Etherpad – Live Text Collaboration

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One of the common comments people make in workshops about Google Docs is ‘what if two people are editing’. Well in reality that doesn’t happen that often, and even so, Google Docs informs you … but in a real time classroom, it can be kind of annoying. Etherpad, is fantastic for classroom collaboration. It has been in closed ‘beta’ for a while and has always looks good. The ‘real’ deal is even better. Being able to work in real time, with ‘live’ text significantly changes the interaction between students when collaborating. Not only can you ‘see’ who is doing what, but the digital text needs negotiation by the group. Knowledge is therefore being constructed in real time, using Etherpad at the centre of mutli-modal activities. Students could be using text books, visual resources or recording live events and dialogue. It bridged the gap between live blogging and chat, where time is the publishing criteria, to a live activity that allows students orgnise it. Best of all, there is nothing in ‘Etherpad’ that puts students at risk – it is a great tool, and will enable many classrooms to engage in ‘live’ activities – especially if the collaboration is over distance, cultures or disciplines

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Just too easy!

Just too Easy is a fantastic tool for educators. It allows for synchronous publishing in a kind of hybrid manner. Word processing, desktop publishing and webpages. Its something that I think is well worth investigation – especially in K-6. From a pedagogy viewpoint, I can see a great deal of potential for using it really effectively in the classroom. Here is a more formal review that you can look at that I created, just touching on the features and benefits as a quick start guide.

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There are videos on their website that are also well worth a look. The classroom management features are excellent and all wrapped up in almost ‘tux paint‘ like simplicity of it’s graphical interface. The live nature of it’s collaboration is a real step forward to me. I especially liked the idea that a teacher could prepare a task, throw it up on a projector and then ask students to work on it with them from their PC. It almost has IWB like characteristics in that regard, so would make a cheap but engaging addition to the classroom. I am not a fan of teaching kids about ‘office automation’ which is largely what Microsoft Office has done for a decade or more.

J2E allows for simple creation, embedded web objects (YouTube, Teacher Tube) and easily moves between paper and web activities.

It would make a great platform to migrate K6 lesson activities into the collaborative, digital classroom. There are a few things that I would like to have seen differently – but these are very minor in comparison to the potential use of this – within a properly structured programme of work. I think it would make for a great web based project too for students too, given that it seemed to be very able to embed a massive range of object code – and allow for really simple voice recording and drawing. Its at times like these you want to grab a year 3 class and do something fun!

Meetsee – Educators add your thoughts!

After my post about Meetsee, I was really pleased to get a response from it’s creator. I thought it is well worth sharing parts of the conversation, as it gives an insight to just how connected users and creators are though the interwebs. Rather than get all the answers from me, please add your voice to the questions! It can only assist the development. Much better than ‘yeah butting’ later.

I can see from his outline of the service, just how effective it would be in education, as the issues are really just the same!

When designing the Meetsee virtual office, I did a good bit of reading and interviewing colleagues to figure out what problems we wanted to solve for remote workers.

  1. Remote workers do not feel connected to their coworkers or managers. They don’t get to know them or build the trust necessary for a cohesive team.
  2. Managers had difficulty knowing what their distributed teams are working on, how they are feeling, etc. Most managers do this by walking around and talking to employees.
  3. Workers had a difficult time finding the documents and people they are looking for. Meetsee was designed to address these issues.

How do you think educators will want to use Meetsee (office hours, classes, study sessions)?

Yes I do, it is flash based and has a neat audit trail. It is low bandwidth and works better than some other ‘flash based’ video conferencing tools I’ve used. I like the positioning between play and work. There are plenty of uses for study and out of school, especially if you are looking at distributed learners – which is often the case in Australia. When I showed the Educational Development Team this week, they all jumped in and stayed all afternoon. It has something about it that is addictive, and therefore interesting to students.

What classes/subjects do you think can be successfully taught inside a Meetsee room?

I think that K12 is ideal for Meetsee, but I also think that student/tutor classes could be run, especially if sudents can drop off or collect assignments. There really isn’t much you can’t ‘teach’ or ‘learn’ online these days.

Are there other university users to consider other than faculty and students?

Yes, HR for one. Having a range of induction materials etc., the IT Helpdesk could be implimented well for technical support. There are also a lot of research academics, though these vary in IT savvyness. I could see a collection of ‘rooms’ representing student services on campus, and staffed by student interns.

How important is privacy to students and faculty (i.e. should students be able to see each other’s full name, email address, virtual location in Meetsee)?

Critical. I would suggest allowing a teacher to sign-up and then allow them to create ‘classes’ and ‘avatars’ within the class. Students and email is always problematic. Most web-savvy teachers set out guidelines for usernames, ie John Smith, becomes JohnSM. I would therefore see a teacher having a classroom, and students attend it, like normal. If anything, you might have a student locker room for their files.

What additional tools are needed in a virtual classroom?

I think an ability to have a transcript of the text chat (just in case of bullying). Most kids are well behaved online, but you’d have to have private rooms for classes – but at the same time, allow teachers to connect their room to others – a little how Open Simulator backs Islands together. I’d also think that you might have a ‘drop box’ for assignments, and maybe a micro-blogging gizmo. A few drag and drop hyperlinks would be nice, so they can connect to their wiki’s, Google etc.,

I hope this helps, and it would be amazing to think that all those EdTech’s out there will add their toughts.

Meetsee is the ‘wow’ of the year for me! Well done!

MeetSee

picture-72Meetsee is a 2.5D virtual office built on Adobe Flash platform (so maybe it won’t be banned). It is a pretty simple idea.

I set up my panel discussion room, and have been fiddling with using a pair of web-cam screens and using ‘live’ audio broadcasting to the room. It takes minutes to set up. One neat feature is that you can upload a presentation to it. People in the room don’t have to just use the 2.5D view – they can click the presentation and see the slides in 2D, and they can do that with the webcam too.

Build and customise an office, then invite people to visit you and have a meeting. It has a 2.5D view with chat, webcam, Twitter feed, file sharing, Polls, RSS feeds, virtual wipe board and a clever video feeder from YouTube. Of course you can fiddle with your avatar (though one niggle, I hit the girl button by mistake and can’t switch it). You can upload a photo of your own head, which is cool too.

Meetsee also has a 2D chat and videoconference mode, so in may ways operates just like a simple Elluminate, Wimba Live Classroom or Flash Meeting. I really liked the way you can load up YouTube in your entertainment centre, or select a Twitter feed too –

It is also really simple to move around by just clicking on objects, or clicking chairs, filing cabinets and TVs to interact with them. Meetsee is highly functional, looks great and will appeal to kids and adults alike.

picture-81As the owner of the room, you can of course move the furniture around and choose the interactive items that you need and well as change the décor. Meetsee has a good ‘owner’ interface that lets you track activity in your room and it also lets you download that as a report, so in a classroom setting, it has an audit trail. The applications for its use could be from simple interaction and communication to live blogging. You could use the poll function to give a quick test – and use YouTube to give them the context for that test. Students could upload files or download them from your cabinet.

MeetSee has a flash based webcam feature, so you can broadcast on one of the interactive screens. You could use it in competency tasks for ‘interacting with clients’ or as a role-play. Meetsee could be used in school, or perhaps as distance or out of school tutor groups.

There are a range of ‘settings’, the corner office, the video conference, panel discussion etc., and at the click of a button you can launch a different setting. I think that there is sufficient 2.5D ‘engagement’ to make it fun to use – but backed up with some great features that are really simple to use.

Shakespeare’s Second Life

A quick flip-video of students working collaboratively to design and build their ‘sets’ for their current Machinima project, based on modern interpretation of a Shakespeare play. Students also document their design and build here in a blogging community. For teachers who are generally interested in using MUVEs and Video Games in Education you might want to check the educator Ning group here. I’m in the last phase of our intranet being moved to a virtual world, so the kids are going to be the architects and engineers. They have had 1 hour a week this year in Teen Second Life – but at least it is on the time table and in the curriculum!