region 13.  We post all free events for both students and education staff on a regular schedule.  Can’t find what you are looking for?  Contact the distance learning team at, call 512-919-5444 or drop by our virtual office.


The Robots are coming! The Robots are coming!

8 Kubi carts have arrived in Austin and will be available to schools immediately.  The carts are provided at no cost to any school in the ESC Region 13 area that has a student who is homebound or out for an extended period of time.

The student interacts with classmates and teachers through video conferencing manipulating the robotic arm to move the camera in the classroom so that they can follow people or see materials on the desk in front of the camera.  Remote control is through any laptop or tablet that the student has available at their home or in the hospital.

There is more information and a sign up at

NEW FREE connections for classes

Looking for some quality programming that can add depth and understanding to learning in your classroom?  Check out the calendar at Distance Learning to find a program that meets your curriculum.

November 13 – Hawk Talk – Take an up-close look at a live Red-Tailed Hawk to discuss the various structures and functions of birds of prey (or hawks).

November 18 – First Encounters!–When the Conquistadors Met the Karankawa How did early American Indians encounter their environment, other tribes, and the Spanish conquistadors in the vast landscape that would become Texas? A Museum educator will lead students as they search for evidence from artifacts and explore stories that reveal the many meanings of “Encounters on the Land”. There may be multiple sites participating in this program.

November 18 – Let’s Talk Turkey – This interactive presentation introduces students to fun facts about one of our state’s most fabulous birds: THE WILD TURKEY! We will discuss turkey anatomy, habitat, adaptations, and basic needs, as well as the various “calls” or vocalizations that turkeys use to communicate in their environment. Students will listen to an assortment of calls and have the opportunity to take an up-close look at a real Wild Turkey.

November 19 – Gone to Texas Why did people move to Texas from other countries? Were they always welcomed when they arrived? A Museum educator will discuss the four primary waves of immigration to the United States through Texas from 1845-1924, the history behind the movement of people to Texas then and now, interesting stories from immigrants, and show artifacts that people brought with them on the journey. There may be multiple sites participating in this program.

November 20 – George Bush Presidential Library and Museum Education Department presents: A THANKSGIVING PARADE: THE HISTORICAL TAPESTRY OF GRATITUDE The program will provide a parade through history from the Puritans and Native Americans to modern times examining various traditions and stories related to the Thanksgiving holiday and the custom of giving thanks. Primary sources from the Bush Library and Museum will show examples of presidential and personal expressions of gratitude.

December 4 – Animal Skull Investigation – This interactive presentation allows students the opportunity to investigate skulls of native Texas animals.

December 16 – Urban Animal Encounters – Skunks and Armadillos – Meet the nine-banded armadillo and the striped skunk. Although their defense behaviors and adaptations are beneficial to them in their wild environment, these same behaviors do not fare well in urban habitats.

Find more programs and registration information on the calendar at ESC Region 13 Distance Learning.


NEW Elementary Collaborative Writing Matches


For one of the most memorable descriptive writing lessons that also builds listening skills, join another class via video conference for a Monster Match.  Before the match, each class draws monsters and then writes the most descriptive paragraph they can.  On the day of the match, each class takes a turn reading a paragraph while the other class’ members draw a monster from the description.  Then – the BIG REVEAL – the monsters are shown! The discussion then evaluates whether the description lacked some parts, needed better words or was right on target.   To see a Monster Match in action with commentary from a third grade teacher, watch the video on The Teaching Channel called “Monster Match: Using Art to Improve Writing”    Interested?  Sign up  at

JOIN a 3D Turkey Exchange Project on November 19 or 20    Carft turkey with ribbon feathers

Sign your class up at

Create a 3D Turkey using simple items only from the list below. Write a paragraph describing your turkey. BEFORE the scheduled video conference, email your description to your partner teacher. Let your partner class read your paragraph and build theturkey. During the video conference, connect to read your descriptive paragraph and reveal your 3D Turkey.
Choose from these items to build your turkey:
empty gallon jug, craft feathers, construction paper, googly eyes, felt, bulletin board paper, popsicle sticks, markers, beans, popcorn, yarn, play dough, pine cones, pine needles, leaves
Grades 2-5 have RELA TEKS for the development of vivid images for descriptive writing, for listening and speaking and for writing procedural texts.
Once you sign up, you will receive a partner teacher’s email with a date and time for your video conference.  You need a computer with a camera and mic.  A projector is helpful but not required.  A link for your conference will be sent to you along with the contact information.  If you want it recorded, you will be sent a link to the recording following the event.


eRate changes

While the modernization of the eRate filing system is in progress there have been many questions and the answers are starting to flow.  One big change is that ALL filing will be online so that districts that are using paper forms will need to move to a paperless system for the next eRate filing.

The determination of discount is also in the process of changing and will be a significant change as well.  ERate Central suggests that “applicants should begin to calculate, or at least estimate, their discount rates for FY 2015 as soon as possible. This is particularly important for school districts that now have to use matrix discount rates. In the past, the difference of a percentage point of student eligibility at a school level might affect a district’s discount average by a percent or two. Going forward, the same magnitude difference in student eligibility may affect the district’s rate by ten percent. Any district with a student eligibility percentage currently close to a matrix breakpoint should take special care to maximize its overall NSLP percentage.”  To find out more about this change, go to USAC’s 9.14.14 S&L News Brief.

Fall Re-ViTaL-ization Meeting

Join us on September 25 from 9:00-12:00 for an information packed networking session of Visionaries in Technology and Learning.  We will be sharing information about changes in the distance learning network, upcoming eRate changes, wifi solutions, network know-how, learning management systems, upcoming events, deadlines and more.

This group is open to all educational technology staff – IT, campus techs, instructional techs, tech coaches, network staff, media center librarians and more.  If supporting edtech or integrating instructional tech is your responsibility this is the group for you!

Short presentations will be made by MGRM Pinnacle and SHI International.  Pinnacle is a learning management system and SHI will be talking about wifi installation, management and security.  Both companies will be providing lunch following the meeting.

To register to attend in person access our eCampus system and look for workshop FA1430101.

To attend via video conference contact Region 13 Distance Learning and they will send you the link.

For questions please email or call 512.919.5444.

Going mainstream?

While attending a small conference a while ago, I was in a discussion on collaborative student connections.  Once we got through the list of hurdles that face us, both technologically and pedagogically, we got to the stories of when it works!  And, wow, these are powerful connections.

A group of middle school students working on travel brochures for the countries in the Middle East that they were studying worked their way through the thinking process to the point where one of them wondered if there were “travel experts” they could contact.  The teacher observed that with all the online services for travel today, a “travel agent”  wasn’t in their experience.  Once they had that information they began to look for agents in the Middle East who could help them  – suggestions from the students flew around the room – the agents need to be English speaking, they need to have an email to be contacted, etc.  Once they worked out the parameters for finding a travel agent the search began and led them to a British couple in Cyprus.  Next step?  The students requested a SKYPE interview and got it!  They  asked questions about culture – what to wear and eat, location – what to see,  and safety – where and when to travel.  The travel agents answered all of their questions and then….asked if they could have the top three brochures to display on their website!  The teacher told us that the students couldn’t wait to get started.

Another teacher had a story of collaborative poetry writing between Texas and North Carolina middle school students.  The poems started on Google docs and it wasn’t until the poem was completed that the people at each end were revealed!  Some interesting, non-conventional pairs emerged and added to the students understanding that it’s what is inside that counts as well as creating some excellent poetry.

I remember years ago when we held an online peer review through email. ( It would be so much easier today with online collaborative documents.) We paired third graders from a school with learners with limited language skills and a well –performing school where the students had rich vocabulary.  At the end of the year, we saw improvement in both sets of students.  The vocabulary and grammar skills in the first school showed improvement as we hoped but they also improved in the second school.  Why?   Perhaps because the kids became more aware as they did their reviews.

With so many tools available for collaboration I would love to hear about more classes that are sharing.  Please share your experiences connecting your students to the world they live in.  How do we bring these experiences into the mainstream of education?

Are we there yet? Rambling thoughts on IVC

I remember seeing the demonstration video phones at the 1960s World’s Fair in New York.  (Yes, I am THAT old.)  There were basically two phone booths back to back and you could see the person in the other one on a small screen while talking  to them via a (wired) phone.  Today my grandchildren play with each other though 100 miles apart using wireless tablets or phones with a video conference app.

I have a video conference unit on my desk as many of my colleagues do but still people seem far happier to call, IM or email.   (I know I don’t have that airbrushed look when you call but am sure I still present an acceptable face. )  I’m sure that  this too shall change but how long will it take?  It’s been about 50 years since the World’s Fair and I know most of you have the capacity to video connect with anyone in our office right in the palm of your hand – on your smartphone or tablet.  So why not give it a try…call and see what we look like at  It’s time for the wizard to come out from behind the curtain!