Wednesday, March 5, 2008

ooVoo? Yugma? WiZiQ? How Do You Get Connected?

It seems that there are lots of tools or ways to get off-site writers, scientists, math teachers, graduate students and others into middle school classrooms, but which ones work with which school network or security system? Often, teachers cannot download programs or tools themselves. And even if you find a great tool for your classes, every teacher in the school may not want to use it or find it helpful. Kathy Schrock's "Guide for Educators" mentions two of the services below, Yugma and one that is new to me, WiZiQ, but it does not mention ooVoo. So what's up with these tools?

ooVoo offers videoconferencing over the Internet. The service is free, which is perfect for teachers and students, but it requires a download, also free, and broadband Internet access. You can create an account and invite others to join ooVoo and participate in online sessions. Users can engage in live chats and video conversation calls, similar to those found in Skype. For the best results, a headset is recommended, something that may not be a problem for single users or a small class. In addition, users can send files to each other. An additional feature is the video message option. Users can create video messages to send to single or multiple users. You can also send the video message to someone who doesn't have ooVoo. A link is sent that the recipient can click to access the message without downloading ooVoo. This one sounds good, but I think that there are enough problems for frequent use by teachers that make it a so-so option.

Yugma is also free and can be used with Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems. It offers real-time interaction with free webconferencing sessions that users can join from anywhere in the world. A free download is needed to get started. A demo video at the Yugma site shows the simple two steps needed to sign up after downloading. Each time a user wants to hold a webconference, he or she starts a session and invites others to the session via email. The emails give a session number and login to participate. During a session, the initiating user, or presenter, can share his or her desktop, hide it temporarily and share it again. The presenter can also transfer the lead role to another user who then becomes presenter. This feature seems to have great potential for reaching experts and other teachers.

Other great features of Yugma include real-time document annotation and the ability to have public and private chats. This feature can be useful for teachers who want to check in with individual students but there is no way to stop students from engaging in private chats during a session. For teleconferencing, Yugma provides a phone number that gives users long-distance access (regular long-distance rates apply) or users can use their own teleconference options, including Skype. Users can have unlimited sessions. Each session, though, must be separate and starting new sessions and inviting users each time could prove to be too cumbersome for a teacher to use regularly.

WiZiQ is a free virtual classroom with multiple tools geared toward teachers and students. It offers live audio-video connections, chat, content sharing and session recording. Best of all, there is no download needed. WiZiQ works in any browser and with any operating system, a great feature for teachers with downloading restrictions or who just want something simple to get up and running fast. The audio tour gives an overview of WiZiQ's features. Once you join, you can invite others by email. The number of sessions, like in Yugma, is unlimited.

Unlike Yugma, users can engage in multiple activities and sessions without being invited over and over again via email. Once you are a member, you can search for other teachers nationwide and contact them to share methods, tools or lesson plans. Like other tools, content can be uploaded and accessed by other users. Content can also be shared across the country. You can search for presentations and materials in the WiZiQ database and even find public sessions involving experts in various subjects. Presentations and other materials can be embedded in class websites or blogs. And there seems to be no limit on uploading; you can submit as many items as you want and access them when you need to. WiZiQ also has a Typepad blog that discusses new items, like the new Tests feature.

If you've tried any of these services, what was your experience and opinion of them? Are you using one of these or another videoconferencing or virtual classroom service? Has anyone tried Voicethread? Or Vyew? Would you recommend one of these tools or something entirely different? What works best with your students, subject and available technology?

SOURCE: "Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators" 2008
photo courtesy of Waponi, used under this Creative Commons license

1 comment:

Kathy Schrock said...

Thanks for the good questions raised in this post.

It looks as if oovoo is a Skype replacement, not a videoconferencing application.

Vyew looks like another good option, and they will be adding application sharing soon, which will be helpful.

Voicethread, in my opinion, is a totally different type of application, most of all since it is asynchronous.