Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Do You MeBeam? Or Cocinella?

There are lots of options for online chatting and/or videoconferencing but it can be hard to choose which will work best for your situation or needs. Most people probably choose what friends have used or whichever program is most familiar or comfortable. Mebeam and Coccinella are two more free options for getting live chats or videoconferencing.

MeBeam offers multi-person videoconferencing that is based on Flash and can be run in any browser. It's web-based so nothing has to be downloaded. Users type in a name for a room to create that room or users can open an existing room. Rooms can be made private, a real help when you are arranging something for a middle school classroom. Once you set up your audio and video settings, you can invite others by sending the room link in the browser address bar via email or an instant message. Files can be uploaded to the room, too, another plus for classroom use. A help page has instructions and screenshots to help you get started. At the MeBeam blog, you can find up-to-date advice and learn more about MeBeam's features.

Coccinella is open-source and cross-platform, able to connect to any Jabber/XMPP instant messaging program such as Google Talk, Live Messenger, ICQ or Spark. Coccinella also comes with a whiteboard that can take text, pictures, MP3s, drawings and more. It works with Windows, Mac OSX and Linux. The Coccinella website has forums for finding more information. Coccinella also supports Voice over IP though it is not clear from the available pages and forums how this works or how well.

Coccinella requires a download. A system administrator needs to tweak settings for it to get behind firewalls. And it has no videoconferencing capabilities as of yet. MeBeam is limited to 18 people per room and files sent to the room can only be 30MB or less. On the homepage, a Random Room button can take you to any room and, like other online meeting sites, MeBeam has its fair share of obscene and questionable rooms. This feature is beyond your control and a real problem for classroom use. It may be easier to control the environment on Coccinella. How do you use Coccinella or how might you use it? Is videoconferencing more important than chat or a whiteboard? Or does that depend on the lesson or project, the expert/author, the grade level or group of students?

SOURCE: "Help for MeBeam" 02/12/08
SOURCE: "Coccinella: About"
SOURCE: "Coccinella: Frequently Asked Questions" 03/31/07
photo courtesy of N1NJ4, used under this Creative Commons license

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