Week 6: Exploring Digital Solutions—Synchronous Teaching and Learning Tools – Fall 2020

Overview

In Week 5, you began to compile a list of potential technologies that you could incorporate into your own practice, and into your Technology Integration Activity project, as we explored asynchronous technologies commonly used in teaching and learning. This week, we will look at synchronous educational technologies. While there is a wide range of technology types used to communicate and collaborate when students and teachers are not connected in the same time and space (asynchronously), the types of technologies used to connect in real time (synchronously) are a bit more limited.

Week 6 will focus primarily on the use of video conferencing technologies to facilitate communication and collaboration between students, their peers, and teachers. We will discuss applications that use audio and video to connect individuals in telephone-like conversations (personal video conferencing). We will also look at more sophisticated applications that integrate suites of collaborative tools, and how they can be used to create online, real-time classroom meeting spaces and presentations.

In this week’s Technology Exploration activities, you will have a chance to try out a personal video conferencing application to connect and collaborate with one (or more!) of your classmates. You will also have an opportunity to explore the use of a virtual reality application (Second Life) to create alternate real-time meeting and learning spaces. By the end of this week, you will finalize your technology choice(s) for your Technology Integration Activity project. You will complete Assignment 3, where you will prepare an online presentation that describes the technology you have chosen, and what that technology will allow you to achieve in your Technology Integration Activity, along with demonstrating how to use current example applications.

Topics

Week 6 is divided into four topics:

  • Topic 1: Technology Integration
    • Video Conferencing in Education
  • Topic 2: Technology Exploration
  • Topic 3: Community Engagement
  • Topic 4: Assignment 3 Submission

Learning Outcomes

When you have completed this week’s activities, you should be able to:

  • Describe the differences between personal video conferencing applications, web conferencing applications, and room-based video conferencing.
  • Demonstrate the potential benefits of using video conferencing applications in education.
  • Select an appropriate video conferencing application type, based on your teaching and learning needs.
  • Employ current student perceptions towards the use of video conferencing applications in education.
  • Use a personal video conferencing application to connect and collaborate with other students.
  • Describe the potential benefits and challenges of using virtual reality-based alternate learning spaces.
  • Identify current asynchronous and/or synchronous applications to meet your instructional needs as part of your Technology Integration Activity project.

Resources

Candarli, D., & Yuksel, H. G. (2012). Students’ perceptions of video-conferencing in the classrooms in higher education. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 47, 357-361. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.06.663 (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Doggett, A. M. (2008). The videoconferencing classroom: What do students think? Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 44 (4), 29-41. Retrieved from https://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JITE/v44n4/pdf/doggett.pdf (CC BY 4.0)

Express Virtual Meetings. (2019, January 10). The differences between web conferencing and video conferencing [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.expressvirtualmeetings.com.au/blog/whats-the-difference-between-web-conferencing-and-video-conferencing

Feldon, F. (2010, November 7). Second Life in higher education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/6JC6nveI9wg

Ghazal, S., Samsudin, Z., & Aldowah, H. (2015). Students’ perception of synchronous courses using Skype-based video conferencing. Indian Journal of Science and Technology, 8 (30), 1-9. Retrieved from http://www.indjst.org/index.php/indjst/article/viewFile/84021/64976

Gregory, S., Lee, M. J. W., Dalgarno, B., & Tynan, B. (Eds). (2016). Learning in virtual worlds: Research and applications [E-book]. Athabasca, AB: AU Press. Retrieved from http://aupress.ca/index.php/books/120254 (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Hart, J. (2018, September 24). Webinar, web meeting & virtual classroom tools. Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies . Retrieved from http://c4lpt.co.uk/directory-of-learning-performance-tools/webinar-webmeeting-tools/

Hsu, J. (2018, March 1). Web conferencing 101 for nonprofits [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.techsoupcanada.ca/en/community/blog/web-conferencing-101

Linden Research. (2019). Education portal – Gateway to thinking. Retrieved from https://secondlife.com/destination/education-portal-gateway-to-thinking

Linden Research. (2019). Second Life [Computer application]. Retrieved from https://secondlife.com/

Mengel, M. A. [MaryAnnCLT]. (2007, August 10). Educational uses of Second Life [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/qOFU9oUF2HA

Oberheinrich, A. (2019, Sep. 9). The Granny Cloud [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/L8xBccllaZU

Purewal, S. J. (2011, August 9). Luddite’s guide to online conferencing. ITBusiness.ca. Retrieved from https://www.itbusiness.ca/news/luddites-guide-to-online-video-conferencing/16347

Schneider, C. (2013, April 5). How to get started with Second Life [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/TPHTknDn9Fo

Second Life. (n.d.). Education portal – Gateway to thinking. Retrieved from https://secondlife.com/destination/education-portal-gateway-to-thinking

Stratton, J. (2013, March 11). What is Second Life? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/v54nkeX8Ak0

Topic 1: Technology Integration

Video Conferencing in Education

Video conferencing technologies allow users to connect using audio and video feeds in real time. They can be powerful tools for enabling synchronous communication and collaboration between students, their peers, and instructors. They allow students and teachers to come together for formal classes, and informal support, regardless of geographical separation. These technologies
can help to establish more personal connections, reduce transactional distance (Moore, 1989, 1991) between students and teachers, and promote the development of communities of inquiry (Athabasca University, n.d.).

Video conferencing technologies for education are typically grouped into three categories:

  • Personal video conferencing
  • Web conferencing
  • Room-based video conferencing

Personal Video Conferencing

Personal video conferencing can be thought of like a telephone conversation that combines video and audio, and is typically used to connect two or more people. Common applications include:

  • Skype
  • FaceTime
  • Google Hangouts

For an initial look at what is involved in selecting and leveraging personal video conferencing applications, read Sarah Jacobsson Purewal’s (2011) “Luddite’s Guide to Online Video Conferencing.” As you review this reading, consider:

  • Are you currently prepared (technically) to use a personal video conferencing application?
  • Do you feel comfortable enough with the technology to use it to connect with your classmates? Your instructor? Your students?
  • What might be some limitations or other factors to keep in mind if you plan to integrate video conferencing applications into your teaching and learning practice?

While applications like Skype are frequently used for video-enabled telephone-like conversations, they are more and more frequently being used in both formal business and educational contexts. For instance, Skype has been leveraged by Sugata Mitra’s Granny Cloud initiative to connect young students in India with mentors from around the world.

Viewing:

Watch The Culture Show – Sugata Mitra and the Granny Cloud

Source: YouTube, theTeacherjames

As you watch Sugata Mitra and the Granny Cloud, consider:

  • How might you include personal video conferencing applications in your teaching and learning context?
  • Could personal video conferencing applications be a good fit for the Technology Integration Activity you will be planning and developing in EDDL 5101?
  • What might be some of the limitations and considerations that you will need to keep in mind if you plan to integrate personal video conferencing applications?
  • How could you leverage personal video conferencing applications now, to help you connect with others in this class as you plan and prepare your Technology Integration Activity?

Web Conferencing

Web conferencing is similar to personal video conferencing. It integrates video and audio to create a real-time (synchronous) meeting space. However, what sets web conferencing applications apart from personal video conferencing tools such as Skype is the range of other features provided to facilitate sharing and collaboration. Web conferencing applications frequently include tools that allow presenters to share documents, share their computer screen, create interactive notes in real time, and moderate chat-based discussions. Web conferencing suites such as Adobe Connect also include “breakout room” capabilities, which allow a teacher to divide participants into small groups for collaborative learning activities.

Express Virtual Meetings (2019) provides a quick synopsis of the differences between video conferencing and web conferencing applications, and the types of uses of web conferencing tools (from a business perspective).

Web conferencing applications are frequently used in education to either broadcast lectures (one-way communication), or to facilitate interactive online classroom sessions. Joyce Hsu’s (2018) “Web Conferencing 101 for Nonprofits” provides a good overview of what web conferencing is, and how to choose the right web conferencing tools for your synchronous meeting needs. Jane Hart’s “Webinar, Web Meeting & Virtual Classroom Tools” also provides a list of current free and paid web conferencing applications that you could integrate into your teaching and learning practice, or your Technology Integration Activity.

As you read through Express Virtual Meetings (2019) and Hsu (2017), consider:

  • Would a synchronous meeting space be appropriate for the Technology Integration Activity you are planning and developing?
  • Would a web conferencing application be more appropriate for your needs than a personal video conferencing application?
  • What web conferencing applications might you be able to integrate into your plans?
  • What might be some of the limitations and considerations that you will need to keep in mind if you plan to integrate personal video conferencing applications?
  • Will you be mixing both synchronous and asynchronous digital tools in your Technology Integration Activity? What issues might you need to address?

Room-Based Video Conferencing

Room-based video conferencing shares many similarities with both personal and web conferencing. The difference is that with room-based video conferencing, two or more rooms hosting groups of people are typically connected synchronously with audio and visual capabilities. Until recent years, as personal and web conferencing applications utilizing Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) have become more widely available, room-based video conferencing was the mainstay of video conferencing for contextssuch as business, telemedicine, and education. Room-based video conferencing often requires more specialized dedicated equipment, including video cameras, microphones and speakers, and large video screens.

While web conferencing applications are becoming more popular for facilitating synchronous teaching and learning events, room-based video conferencing has been used as a tool to bring smaller groups of students and facilitators together to work face-to-face, while connecting with classmates, teachers, and other expert presenters separated by large geographical spaces.

Resources: Student Perceptions of Video Conferencing in Education

We have seen that different types of video conferencing applications can be used to facilitate synchronous communication and collaboration between students, their peers, and teachers. But how do students react to using these technologies in education? Several studies in recent years, including Doggett (2008) (CC BY 4.0), Candarli and Yuksel (2012) (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0), and Ghazal, Samsudin and Aldowah (2015), have indicated that students have a negative perception of the use of video conferencing, especially when compared to having the alternative to meet in a face-to face context. In some cases, students did express an increased level of comfort with asking questions of their teacher, and with interacting with classmates. However, the authors found that students expressed feelings of disengagement, as well as frustrations due to either boredom (if they could not see their teacher or classmates, or if opportunities were not provided for engagement beyond listening to a lecture) or technical limitations of the platforms being used.

As you read these articles, consider:

  • Do any of the limitations or concerns expressed by students in these studies provide insights for your plans for your Technology Integration Activity?
  • Do you think that some of these apprehensions might disappear as personal and web conferencing applications improve?
  • How would you address some of the apprehensions expressed by students, if you were to integrate synchronous video conferencing into your Technology Integration Activity?

Topic 2: Technology Exploration

Activity 1: Connect with a Classmate

You have likely previously used Skype, or some other personal video conferencing application, to connect with family or friends. If not, now is your chance to get hands-on to see how you could use personal video conferencing to collaborate with a classmate, and to provide each other with support for your learning activities.

For this Technology Exploration activity, you will work in pairs or groups of three. Your instructor will create a page where you can sign up to connect with a classmate. Make arrangements to connect with your classmates using a personal video conferencing application of your choosing.

When you meet, discuss:

  • How are your plans going for your Technology Integration Activity?
  • What technologies are you considering integrating? What specific applications?
  • What challenges are you facing?
  • Are you able to help each other narrow down potential technologies, or overcome some of the challenges you are facing with planning your Technology Integration Activity?

You will have more opportunities to connect with your classmates, who you can think of as “study partners,” as the course progresses. In future weeks, you will be asked to re-connect to provide each other with feedback and help as you work through the design and development of your Technology Integration Activity projects.

Prepare a short post that describes:

  • Your experience using personal video conferencing to connect with a classmate.
  • Your thoughts on the use of video conferencing to facilitate communication and collaboration between students, their classmates, and teachers.

As part of this week’s Community Engagement activities, you will have the option of engaging with one another’s posts on this subject.

Activity 2: Exploring an Alternative Learning Space—Second Life

Virtual reality applications like Second Life have been explored as potential alternate learning spaces, allowing teachers and students to connect in a virtual world in much the same way they would using web conferencing applications. Alternate learning spaces like Second Life have the added potential benefit of being able to transport students and teachers to spaces and places that would otherwise be impossible—such as exploring Medieval Europe, or taking a trip to the International Space Station.

For a brief overview of what Second Life is, watch Jeremy Stratton’s (2013) What Is Second Life?

Source: YouTube,Jeremy Stratton

Do you think a virtual reality environment like Second Life could be useful as an educational tool?

Watch MaryAnnCLT’s (2007) quick overview, Educational Uses of Second Life.

Source: YouTube,MaryAnnCLT

Then watch Fred Feldon’s (2010) Second Life in Higher Education to see how Second Life was used to create a virtual campus.

Feldon, F. (2010, November 7). Second Life in higher education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/6JC6nveI9wg

If you have time, create a personal avatar (your virtual reality persona) by joining Second Life. Download and install the Second Life Viewer application. Watch Schneider’s (2013) How to Get Started with Second Life for some tips on how to get up and running.

Schneider, C. (2013, April 5). How to get started with Second Life [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/TPHTknDn9Fo

Once you have your account set up, explore the Second Life “Education Portal: Gateway to Thinking.” Perhaps make arrangements with your classmate partner(s) from the previous activity to meet at the Education Portal at the same time!

Prepare a short post that describes:

  • Your experiences using Second Life for the first time.
  • The potential benefits of an alternate learning space like Second Life in education.
  • The limitations and challenges you would expect if you were to integrate an alternate learning space like Second Life in your teaching and learning.

As part of this week’s Community Engagement activities, you will have the option of engaging with one another’s posts on this subject.

Optional Reading: Expand Your Understanding

If you are curious about why you would want to use virtual worlds in teaching, or if you simply want to learn more about learning in virtual worlds such as Second Life, check out Gregory, Lee, Dalgarno and Tynan’s (2016) Learning in Virtual Words (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) e-book.

Activity 3: Exploring Digital Solutions (Assignment 3)

In Week 5’s Technology Exploration activities, you started to compile a list of potential asynchronous technologies that you could incorporate into your Technology Integration Activity project. Now it’s time to finalize your technology choices for that project, and to prepare a presentation about the technologies you plan to integrate, how you chose those technologies, how they will be used as instructional tools, and how to use those tools (technically). Do you plan to use any synchronous technologies in your Technology Integration Activity? If so, add the specific technologies to your list, and complete Assignment 3.

Using your personal portfolio, create a web-based presentation that:

  • Describes the type of technology you have chosen, and why. (What will it help you accomplish?)
  • Describes the instructional benefits of using your chosen technology.
  • Describes key technical considerations when integrating your chosen type of technology in instruction.
  • Describes and demonstrate two potential tools/applications (for example, PowToon or YouTube, if you have chosen online videos; Skype or FlipGrid, if you have selected web conferencing tools; Twitter or LinkedIn, if you have chosen social media tools; etc.).
  • Describes the checklist that you used to focus your critical evaluation of the potential tools, and summarize the results (final tool recommendation for your identified problem from Assignment 2).

You will be asked to share your presentation as part of this week’s Community Engagement activities.

Topic 3: Community Engagement

Activity 4: Discussion Questions

Your instructor will post questions in the course discussion forum related to this week’s topics. Respond to these questions, and check out (and reply to) some of the responses posted by your classmates. Feel free to use the course forum to post any thoughts or questions you may have related to this week’s readings and activities.

Activity 5:

Your Thoughts on Synchronous Video Conferencing

Share the blog post that you created after connecting with one of your classmates using a personal video conferencing application. Be sure to read and comment on some of your classmates’ posts.

OR

Your Thoughts on Alternate Learning Spaces

Did you explore Second Life as an alternate learning space this week? Did you meet up in the Education Portal with one of your classmates? Share the portfolio post that you created to describe your experiences, your thoughts on the potential applications of alternate learning spaces, and the challenges and limitations you would expect to encounter. Be sure to check out and comment on some of your classmates’ portfolio posts.

Activity 6: Share Your Final Tool Choices

Now that you have completed your web-based presentation on your technology choices for the Technology Integration Activity project, share your presentation using your personal course portfolio, and via the course discussion forum (if your instructor has created a thread for this purpose). Use the course discussion platform to respond to questions, comments, and reviews posted by your classmates. Review and comment on the presentations posted by at least two (2) of your classmates.

Topic 4: Assignment 3 Submission

By the end of Week 6, you will submit a completed presentation for Assignment 3: Exploring Digital Solutions. Your assignment will be considered submitted once it has been posted and shared with your classmates and instructor via your personal portfolio..

Refer to the Assignment 3: Exploring Digital Solutions assignment guide, found on the Assignments Overview page, for further details about specific assignment completion requirements.

Due Date:
End of Week 6.

References

University of Ontario Institute of Technology. (2016). Learning module: eBooks in the elementary classroom—Benefits of eBooks. Retrieved from http://guides.library.uoit.ca/c.php?g=33133&p=210168

Young, N. (Host). (2010, June 8). 401: Google for Education [Radio program]. In M. Parise (Producer), Spark. Toronto, ON: CBC. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/radio/spark/401-google-for-education-1.4694935

Week 6 Summary

This week, we have looked at the most common type of synchronous digital tools used in educational contexts—video conferencing applications. We have examined the features and uses of personal video conferencing applications, web conferencing applications, and room-based video conferencing. We have discussed the findings of recent research into students’ perceptions of the benefits and limitations of using video conferencing in teaching and learning. And you have had a chance to use a personal video conferencing application to connect and collaborate with one (or more) of your classmates from EDDL 5101, as well as explore potential applications of alternate learning spaces with virtual reality. By the end of this week, you will also have completed Assignment 3, and shared your presentation on your technology selections for your Technology Integration Activity project with the rest of the class. In Week 7, we will discuss some of the barriers to integrating technology into teaching and learning.

References

Athabasca University. (n.d.). The community of inquiry. Retrieved from https://coi.athabascau.ca/

Montgomerie, C. (2013, October 8). Interview with Danny Maas, coordinator of the Alberta VCRLN [YouTube playlist]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PL8hJxQrfRRfwyUtDpF1yH7RAToy-vMA89&v=OxRVAzfCxK4

Moore, M. G. (1989). Editorial: Three types of interaction. The American Journal of Distance Education, 3 (2), 1-7. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08923648909526659

Moore, M. G. (1991). Editorial: Distance education theory. The American Journal of Distance Education, 5 (3), 1-6. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08923649109526758

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