By Mara Youngren-Brown and Matthew Zorbas

On March 30th, we presented to the Texas Distance Learning Association (TxDLA) with help from Elaine Shuck. We condensed our three hour Alaska Society of Technology in Education (ASTE) presentation, to a one-hour session for TXDLA.

Matt and Mara present

We felt comfortable with the presentation but needed to update a few links, modify the agenda and rearrange some of the slides. In all video conferences there are things that go well and things we wish would have gone better. For this connection, the test calls were rocky, as we had to cascading our two bridges to make the connection.  We thought we figured out the connection, but on the morning of the conference, our practice test call was not going through – tip always test and retest.  Thankfully, we were able to get the connection up and running by the time of our presentation.  There was also a problem during one of our interactive activities where we should’ve shared content. We take notes of these mishaps and make sure they don’t happen again. We’re always getting better. We’ve had amazing video conferences, but none have been perfect, and that’s okay. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about having a successful video conference where both the presenter and the people at the other sites leave the conference feeling informed, excited and intrigued.

Preparing for our next presentation!

The United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) National Conference is April 30th – May 3rd and we will be doing another three-hour workshop. Matthew, Greg and Elaine will be on-site in Indianapolis with Rob, Mara and others remote.  We are busy planning for this presentation because we will need to juggle several times zones and presenter’s schedules to make this happen.  We will be bringing in teachers and students from Alaska in addition to students from Ghana to help us present.

Our chance at fame in the technology world!

Matt and Mara CCSSO

We recently had the chance to talk with some people from Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), our superintendent, assistant superintendent, the director of secondary education, and the Alaska Commissioner of Education. We had the opportunity to sit and chat with them casually for about 20 minutes before we participated in a recorded interview. We were able to talk about our experiences with video conferencing and how we see it changing education in the school district. We talked a lot about the international relationships we’ve made through this program, and how it’s shaped us to be better global citizens. Interviewing is always a really fun and exciting experience for us. It’s not every day that we get to sit in front of a camera and talk about ourselves. We shared personal stories about the students we’ve made international friendships with, and about how we’ve changed throughout the years. Starting from back when we first started high school to now our final year, it really is quite a transformation. This program really has changed us in so many ways, and it’s a shame to leave it, but we’re excited for its future potential.

Next steps for these interns!

Matt and Greg

Hello it’s Matthew, feels good to be back. I just got back from my college visit trip that I went on during spring break. I had finally narrowed it down to two schools and figured it was time to visit the campuses and see which one was the right fit for me. The first school I went and visited was Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. It was a bit of a climate change for me coming from forest and Mountains to dry and high desert. I really enjoyed the school and moved it up the list for my final decision. After spending some time in Grand Junction, my family and I then headed north to Montana. While spending a couple days in Missoula, Montana I visited the University of Montana. Missoula was a bit closer to the scenery back home which is nice but I think I want a change of scenery. The campus at UM was great, I loved the close community and everyone was very welcoming to out of state students, such as myself. Now that the countdown to graduation has started, I told myself that it is time to figure out what I am going to to do next year and hop on that train and get things rolling. After considering many factors, I came to the conclusion that I will be attending Colorado Mesa University in the fall. I am so excited to get that college experience and start checking off my life goals.

Mara Linfield College

Hi it’s Mara! It’s been a busy month for me. I recently came back from the Career and Technical Student Organization Conference and competed in the state SkillsUSA competition. This was my second year attending the conference, and it was very fun. SkillsUSA focuses on developing personal, technical, and professional skills, and they place an emphasis on vocational skills such as drafting, culinary and welding. They also have a bunch of leadership competitions because their focus is on fostering and helping develop America’s future skilled workforce. The events I competed in were job interview, restaurant service and quiz bowl. My team placed second in the quiz bowl competition. HOSA, a future health professional organization, and FEA, future educators of Alaska, were among the other organizations at the conference. I always have such a great time competing and meeting other like-minded, motivated students. Did I mention I practically have a month left of high school! It’s insane to me. I can’t believe I’m graduating, and I am so excited to take the next step in my life. I have committed to a Linfield College in McMinnville, OR. I am extremely excited to attend college there. I stayed on campus previously in February to attend a scholarship weekend, and I absolutely fell in love with the community, student body and faculty. It’s very nice knowing where I’ll go next year, and I am so ready for it!

Me and Chris Kenai

We would like to give a shout out to Corey Moss @The_AVLife for letting us star on his show a couple times this year and share our blog on his site. It was great seeing him again last week, as we popped in to say hi while he was videoconferencing with our level 1 and 2 students.

Thank you so much for following us on this journey through our senior year! It’s been one of the best years of our lives. We’re so glad to have been able to push this program forward and contribute to not only our school, but our community and state as well.

We would love for you to register for USDLA and watch us present!

Editors Note: this presentation took place on April 30th – here are the details: 

How Video Conferencing is Changing K-12 in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula Presented by: Mara Youngren-Brown and Matthew Zorbas (Kenai Central High School) Constituency: K-12 /Track: TF

Join this live session as two high school student interns, along with their teachers, share how they have implemented videoconferencing in their curriculum successfully. In this session workshop see yourself using live video telecommunications (VTC) to explore bringing the world into your classroom. Using interactive video conferencing as a tool to deliver instruction or enrich curriculum broadens student access to content while increasing the depth and relevance of their learning experience. Not only are students more actively engaged but also a variety of learning styles are readily accommodated. Experience how VTC is becoming an accepted way of life for both teachers and students on the Kenai Peninsula. Learn how to implement strong technology as part of the instructional strategy in a learner-centered environment. See firsthand how it can positively impact teaching and learning in your school. Examples, best practices, and content resources will be shown. In this session, attendees will learn the following: * Alaska Student internship requirements and opportunities * The Day in the Life of a high school student intern * Effective collaborative videoconference project planning and implementation * Important reasons for kid-to-kid connections * Learn about professional development opportunities * Free video conferencing programs available for K-12

(This blog was re-posted with permission from Mara and Matthew’s teacher Greg Zorbas, it was originally posted here).

You can hear Mara and Matthew, along with teachers Greg Zorbas and Rob Sparks, and Elaine Shuck on The AV Life Episode 3.