Summer again brings the teaching of Classroom Technology for Saint Mary’s University. The attendees of this course are adult learners studying to get their teaching licenses. Yesterday my teaching partner Ben and I tried something new for us: we held virtual class, well, half of the class session was virtual anyway. After meeting face-to-face from 9-11:30, we dismissed and learners scattered: to poolside, back yards, comfie couches, anywhere they wanted to be. We then showcased some free virtual meeting spaces, some synchronous, others asynchronous. Those that were highlighted included:
1. The ever-popular TodaysMeet. It was new to our learners and they had great ideas for its use in the classroom: brainstorming, back-channeling during a video in class, small group project communication, start-of-class Q&A or prompt and more. The ability to save the transcript of the chat was also a positive. Concerns expressed included the lack of moderation and how the comments stream together without the ability to control pace or order/threads. Some quickly took to the Twitter-style @whoemever to direct responses. It was a good introduction to the tool.
2. Twiddla was our second virtual stop. Also intended for synchronous use, this tool was fun to explore with our learners. The only frustration seemed to be if people cleared the board of writing before someone else was ready for that. We liked that no account or download was needed. We were able to mark up images, the blank board, documents, webpages (though that feature was a little sketchy for me using a Chrome browser, worked swimmingly with Firefox, though), and have a text-based chat going on the side. Save the meeting as you go to record progress. A fun tool to explore with great potential for things like: group diagramming in science, timelines in history, and editing of work in English.
3. The third tool we introduced was eBoard. I first learned about eBoard when I was in grad school and we were to make digital meeting spaces so it has been around for a while. Easy to use (like a collection of digital post-it notes), eBoard is an asynchronous meeting tool. As it wasn’t as interactive/flashy as drawing all over each other’s work, I fear the flexibility of this tool may have been overlooked, but I still like it. 30 day trial boards are free and multiple boards can be created to leave messages, discussions, links and attachments for visitors of the eBoard.
4. Corkboard.me was next. Quick and easy to start a board, users can share links, ideas, images, on a virtual corkboard. Faster than eBoard to post, but didn’t appear to support the sharing of files, just ideas and information via a URL.
5. AnyMeeting was great. A lot like Go To Meeting, we were able to share our screens, video and audio with up to 200 people at a time (we only had 20 so we were well under that quota!). The screen was passed to one of our learners and he did a spectacular job sharing a favorite web resource with the group. Impressively robust, this was a great virtual session.
6. Our last virtual meeting tool was Vyew. A little clunkier than some of the others, but the features were similar. One drawback was that only 10 could be in a space at a time and we had 20 people, so two rooms had to be set up. Not as much fun, but if you have a smaller group, this tool could be a go-to.
We will teach the virtual class again to our Monday sections of learners. There are 50 of them so we’re trying to plan out the best ways to best facilitate the larger group’s needs, but at least yesterday was a success and we’re looking forward to trying the virtual session again.