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  Check out the pieces in the National Museum of African Art, or find historical references in the collection of the American Art Museum,  then travel the grounds of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center with the help of a roving robot and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.


Through a looking glass

A few weeks ago my parents came to visit from Rochester, NY and my wife and I had a great time showing them our favorite parts of Austin. One of our site seeing stops was the Bullock Texas State History Museum. While there, we took in a show at the IMAX Theater and the film we saw was “To The Arctic”. Our visit happened to coincide with a field trip for dozens of elementary school kids that were there to see the same film.  As we waited in our seats for the movie to start, we couldn’t help but notice the excitement of the kids as they filed in, holding their 3D glasses in anticipation. The film provided breathtaking looks at the Arctic wilderness and wildlife and followed a family of polar bears as they searched for food and struggled for survival. The lessons in ecology and biology were interwoven so well into the narrative that the kids were having too much fun to realize how much they were learning.  It was evident that the students were engrossed and engaged with what they were seeing and as I watched, I was reminded of my previous blog post about the educational impact and power of virtual field trips.

With the kids excited about what they had seen on the big screen, what an amazing opportunity was now available to capitalize on this collective enthusiasm with a virtual field trip to a zoo or aquarium so the kids could interact with an expert on the animals they had just been so enthralled with at the IMAX Theater. Who knows? Maybe that’s exactly what the teachers did in the days following the field trip. It’s no secret that with each passing year, students are becoming more and more engrossed in television, movies and video games and in turn, that teachers often have to move quickly to adapt their methods and engage these young, fast-paced learners. It’s exciting to me to know that our Distance Learning Team here at Region XIII helps provide affordable (often free!) access to all kinds of virtual field trips and scores of educational opportunities of many varieties for the students in our region. If you’d like help finding a virtual field trip or other such event for your students, don’t hesitate to contact us; we’re here to help you take advantage of the opportunities available to you and your students.

-Tim Brown


Events from across the state for your students.  All information from


October 09, 2012    10:00-11:00AM CT   Texas State Aquarium: Bioinspiration

Audience:   Grades 2-8  We are inspired by the amazing animals at the Texas State Aquarium, but did you know they can inspire inventions as well? Bioinspiration encourages engineers to look at animal design in order to solve problems or to create new tools. Learn about the new inventions that have been inspired by geckos, elephants, birds, and more!Interaction:       During the videoconference classes will be invited to participate in a live poll via text message and/or email. Please prepare accordingly.


For more information, contact Lori Genzer at Region 2 Education Service Center.


October 10, 2012   10:30-11:30 or 12:00-1:00 CT 

Storytelling: A Conquistador’s Quest for Glory and Wealth presented by Angel Vigil 

Audience: Grades 3-7

In their exploration of new lands and quest for glory, Spanish conquistadors brought with them the essential elements of western culture to the new world, primarily horses. Learn about the bold adventures of the first European explorers of the New World. Follow their journeys on maps depicting their amazing discoveries. Join in reenacting the ritual of planting the flag to claim a new land! Understand why the horse was such an important part of the explorers’ victories. Hear the stories of the greatest of the explorers: Hernán Cortez, Francisco Pizzaro, Juan de Oñate and the first European to set foot on Texas land, Cabeza de Vaca.

Registration is now open at

For more information contact Lori Hamm-NeckarDistance Learning Technician at Region Eleven Telecommunications Network (RETN).

  October 18, 2012           10:30-11:30 AM CT & 12-1:00 PM CT

  The Family Poet

  Audience: Grades 3-7

October 18, 2012           10:30-11:30 AM CT & 12-1:00 PM CT

Wayne Edwards ( is a comic poet who brings his humorous poetry to life. Through discussion of the three R’s of rhyming verse – Rhyme, Rhythm, and Repetition – he helps inspire interest in both reading poetry for pleasure and writing one’s own as a form of art. His humorous illustrations of poems engage and delight all ages. Students will laugh and enjoy this poetry! They will be inspired to create their own poems.

Register for this program at:

October 22, 2012 

The Magic of Monarchs

Audience: Grades 1-5

9:00-9:45 , 10:30-11:15 , 12:45-1:30 , 2:00-2:45 CT

For such a delicate insect, the Monarch butterfly leads an adventurous life! During spring and fall, millions of Monarchs will travel through Texas on their way to or from their overwintering sites in Mexico. Live caterpillars and adult Monarchs will be on hand during the program, allowing your students to see them as they’ve never seen them before. Join us as we discuss Monarch biology, life cycle, adaptations, and migration.

For more information on this event contact Lori Hamm-Neckar, Distance Learning Technician at
Region Eleven Telecommunications Network (RETN).

October 25, 2012        10:30 – 11:30 AM CT & 12:30 – 1:30 PM CT

Writing the Historical Essay presented by Ron Powers

Audience: 9th – 12th grades

Ron Powers is an award winning author of nationally acclaimed bestsellers Flags of Our Fathersand Mark Twain. He received the Pulitzer Prize as a journalist. Writing the Historical Essay will be presented for the Bush Library Education Department’s collaboration with the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference and Big Thought. This gives students an opportunity to enter The Mayborn National History Writing Contest. Winners of this national contest of nonfictional essays will be published in The Dallas Morning News. Winners and teachers will attend the conference free. For more contest details, please visit
Register for this program at:

October 29, 2012

Statewide College Daytexas flag

Audience: Students Grades 8-12

Join high school students from across the state on a whirlwind tour of potential colleges throughout the state of Texas. Learn about the history, mission, demographics, admissions requirements, financial requirements, degree plans, and campus life at colleges all over the Texas. Throughout the video conferencing event students will be allowed to text questions to the various college presenters and contact information will be provided for follow up questions.

The current schedule of presenting colleges can be found here.

To register for this event contact your local education service center and complete the registration form located here. If you have questions about the event contact John Korb, Distance Learning Coordinator at TETN.

October 29, 2012 – November 2, 2012

Monster Match

Audience: Grades K-5

Ready to engage your students in the reading and writing process?  Monster Match is a fun and educational writing project which your class is partnered with another class to create, and recreate monsters. Two classrooms will be paired up and each class will create their monster using “Monster Match Approved” materials (found on Monster Match Wiki). The class will then write a description of their monster and post it online for their partner class via the Monster Match wiki. Each class will then try to recreate the other class’ monster by following the posted directions. Both classes will then meet via videoconference to compare the original monsters with the recreated monsters.

This project will enable students to improve their reading, writing and math skills.  They will also practice following directions and speaking skills.  Teacher training will take place October 3, 2012 at 3:30 PM CT.

Check out the Monster Match Wiki for TEKS and CSCOPE connections and more information.

October 30, 2012

Creatures of the Night

Audience: Grades 1-5

9:00-9:45 , 10:30-11:15 , 12:45-1:30 , 2:00-2:45 CT

Many animals come out at night and take part in their own “trick or treating.” In our communities and around our homes many people unknowingly provide treats for a variety of animals; inviting these animals to turn our habitat into their own. In their pursuit of food, water, and shelter, these animals often leave “tricks” or messes behind. Join us and our LIVE nocturnal guests (an opossum, rat, and ringtail) as we discuss their adaptations, habitat, and ways to friendly cohabitate!
To register for these events

For more information on this event contact Lori Hamm-Neckar, Distance Learning Technician at
Region Eleven Telecommunications Network (RETN).

October 31, 2012    10-11:00 AM CT

Texas State Aquarium: Animal Costumes

Audience: Grades 2-5

This event is sponsored by the Education Service Center, Region 2 in collaboration with the Texas State Aquarium. Have you ever been to a costume party? Or dressed up just for fun? We are not the only ones that dress-up, animals dress-up too! Do animals dress-up for fun or is there another purpose for their fancy costumes? Join the Texas State Aquarium and explore the many reasons why ocean animals play dress-up every day. You will view live animals through the eight cameras located throughout the Aquarium. There will be an activity that all students can follow along with in their classrooms. In order to participate, the teacher will need to provide bowls, M&Ms, and candy corn. Each group of students will need a mixture of the two candies in a bowl.

Interaction Information: We will have up to four interactive sites. All others will be view-only.

Registration: Click here to begin the registration process.

If you have questions or would like more information contact Lori Genzer at Education Service Center Region 2.

October 31, 2012 1-1:45 PM CT

Spooky Science

Audience: Grades 3-5

Learn a few exciting experiments that you can do at home to spook your family and friends. Mr. Barnett, the mad scientist will, show students experiments that teach about force and motion, energy, and physical properties.

To register for this event click here. For more information contact Susan Altgelt, Coordinator for Distance Learning Services at Region 20 Education Service Center.

October 31, 2012    9:00 AM – 12:00 PM CT

Traveling El Camino Real de Los Tejas 

Audience: 4th and 7th grade students

The El Camino Real de los Tejas formerly known as the King’s Highway spans 2,500 miles across several states and has served as the one of the main arteries of travel for soldiers, missionaries and settlers since the late 1600’s. Throughout its existence, the road’s development has been carved through economic, social, political and religious influences.

Classrooms chosen as participating sites will be assigned a city along or near El Camino Real to research and create a 10 minute presentation covering a brief history of the area and the historical influences that have impacted the development of the road. In addition, experts from around Texas will offer further information on the current development, history, and events tied to the road.

Register now by clicking here.

For presenting sites, we have compiled a toolkit to assist you with developing your presentation. These recommendations are designed to improve the learning experience through distance learning by taking advantage of various technologies. You may download the toolkit outline by clicking here.

This event will primarily cover TEKS Objectives set for seventh grade history requirements. To view a complete list of objectives covered within this event please click here.

For more information, check out Region 7’s El Camino Program website by clicking here.

Programs for all…

The countdown is officially ticking down. Students will fill the halls for the first day of the 2011 – 2012 school year. Excitement is in the air as a new school year begins!

The school year isn’t the only thing new. The Texas Education Telecommunications Network (TETN) has had a makeover on their website. In addition to highlighting upcoming events, there are some videos of recent video conferences. You can bookmark it to stay tuned for upcoming events:

Another place to explore for video conferencing is The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.  They offer FREE interactive video conferences as part of their educational programming.  The Zoo has a number of events to choose from and they are listed by grade level. The academic standards (to align them with TEKS) are included as well as pre- and post-conference learning activities. They offer a “Distance Learning Showcase” to share some of their programming with teachers so that your staff can preview the sessions.   If you would like to schedule one of these events, contact with the Zoo for a reservation and then contact the distance learning team at ESC Region XIII to set up the connection.

Want to start the year off making international, national, or regional connections? Capspace ( may have exactly what you are looking for. Collaborations such as PenPals and group projects are already posted and you are free to post one of your own.

For younger students, Teach is gearing up for their 2011-12  Postcard Exchange. What fun for your class!.  Respond quickly; registration ends September 4th


Upcoming events for starting school

Do you hear that? Very faintly, if you listen really closely, you can hear the sounds of students filling the hallways. The first day of school is less than a month away; summer is almost gone! While we will all certainly be happy to see the temperature start to drop, being prepared for the return of the school year may very well be a whole other matter. Fear not! Professional development is coming to an internet connection near you.
August 2nd through 6th, the Texas Virtual School Network (TXVSN) is hosting the Speaks VOLumes Conference, a Virtual Online Learning Conference. Keynotes including Michael Horn, Wesley Fryer, Cory Plough and others will present topics such as “Disrupting Class”, online teaching, and the changing face of education. Held entirely online and offering CPE credits, this event is completely FREE! Register now and start your school year off right!
For some inspiration, or even music for the first day of school, drop by the ISTE Ning. This year a music video “Say Hey (I Love School)” was a great highlight to the conference. There are a number of recorded sessions and keynotes available for viewing also.
Pull out your calendar and make note of the following upcoming events:
• 10th Anniversary of September 11th – to be held Monday, September 12
Keep your ears open and your eyes on alert for emails detailing a video conference event remembering and honoring the heroes of September 11th, 2001
• Ronald Dahl Day – Celebrating the 50th anniversary of James and the Giant Peach
It’s been 50 years since Ronald Dahl brought us James and his adventures around this extraordinary peach. A videoconference series from ESC Region XIII is coming to you to celebrate!
Enjoy the remainder of your summer and prepare for eager learners on August 22nd.

Sites to see: March

The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum is offering a few large events for video conferencing

  • Thursday, April 21st – The Adventures of Peter Rabbit
    Offered at 10:30 and 11:30 for grades K – 3
  • Tuesday, May 17th – El Vaquero
    Offered at 10:30 and Noon for grades 3rd – 8th

To register for The Adventures of Peter Rabbit , go to and for El Vaquero go to These are both set to broadcast to large audiences but your class can submit questions and will, hopefully, be chosen as one of the interactive sites.

Additionally, here are a couple of classrooms looking for partner sites through CapSpace (

Partnerships change regularly so check the site for new inquiries or post your own.

The NASA Digital Learning Network provides activities for before, during, and after the video conference. Did we mention NASA offers them free of charge? Currently there are still slots open for some of their most popular programs including “A View From the Top: Looking at Earth From Space”, “Apollo Revisited”, and “Mapping the Moon with WALL-E”. Check out their site and register for a time that works for you!

On a mission…

Just last week a group of teachers gathered at Johnson City High School to experience a project based learning session from the Challenger Learning Center through video conferencing.  They spent the morning engaged on the Hurricane, Evacuation, or Volcano team trying to keep up with the flow of information from NOAA satellites and seismology reports from Mission Control while moving the inhabitants of Monserrat to safe haven from weather and lava flows.  The good news?  They were successful in their mission and all inhabitants arrived safely in shelters across the island.

Exciting?  You bet!!! One teacher burst out with “This is the most fun I’ve had in a long time in a school project!”  Tied to the curriculum….yes, indeed!  The cross curricular mission has pre-mission day lessons that are tied to math, science, social studies and language arts standards.

For the afternoon, the teachers moved into a high school level mission in which they took on the roles of medical teams on a Mercy Ship and had to evaluate, order tests and diagnose patients in the Amazon region of Brazil.  The Chief Medical Officer stayed in touch with them from Virginia to verify their findings so they could order treatment.    The biology and health science teachers can’t wait to get back to school to try this with their students.

If you are interested in learning more about these and other missions, go to  The teacher training is free and can be done via video conference.  Student missions do incur a fee but if you contact Carol Teitelman at ESC Region 13, there is a discount available.   All of the student materials are on the website and you can use them freely even if you don’t reserve a mission…but try not ot miss the experience!