Atomic Learning has created the 12 Days of Learning, a series of articles designed to kick off resolutions to keep learning in the new year. We thought this was a great idea and have decided borrow (shamelessly steal) it and do our own. For our Day 4 post, let’s look at VoiceThread and the Doodler tool.
The Doodler tool in VoiceThread allows you to annotate your image or slide in VoiceThread using your mouse (or finger if you’re using a mobile device) to draw on the presentation area. It’s as if you had a pointer to direct the viewer’s attention to a specific area of the slide. All doodles will play back in time to your recorded voice so you can describe the detail you’re highlighting. Use the Doodler to annotate charts and images, sketch out a diagram or show someone how to solve a tricky math problem just as if you were with them in person. However, they can play it back as often as they need to in VoiceThread.
This summer, I was lucky enough to attend ASCD’sLeader to Leader (L2L) event on behalf of the Massachusetts affiliate of ASCD. The purpose of the conference is to bring together affiliate leaders and members, building capacity and fostering collaboration. During this event, ASCD staff and affiliate leaders shared Ignite sessions, which are, by definition, five-minute presentations that are comprised of 20 slides, each displayed for exactly 15 seconds. The slides move forward automatically, despite the presenter’s readiness, which creates a very quick, engaging, and dynamic atmosphere. The slides often display visuals, as opposed to traditional text-based presentations. The Ignite structure forces presenters to be succinct and clear, in addition to necessitating movement, energy, and preparedness. If you are interested in learning more, check out the history of Ignite events via Wikipedia or some additional information about what Ignite talks entail.
I also wanted to share with you the Ignite session presented by Massachusetts ASCD affiliate leader and alum of Lesley University’s Educational Technology Master’s program, Suzy Brooks. Suzy is a third grade teacher, in addition to serving as an EdTechTeacher consulting instructor. Suzy created and shared an inspiring blog post about the experience of creating and sharing an Ignite session, describing each stage of the difficult and quite rewarding process. Ignite talks can be an exciting vehicle to kick-off and set the tone for a class, meeting, or conference.
Advice for your first web conference The first time your class meets virtually can be daunting. If you’re not practiced at web conferencing, it may feel awkward and foreign. You probably felt pretty nervous the first time you walked in front of a classroom of students, too. Here are a few tips to turn you into a web conferencing pro:
Create a sketch of the session List your main goals and how you hope to accomplish them. Create an outline or “storyboard” of your session. Consider what features of the web conferencing software you will use and make note of any additional resources you will need such as links to websites, images, etc.
Keep it simple Don’t try to use everything. You don’t need to use every tool in the software. Pick a few key ones and then focus on the content and communication. You don’t want your meeting to be about the tool. Don’t try to do too much in one session. If it’s your first online class meeting, your students may need to adjust to a different way of interacting. Keep your main goal in mind.
Include interaction You may not be in the same room with your participants, but you can still interact with them. Consider including an icebreaker activity at the beginning of the session. If the group is small, give everyone a chance to introduce themselves. Ask them questions. If there’s a polling tool or emoticons, use it to get quick feedback. Avoid too much text and use graphics that work with your content.
Managing participation Plan in advance how you will manage questions or comments from participants. Is there a “Raise Hand“ to request the microphone or get your attention? Will they type in the chat window? Send you a private chat message? Let participants know how they are expected to participate at the outset of the session. Being clear will help ease any confusion.
Practice, Practice, Practice Do a dry run of your session using all the tools you will use in the real session. Treat it like a dress rehearsal. Invite a friend or colleague to be your “student.” The more comfortable you are with the virtual space and its tools, the less you have to think about them. This allows you to focus on your students and the presentation material.
Self-evaluate Do a little self-reflection after the session. What worked? What didn’t? Why? What might you want to do differently next time? It’s easy to skip this important step, but don’t. Review while the session is still fresh in your mind.
What is web conferencing? A web conference is a live online meeting. Each person sits at his or her own computer and interacts via a web application. Participants may communicate via audio, webcams and text chat. Often there’s a whiteboard tool that allows the instructor to show Powerpoint-style slides and mark them up on the fly.
What would I use web conferencing for? Web conferencing is your virtual classroom. Students, guest speakers and distant subject matter experts can all visit without ever needing to come to campus. Invite that colleague from California to speak to your New England students. Hold class on a snow day. Conduct office hours from home. Participate in training and professional development offerings without traveling.
Web conferencing can open up the world. It can allow students and faculty to expand their network of knowledgeable colleagues beyond their town. While doing so, students also build technical skills, learn new ways of interacting and potentially learn a little about the culture of those distant individuals they are conferencing with.
What’s the downside? Bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth. All that audio, video, and images can take a toll on someone’s internet connection. Participants on slower connections may find themselves feeling frustrated with choppy audio and missed content. Second, when scheduling a guest speaker keep time zones in mind. Your class may meet at 9am, but it’s only 6am on the west coast. Finally, less tech savvy users may find the learning curve for hosting a web conference overwhelming.
The good news is that all of these cons can be overcome with planning and practice. List your goals. Outline and storyboard your session. Then invite a friend to practice with. Do a ‘dress rehearsal’ of your meeting. This will build your confidence and allow you to focus on your content rather than the tool.
What about video chat? Video chat is very similar to web conferencing, but simpler. It will let you have an audio and video phone call with several people. Text chat is often included in case someone’s microphone isn’t working, but this feature can also be used to pose questions and comments without interrupting the current speaker. It’s a great tool for group discussions and may work well for a Q&A with a guest speaker, but it won’t give you the more traditional classroom tools such as whiteboards and Powerpoint presentations.
Gapminder is a free software tool instructors can use to show data in a visually interactive environment. You can choose from existing data sets. The teacher in the video observes that students interacting with data in a visual format ask better questions and make better connections. Because the tool allows for dynamic animation, it helps students see changing patterns over time in a way that would normally require multiple still graphic displays. This instructor is teaching “year 8” students (upper middle school).