Friday, April 4, 2008

Julie Lindsay's Favorite Ways to Connect Online

Julie Lindsay is one of the creators of the Flat Classroom Project and the Horizons Project. She is also Head of Information Technology at Qatar Academy in Doha. As part of her guest blogger spot on Dangerously Irrelevant, and cross-posted at Lindsay's blog E-Learning Journeys, Lindsay sums up some of her favorite online synchronous communication tools and their advantages. Some are for more personal and professional development uses but she highlights a few tools for classroom use and gives her feedback as an educator, something really of value to fellow teachers.

Lindsay starts off with GChat, part of GMail, which she uses for personal and professional communication. In classes, she has used Skype often. The main advantages of Skype are its video, audio and chat components. Some complain about the quality of Skype connections but Lindsay seems to have had a lot of success with them. Newer on the scene is Skypecasts, live Skype conversations that can contain up to 100 different users, according to the FAQ. The person who creates the Skypecast becomes the moderator and can control the Skypecast. A moderator can lead the discussion, control who joins the discussion and eject unwanted or uncooperative users. is also a great tool for sharing information between classes or classes and other members of the community. It features live interactive broadcasts. As the Help Center says, "All you need to stream is a computer, Internet connection, a microphone and a webcam or video camera. Our system will auto detect your camera type." A chat can be added to any broadcast and can be moderated. Skype calls can be integrated into the broadcasts, too; Lindsay talks about a UStream collaboration she was part of in January via Skype. A similar tool that she mentions is MeBeam which I wrote a little about in March.

Elluminate is a pay option that Lindsay likes for its versatility and multiple uses -- audio, chat, whiteboard and polls plus desktop sharing and language translation. There are three editions of Elluminate Live!, two largely for academic use with different functionality. Available free is VRoom, a free version of Elluminate's web conferencing for three people. This is too small for classroom use but might work for homeschoolers or for coordinating a virtual classroom visit. At Lindsay's blog, she writes about her other favorite online synchronous tools and regularly posts about e-learning and digital literacy in education. You can also link to her wikis and get up-to-date information on the Horizons Project.

SOURCE: "Adventures in Online Synchronous Communication" 3/15/08
photo courtesy of Julie Lindsay, used under this Creative Commons license

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