Video Conferencing

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Coordinating a Meaningful Classroom Video Conference

This Video Conferencing video shares an exemplar video conferencing collaboration between a local teacher and Monroe #1 BOCES. Here is a flow chart that also shows this process Use the suggestions from the video (below) to guide you in planning a meaningful learning experience:

Steps Towards a Successful Video Conference

Often seeking information from experts in a field can meet many curricular goals. Before embarking upon a video conference carefully weigh any curricular goals and seek out content providers who can meet help meet those goals.
  • Contact Content Providers
Content providers are experts, organizations or cultural organizations (i.e. - The George Eastman House, Baseball Hall of Fame, Holocaust Memorial Museum) that are willing to connect with teachers and students via video conferencing. Discuss your curricular goals with the content providers and be sure they understand how they might help you and what they need to provide to meet those goals.
  • Contact Distance Learning Coordinator
Some districts have personnel (a Distance Learning coordinator or technology specialist) that can help coordinate setting up your video conference experience. If you do not know who these people may be, contact your district's Instructional Technology department or Technology Coordinator. They will be able to assist you in arrange any payment and equipment needs/setup arrangements that you will encounter.
They will also be able to put you in touch with the Distance Learning supervisor, technicians and Instructional Technology Specialists at your BOCES who are available to help coordinate your experience.
  • Plan a Test Connection and Inform Students of Expectations
Plan your test connection with the content provider and/or your BOCES to be sure the connections are acceptable for a quality experience
As the video suggests, plan this test with students present as it is a good way to share with students how the technology works and to familiarize them with how the conference will transpire and "to get passed the novelty of the experience".
This is also an ideal time to introduce and discuss video conferencing etiquette and expectations with students.
  • Implement Pre-Conference Activities
Plan activities that coincide with the curricular goals you have set and that provide background knowledge and terminology that students may need for the video conference.
  • Facilitate the Video Conference
Be familiar with how to work the video conference equipment to zoom and pan to students who are speaking. Be prepared to interject at times when conversations are slow as well as quell side conversations that may detract from the overall conference experience.
  • Plan Post-Conference Activities
Follow-up activities continue the conversations that took place during the video conference and allow students to ask questions relating to information they did not understand or did not have an opportunity to discuss.

Connection Ideas

There are many ways to use video conferencing to enhance learning and understanding. Below are a few suggestions, please review the Video Conferencing Resources section below for more ideas and to locate existing programs.

  • Classroom to Classroom
One great way to get started with video conferencing with no or minimal cost is to conduct classroom to classroom connections. Classroom to Classroom connections allow a set of teachers and students to work collaboratively without having to leave the classroom. So whether you are two minutes or two miles away you can communicate as if you were in the same classroom.
  • Virtual Field Trips
Many museums and cultural sites conduct virtual or electronic field trips of their sites and exhibits. These electronic field trips have a cost associated with them but are a fiscally responsible alternative to traditional traveling field trips.
  • Ask an Expert
A very popular way to seek more information or understanding is to ask an expert in the field of study. Teachers have sought scientists, politicians, authors, among others to bring their expert information into the classroom through video conferencing. Associated costs with this type of connections will vary.

Video Conferencing Resources

Video Conferencing Sites and Specific Programs

Polycom VSX Setup

Remote Overview

The new VSX System has a slightly different remote that the older system. There are about 8 buttons that are on the remote that you really need to be concerned with as you begin using the system. As a teacher/ facilitator of a video conference you want to be familiar with how to dial to another Polycom and be able to move and direct the camera.

The buttons that you will most want to concern yourself with are:

Call Button
Once you have entered the number that you would like to dial you will press this button to make the call.
End Call
Once you have finished your conference you will want to press this button to end the call.
Arrow Buttons
Similar to a DVD remote when you are in a menu you use these buttons to navigate through the screens. When you are actually in a call you can use these menus to manipulate the camera.
Home button
Pressing this will return you to the main dialing screen. This can be helpful to get out of other menus prior to dialing a number.
This button is important to know about. If you can't hear the other site this is the first thing that you want to check. Also you may be asked to turn down the volume if people are hearing echoes of your voice.
When you are in a conference it is considered good practice to mute the volume when you aren't speaking.
Zoom In and Out
If you want to focus the camera on a specific thing or person you will want to use these buttons and the arrow buttons to direct the camera.
Number Pad
When you are actually dialing a number you will want to use the number pad to enter the number. Notice that above the number 3 there is a dot button. Most numbers that you will be dialing will look similar to this

Setting up the Unit

The new VSX unit is relatively easy to set up. Since the speaker connects to the base unit there is not longer a need to have a separate sound system. There are actually only five cables that you need to connect.
  1. The first is the connection between the speaker and the main unit, this cable (labeled 1) has the blue end.
  2. Now you will want to connect the microphone to the unit. This cable is a skinny black cable with a clear plastic connector on both ends, it connects to the slot third from the left (labeled 2).
  3. The next connection is to the network. This is a basic 10 based network cable which you connect to an active network drop (labeled 3).
  4. Now it is time to connect to the display that you will be using. Depending on what you will be viewing the conference from depends on which output you will want to use. You can use either S Video, Composite, or a VGA cable to connect to the Polycom. For S Video and composite video you will want to use the 2nd set of inputs from the left (labeled 4). These you will connect to the TV or projector that you are using. If you have a VGA cable connection you will have to make sure that this is plugged into the connection labeled 4a.
  5. The last connection that you will have to make is the connection form the speaker to the power cord. Once you have these five connections simply flip the on off switch on the right hand side of the unit on, and listen for the power on chime.

Note: Be aware that the video will only work with either the S Video and composite connection OR the VGA connection, not both.

Polycom ViewStation Setup

Viewstation 512 Model

ViewStation 512 Model Setup

This is the older of the two polycoms that we have in our districts. To connect this polycom the first thing that you want to do is place the view station in an area that will be able to capture the classroom view. Usually this is on top of the television or in an area that will cover the entire seating area.

Video Call Screen

The next step is to plug the polycom into the schools network. The cable that is plugged into your computer is the same as the polycom uses. Then you should plug in the phone making sure that it is in an area that students will either have access to step up to the microphone or will be able to be heard. Note: if you place the microphone on a desk be aware that students tapping on the desk will be picked up by the mic. Then connecting the polycom to the television should be your next step. Matching the colors of the cables from the back of the polycom into the television or VCR. The last thing that you will want to do is plug in the power. Plug the cord into the polycom and then the wall.

Now you are ready to turn the power on the polycom and television. Once you turn on the Polycom you should hear a chime and then see the Polycom logo appear. Next you will see the Main Call screen. There are three areas that are important to you. The first is the area titled Video Call this is what you want to select if you were dialing someone else. To the lower left is the Address Book which is available with numbers that you may call frequently. The area next to the address book normally would have an area labeled Your IP is: followed by a set of numbers and periods. This area would be your phone number for the polycom. So if you were having someone call you they would need this number.

To make a call select the Video Call section. The menus work very much like a DVD player menu. Once you have selected the call simply add the number that you want to dial. Periods in the number are added by using the right arrow button.

Starting a Video Conference

  1. Be sure the Polycom Unit is setup correctly and powered on.
  2. Press the Menu button on the remote control - a dial screen displayed will allow you to place your call.
  3. The video call portion will be highlighted in yellow, if not, use the arrow buttons on the remote to highlight video and press select.
  4. Use the number pad to dial the site to which you ar connecting (e.g. - IP Address: NOTE: Use the number pad for numbers and the right arrow for dots.)
  5. Check the connection speed (384 unless otherwise instructed by a technical specialist) - if changes need to be made use the arrow buttons to navigate and then the select button.
  6. Press the Select button to place the call.

Remote Control Button Table

Button Function Description
1 Call Hang Up Disconnects your call (green button)
2 Far Camera Controls the camera at another site during a two-day conference
3 Slides Reserved for future use
4 Select Think of this as the enter button to make a selection
5 Volume Adjusting incoming volume
6 Mute Mutes your site so that no sound is being transmitted - you will see a symbol appear on the screen that your site (near) is muted
7 Info/Help Diagnostic tool for technicians
8 Menu Use this button to access the main menue screen
9 Zoom Zoom in or out using this gray toggle button
10 Snapshot Do not use
11 Arrow Use the red arrow buttons to navigate in the menu screens
12 Auto Tracking For small meetings, camera will track the voice of who is speaking
13 Near Camera Controls camera at your site, Press twice if connecting a VCR or document camera

Frequently Used Buttons

Helps control the flow of audio and video and eliminate "cross-talk" between connected sites. Remember to un-mute when your site is speaking.
Allows the flexibility to zoom in on people or objects - remember to zoom out afterwards.
PIP (Picture in Picture)
To show PIP (a view of your site or what others connected will see) simply pick up the remote control. To turn off PIP place the remote on a flat surface. Notice the two buttons on the underside of the device that activate when picked up or set down.
For incoming volume check the volume controls on the Polycom unit, video projector and/or television monitor.

Quick Troubleshooting tips


I can't hear anything?
Make sure the volume is up on the television and the polycom unit.
The remote site (whom you are connecting with) can not hear our end.
Be sure the microphone is not muted. If the microphone button is lit red press it to unmute the microphone.


I don't see any video?
Make sure the projector is turned on.
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