Julie and I are both teaching sections of Designs for Technology-Enhanced Learning courses this semester. These courses are for elementary pre-service teachers, and they’re given an introduction to computer-based instructional technologies, curriculum-based planning with technology, and emerging trends and issues in educational technology. One of the tools we’ve decided to use in our sections is Twitter. We’ve learned some important things about getting started using Twitter for a class that we’d like to share with you in this post.
I and post co-author Julie K. Marsh have started using Twitter as one of our class tools to help students (and future K-12 school teachers) learn how to manage their Web presence. With 140 characters in each tweet, Twitter allows students the ability to extend or participate in class discussion by commenting, questioning, and sharing their opinions in a medium they find easy to use. Our students will be in their first professional job by this time next year. With this in mind, we’ve encouraged students to use Twitter to connect and engage with other educators as well as to build their own Personal Learning Networks (PLNs).
When there are many software products that do similar things it can be a little confusing to choose one. Like a neophyte oenophile looking at a wine list, one might be tempted to make an arbitrary choice just to move things along — and wind up with a snootful of inappropriate complexity and a character that doesn’t suit the meal. So, without further ado (or beating this metaphor to death), here’s a sampler of the computer video conferencing and collaborating products in use at the College, somewhat arranged in order of complexity.
Video conferencing was said to be the way of the future during its conception in the late 1800s. In fact it was originally conceived of just two years after the telephone was patented in 1876, in a science fiction cartoon in the 1879 issue of Punch’s Almanack. But it wasn’t until recently that video calling and conferencing have become more feasible.
We’ve been hanging out quite a bit recently in the School of Education. Google Hangout enables users to conduct free Web-based video calls for up to ten participants. Hangout is a feature of Google+ (the Google version of Facebook). All William & Mary students have access to Google+ and Google Hangout through their free WMApps accounts.
Over the past week or so, I’ve been working with a couple of colleagues to put together a panel for a conference we’re applying to. We worked on our rough ideas for the panel via a group email, but when it came time to write our panel summary, I suggested that we could try using a shared Google Drive document. My fellow panelists were game, and it ended up working really well!
“I have an important teleconference tomorrow at 9 a.m. Can you come by at 8:30 to get me set up? No, I’ve never used this system before.” That’s the phone call of my nightmares. Because, as I say to everyone who will listen, video teleconferencing is about 5% technology and 95% best practices. And the best best practice is practice — in the environment where the event will take place, under similar circumstances.
This semester I’ve been working on a technology project with Dr. Pam Eddy, Associate Professor of Higher Education. She decided to use Mendeley, a reference management application, to allow students in her graduate-level Educational Policy class to interact with the assigned readings collaboratively while gaining experience with a useful online research tool. The social dimensionof Mendeley allows users to create interest groups where members may exchange documents, usually in PDF format, and highlight or annotate with comments. The beauty of the application is that it operates with both a desktop version and online repository, so that group members can keep the documents they are discussing on their own computers, but sync with the online version to update annotations.