Saturday, March 15, 2008

Adventures in Online Synchronous Communication

[cross-posted at Dangerously Irrelevant as guest blogger for Dr Scott McLeod]

What is your favourite form of online synchronous communication? I am pondering this today as I write the 5th and final blog post as guest blogger on Dangerously Irrelevant. As I much as I love and become immersed in the asynchronous communication modes of being online there is nothing better than a quick fix or an interaction or meeting that is in real time. Let me share with you some methods I have used recently for real-time (synchronous) communications.

For a start there is always GChat! using GMail and having access to friends and colleagues around the world via the chat facility gives me a warm glow (you too?). For example, this screen shot was taken today. The different colours represent online activity: Green (online), Red (online but busy), Orange (online but away from computer), and Grey (has been online recently but gone now). It is early Saturday morning here in Qatar as I write this so I can see that Vicki has probably gone to bed in Georgia, my friend in India has gone out shopping, Elizabeth and Dean are possibly still awake in the USA, Judy in Australia is up but busy, Saad is up and online in Dhaka, David in Singapore, and Chris in France...well it's early in the morning for him but he is often online at odd hours. What an international group I have represented here!
Advantages of GChat: archive of chats stored in 'Chats' mailbox. Message can be sent to a person not online, they will receive it later.

Skype of course has to come next! What a wonderful tool. I use Skype in the classroom, I use Skype to communicate with family and friends around the world. Here is a link to an article I wrote for ISTE's Learning and Leading with Technology magazine Using VoIP to Foster Connectivity and Communication. It is also reproduced here on my wiki.
Advantages of Skype: Can include video and text-chat and audio chat, can include a group of up to 9 people. A Skypecast can include a lot more! Skype calls can be recorded using applications such as PowerGramo or Pretty May.

Another tool, UStream, is being used by many educators to share, once again in real time initially, what they are presenting, thinking, or discussing. This image is from Educon in January. George Mayo presented on global collaboration and Skyped a few of us in to his presentation, which he also had running through UStream. This shows George in conversation with Clarence Fisher. The Skype calls and conversation were seamless and George was adept at directing the live audience as well as the virtual audience along a path of exploration.

I am really loving Elluminate this year. The facility of audio, chat, whiteboard combined with being able to import PPT files and images, videos, take polls etc etc means it is a very powerful tool for synchronous work. Yes, I know it is expensive for a school, however don't forget the free V-Room that will take 3 people and is fully functional.
Get your free Elluminate vRoom
It is through Elluminate that we run the student summits for Flat Classroom Project. Each student and teacher in the summit prepares a JPG file and uploads it ready to talk to the images on the file that represent their work and experiences.
Advantages of Elluminate: Video of presenter possible, audio of one or more participants, back-channel chat.

Student from LACHSA presenting in Elluminate (Flat Classroom 2007)

I cannot finish this post without mentioning Twitter. Yes, I know this is strictly not synchronous however often it feels like it! For example this morning I tweeted this:

To which I received these responses:

and also a direct message via Twitter from @mohamed: "instant messenger because of presence and ability to have trusted connections. Now if only it was integrated with SMS"My Twitter community is always there for me. Learn more about Twitter, find more Twitter resources. Follow me on Twitter.
Advantages of Twitter: micro-blogging with usually fast response from followers, able to share ideas without getting into a 'real conversation', archives all tweets, integrates with mobile phone technology.

Also, to share another synchronous online experience.......Not long ago I also had the opportunity to be part of a 'fishbowl' classroom project. Karl Fisch sent me an invitation to 'live blog' with students at Arapahoe High School as they discuss Dan Pink's book, A Whole New Mind. A class blog post had been set up and as we listened to the live conversation by the 'inner circle' the outer circle (educators and outer students) posted comments to this post. We used an online tool called MeBeam with success to webcam the educators and the physical classroom together.
Here is an image of participants using MeBeam with the blog comment window open as well.

[A special thank you to Scott McLeod for inviting me to be guest presenter over the past week. This has been quite a challenge and I have appreciated the opportunity to put more extended blog posts together.]

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loonyhiker said...

Great list of tools that you have given. Thanks to twitter, I have been invited to use many of the different tools that you mentioned. If you had asked me two months ago what any of these things were, I wouldn't know and I hope to spread the word when I teach a course this summer to teachers and I will be referring them to your post!

Anonymous said...

Love this post Julie - it makes a great read for new teachers, or for PD sessions exploring global communication tools. Thanks.

Julie Lindsay said...

Pat and Judy, thanks for your comments and reading my blog. Yes, when I started to think about it there are so many new tools out there and I am excited to have experienced some of them first hand and can write about them with knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie,

Vyew is another conferencing, desktop sharing and collaboration platform that you may want to try. It provides synchronous and asynchronous (always-on) collaboration. You can upload or screen-capture anything digital into Vyew. The content remains in a persistent state for participants to access, annotate and augment at their convenience. This is great for posting assignments that students work on outside of class. It's free and also has two paid subscription services.

Anonymous said...

All good tools which I have used. I'd like to use Google Chat more but in the UK most students are pretty loyal to MSN Live which does provide lots of features and ability to share documents etc.

If I want to share pictures, presentation and even give control of my computer to others in the session and allow students to alert me to the fact that they want to ask questions etc I have used Webex. This has the advantage that participants do not need to have the same email accounts or software installed as it is all done using software on the internet.

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