There comes a time in most online courses where either the facilitator or the learners want to make synchronous contact. It’s fine and dandy to talk to one another in the discussion board or through email, but once in a while our humanness emerges and just wants to make a connection. The following tools enable text, voice-to-voice, and video communication.
We can use Skype and GoogleChat to connect through text, voice, and even video. However, WiZiQ, FlashMeeting, and Elluminate enable robust environments for connecting, communicating, creating, collaborating, and contributing to the conversation. These three multimodal tools increase instructor and student presence and reduce the transactional distance experienced in the 100% online environment.
All three tools enable all attendees to participate in the live text chat, audio and at least one video feed, document sharing, and a whiteboard. You will be able to invite others to your web conference by email and link or calendar sharing. All three tools work across platforms (Mac, PC, Linux).
A free tool with the following:
- No software download needed
- Automatic widget creation – embed, launch, and conduct the session on a wiki, blog, or website.
- Unlimited number of participants in a session
- Two webcams
- Facilitator controls video, audio, and whiteboard privileges
- Upgrade ($49.95 per year) for unlimited recorded sessions and downloads
- Participants must create a WiZiQ profile to join a session.
- Tutorials: http://www.youtube.com/user/WiZiQ77
The simplest of all three tools:
- No software download needed
- Enables unlimited number of simultaneous webcam transmissions. Every participant who has a webcam is seen in the web-conference.
- Automatic recordings of sessions
- Only one person can speak at a time. Participants are cued up when they click the broadcast button and will be able to speak as the person before unclicks the mic.
- Hosted by E2BN, East England Learning Grid, requires permission to book sessions
- Go to http://flashmeeting.e2bn.net, and register as a participant
- To become a booker, send educational address on school email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tutorial: http://www.iprimary.co.uk/tutorial.php?tutorialID=007
The Cadillac of tools:
- Requires a software download for each session
- Breakout rooms – put participants in separate rooms for discussion, brainstorming, and collaboration
- Only the main room is recorded
- Polls and results
- Subscription costs $499 for 50-seat annually
- Free 3-participant sessions through Elluminate at http://www.learncentral.org/
- LearnCentral members can schedule a session for large audiences at http://www.learncentral.org/group/3432/host-your-own-webinars
- Tutorials and educational opportunities: http://www.learncentral.org/
I just ran across a very cool free screencast tool for those times you want to share your desktop with others: https://join.me/
- Click the bright orange Share arrow – no need to log in
- Click ok when the pop-up window asks if it’s ok to share your desktop
- Send out the link provided in the widget that appears at the top of your screen
- You can start a telephone conference call – they provide the number and access code
- When others join the screencast the chat is enabled
- You can pause the screencast – this enables you to do something behind the curtain that your participants won’t see
- Participants are listed
- You can share controls of the screen – have a student/colleague sign up for a join.me session and send you the link; then he/she can share the controls and you can help solve problems or do a show-and-tell on his/her computer
If you want to capture the session, use one of the following:
- QuickTime on machines with Snow Leopard
What is backchanneling you ask? According to Toledo and Peters (2010) “Backchannels, forms of instant message conversations, take place during synchronous learning sessions.” In our article, Sharon and I shared a variety of backchannel uses that teachers in North America reported. It’s a great start to get some ideas on how you could use this engaging activity.
Many of us have participated in backchannels. We’ve typed our messages in the chat room during a synchronous Elluminate session or used our phones to chat during a conference presentation. As we’ve found, backchanneling is an excellent way to engage students in the conversation, check for understanding, and provide a venue for questions and brainstorming. Here are some tools to use for backchanneling.
Skype – One of my favorites. Can be used in tandem with any presentation tool. Create a group session by pulling everyone into the conversation, and then you’ll be able to archive the chat. Download the app for your smart phone.
Chatzy – This tool has been around for quite a while and works great. Easy to set up a room and invite participants. Use a browser to access on your smart phone.
TodaysMeet – Very simple with a clean interface. It’s easy to set up a session – name the room, decide how long to save the data, and share the link with attendees. You can also create a Twitter hashtag – posts will be pulled into the room. Works on smart phones through a browser.
GoogleDocs – Now that Google has brought back the chat feature, you can have your students posting reflections, questions, and responses in the chat during a presentation or collaborative session. If you want to use a Google tool for cellphone backchannel, download Google Talk.
HootCourse – Categorizes messages, separates questions. Log in with Twitter or Facebook, give participants a tag to use, and HootCourse will pull them into your HootCourse channel. Access through a browser window on your smart phone.
Twitter – Excellent tool for short messages (140 characters), but very public. Works on computers and smart phones. There are a variety of apps for cellphones.
NeatChat – Very simple to create: name it and send out the URL. The website also provides instructions to enable the chat in Facebook. This would work great if you’re using Facebook for your course website. It works on my smart phone – fairly good interface.
Some of the tools above will archive the chat, others will not. Make sure to download the chat archive or copy the text and paste it into a document. You could even post it in a Google Doc and have students continue the conversation – or you could address some of the questions that weren’t answered during the session.
Please leave a comment sharing your ideas and experiences.
Collaboration – Google … again
As we become more familiar with the tools of the participatory web (commonly referred to as Web 2.0) we see application possibilities that enable our students to connect, create, catalog, communicate, collaborate, and a bunch more C-words. The shift that we’re witnessing throughout the world is the increased ease with which we can collaborate. There are hundreds of collaborative projects going on around the world. I recently ran across this one from Global Collaborative Projects – created in part by Mark Wolf, a teacher at Hawaii Technology Academy (HTA) – future goals include having students create game and simulations for using. The video shows students interacting with a game that includes multiple Google Apps. Can you figure out which ones?
If you’re interested in learning how to use some of the applications that Google provides, check out this site for educators: Google Apps Education Training Center. I’m planning on working my way through these modules to see how I can improve my use and classroom application.
One of the outcomes of HTA’s dedication to collaboration and service learning can be see in this blog. Two students – one in Hawaii and one in Uganda – write It’s Our Turn Now to share their work to raise money to buy land and build an orphanage and school in Uganda. They have actually bought the land and are now looking to complete the fund raising for the next phase of the project.
Polling tools embedded in blogs, wikis, presentation software, and websites enable teachers, students, and groups to collect information, elicit opinions, and check for understanding with just a click or text message. The fun part is that the results show up instantly. Here are a couple of tools you can try.
Poll Everywhere – A tool I used recently in a presentation – easy and fun! Ask a multiple-choice or short answer question and watch the results compile in real time. Participants can answer with a text message, on a website, or through Twitter. With the text message (short answer) tool, teachers can use cell phones (or laptops) just like clickers. There are several plans: Free, K12, Higher Ed, and a variety of pay versions. The Free plan has a 30-response limit for each poll, but no limits on the number of polls you can create. The K12 plan has a 32-response limit for each poll. For $50/year you can access individual answers, moderate responses, and set up competitions and comparisons. The number of responses per poll are bumped up to 40. There are several videos on the site that explain the features. Embeds into wikis, PPT, KeyNote, Prezi, Twitter, Facebook, Blogger. Alas, this blog does not enable embed codes, so go to my poll at http://snipurl.com/27oh7o.
Polldaddy – Some similar features to Poll Everywhere. The free version allows 100 responses each month per poll – unlimited polls, 10 questions per poll, link media and URLs within the poll, and reports. The next level is $200/year and is more than I would need. WordPress and Polldaddy are interconnected. I created the poll below by clicking on the Add Poll button in my dashboard, put in my Polldaddy account info, and created the poll. Very easy. Add to WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Posterous, and Ning.
So it looks like the two tools do the same thing in different ways and in interactions with other tools. I think I’ll use Poll Everywhere for synchronous interactions and Polldaddy for asynchronous situations. How about you?
I’ve decided to begin logging some of my long-time and new web tool favorites every Tuesday. I want to make sure to focus on personal and student use of the tools. So, I need your input – How are you using the tools? How are you having your students use them?
Let’s start with Diigo. An excellent social bookmarking tool that has a couple of capabilities that you won’t get with other tools. Besides saving your favorite websites to an always-accessible spot in cyberspace, you can highlight and write sticky notes. In addition, there is a vast community of educators using diigo, so you can join their networks – connect (the social part) and tap into their listings when you’re looking for a particular tool.
You’ll find my library at: http://www.diigo.com/user/drctedd. I recommend that you join Diigo, that way you can see the highlights and sticky notes that people have left on websites they’ve favorited.
If you’re already another tool, like Delicious, you can import those bookmarks into Diigo … and … even continue to save the sites in Delicious.
Some questions to consider:
- Why use Diigo? Or any social bookmarking site for that matter?
- What can you have your students use Diigo for?
- What have you or your students done with Diigo?