Saturday, April 14, 2007

Facilitating Communication for Online Collaborations

What is the best way to facilitate communication between people in different (and diverse) geographical locations? What are the best tools to use that will cater for differences in bandwidth and access? How important is social networking and the ability to connect with others while using these tools? How user friendly are they? Can a digital native and a digital immigrant both use them to communicate? Can they be used by a group of people? at the same time?

These are some of the questions we have been asking as we set up our next collaboration between classrooms around the world, the Horizon Project.

Here is a brief overview of what I have been considering today.

Evoca is an online facility to record and share audio files. It allows for networking and finding friends, creating groups, creating albums. It also has many user-friendly features for live recording and embedding widgets for playback into a blog or a wiki page. The Evoca browser mic is useful to invite viewers or participants to leave a message, question or comment. In fact, I have an Evoca browser mic in the sidebar of this blog. If you are reading this why not leave me a message NOW. I would love to hear from you!
For the Horizon Project we have set up an Evoca group account. You may view our home page and access the audio introductions and podcasts we will create over the next month. There is even an RSS subscription facility so there is no need to not be the first to know when a new recording has been uploaded.

There is a lot of 'twitter' about Twitter lately. I have been trying it out recently (see sidebar of this blog once again!) and last week my Horizon Project students joined and have been merrily twittering ever since. This is experimental as we are trying to work out if this will help us communicate with the other classrooms. Seeing as this is the 'project that never sleeps' we do need different ways to let each other know what we have been doing. Twitter allows for 140 characters to be entered at a time as a short message. We will be putting individual Twitter widgets on team wiki pages so that participants can briefly report in on activity.

Meebo has been around longer than Twitter (I believe) and is another excellent way to leave messages for someone using a widget interface that can be embedded in a blog or a wiki page. For a working example, see the Project Manager page of the Horizon Project set up already by Casey. The widget allows text as well as voice input.

I am fascinated with the facility that YackPack provides for group collaboration. Recently Anne Davis blogged about the new free WalkieTalkie widget provided for instant communication between people viewing the same webpage. In fact PBWiki have included this YackPack widget as a feature. This is excellent news. This is what CNET's webware had to say about it. I was fortunate to try it out the other day and spoke to Diane Hammond from Canada via Anne's Voices wiki page. I could hear Diane clearly but my own voice was rebounding with lots of echo. This is the ongoing problem we have from Bangladesh where our bandwidth I think is affecting the quality.
Kim Cofino in her recent post Yakking it up on YackPack gives an excellent overview of the pros and cons of using this online software in a classroom and collaborative situation.

What other online communication facilities are being used to connect student-student, student-teacher, classroom-classroom? What are YOU using that you could recommend or share a review for us all to learn more and find the BEST way to facilitate communication around the world. Leave a message to this blog post or, if you can, send me an audio message via the Evoca browser mic in the sidebar, or if I am also online be adventurous and Yack with me via the YackPack Walkie Talkie (also on the sidebar).

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Anonymous said...


I have ideas and suggestions to help for your global collaborations with some of the sound troubles etc you have been experiencing. I have been doing this as part of my keynotes, workshops, projects for 3 years now and have picked up a few tricks.

Want to talk via Skype soon?

Julie Lindsay said...

Hi Sheryl
Thanks for dropping by. Yes, lets's Skype. I did get an email from the 'owner' of YackPack who has also offered to try and help. Will try to find the time to do this.

Julie Lindsay said...

HI jinly32, not sure who you are but many thanks for sharing these opensource resources. I want to try Flashmeeting first...looks like something I have been looking for.