Educational Technology and the Social Web

June 25, 2008

Collaboration Tools

Filed under: Collaborative Technology — Ken @ 1:26 am

Collablab logo

I am attending an afternoon session/meeting of the New England EdTech Group at Boston College. Today’s topic, moderated by Peter Hess from MIT, is collaboration software or more specifically software that enables screen sharing, slide annotation, white boarding, VOIP, polling, chat, file sharing, session recoding, and shared controls amongst participants. Meeting notes are kept at: http://collablab.wordpress.com/

The session is off to somewhat of a rocky start. The Yugma application that was to lead of the demonstration is preventing us from launching a session. Although disappointing this illustrates an important aspect to using this type of technology. It is not always reliable and stable so test, test, test before you use it for real.

We’re now looking at ooVoo and its slick interface for video conferencing. This application can support up to three participants at no cost.  ooVoo represents each participant in small window and offers additonal features for managing contacts. Jay Collier from MIT is joining us from across the river at MIT and is describing a joint project he’s working on to develop a more robust online presence, the IKE Project, Internet Knowledge Exploration. 

We’re now looking at Vidyo, conferencing with Jeff Dill in New Jersey. The video throughput is very nice although we currently don’t have audio.  Disappointing but I think par for the course. 

All of these services look intriguing but I am not sure they are ready for prime time.  Some of the schools represented in the room are sharing their experiences with some of the different applications that are out there. My very informal synopsis is that these tools have yet to secure a major role although they have small toeholds in several schools across several disciplines.   

Phil Knutell from Bentley is discussing his school’s collaborative spaces recently added to the Bentley Library as a part of a $24 million renovation. They built 24 collaborative study rooms outfitted with large LCDs, PCs, and DVD players. Room availability is visible to students as they enter the library and allows students to self-manage room scheduling through PeopleCube.

Phil brought Centra to Bentley from University of Michigan in 1999.  They started using Centra with faculty teaching to their laptop but then branched to a hybrid classroom model. Bentley currently has 13 hybrid classrooms which are used for synchronous teaching and communication.

Phil uses Google docs to teach his course in some very creative ways. He uses it for presentations, polling, syllabus and as a central tool for student projects. On the classroom management side he manages class logistics, TA assignments and duties, and version control when creating syllabi and class assignments. 

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