WEB CONFERENCING FOR EDUCATORS Why should you use web conferencing in your classroom?
There is not an abundant amount of research on the educational uses of web conferencing at this point in time. Most of the research describes how the tool has been utilized in individual settings, with limited recommendations on how to effectively use one of the available web conferencing tools. More research is needed on student outcomes and on how learners interact with the environment itself. Another useful area of research would be on best practices, and how to most effectively guide students and teachers in using web conferencing for educational purposes.
CLASSROOM USES – OVERVIEW OF RESEARCH
Web conferencing can be used to introduce outside resources into the classroom that may not be available due to financial or geographic limitations. Inviting a guest speaker will bring topics alive and expand the views of the class. Dimdim and other free web conferencing tools can make this practice easier for teachers to do more often in their classrooms.
Examples of Guest Speakers
A magnet school in North Carolina uses Elluminate to connect medical science students to university surgeons who answer questions and show videos of medical procedures. This same school lets art and theater students meet with artists, for example they interviewed the actors in the musical Rent . They interviewed and had a dialogue with the actors who were unable to travel to the school due to time constraints. Students connected with a class in Mexico to discuss art and folklore, they are going to meet with a curator in Egypt who will display artifacts and discuss them with the students (O’Hanlon, 2007, p. 22-23).
Examples of Guest Speakers cont.
Inviting outside experts and speakers into the classroom is a component recommended by Robinson and Kakela, instructors at Michigan State University, to create a classroom of fun, interaction and trust. They discuss the importance of this practice as a way “to demonstrate multiple ways of seeing and knowing” (p. 204) to their class, preventing their students from becoming passive listeners of their instructors.
Amy Wilson and Andrew Tonkovich discuss their use of guest speakers to motivate students to write and to introduce political or controversial issues. Wilson discusses using guest speakers from her students’ lives, people important to her students to talk about what they write in their everyday lives and jobs, as a way to show how important writing is to a number of different people, instead of having to tell her students this. Tonkovich introduces political activists and people with opposing viewpoints to his students, “a real person presenting- no, living – a real-life perspective which perhaps challenged the viewpoints” (p. 41) of the students in the class.
COLLABORATING – OVERVIEW OF RESEARCH
Web conferencing tools allows teachers and students to connect with their peers in order to discuss and build solutions to challenges or problems that the participants have in common.
In an article titled “Rethinking (e)learning: A Manifesto for Connected Generations” Sims argues that “rethinking teaching and learning is needed to enable e^3 learning-technology enhanced environments that enable collaborative, contextual and connected learning” (p. 154). In his discussion of collaboration he states that technology allows the mixing formal and informal learning and learners, and enables “a (potentially) higher quality of participant interactions” (p. 159). Technology today is allowing this kind of collaboration to take place, between teachers and students, as well as less formally. Sims argues that this should be embraced and utilized by educators.
DISTANCE EDUCATION – OVERVIEW OF RESEARCH
Web conferencing tools have added to the growth and quality of many distance education programs. Many online courses have students take part in a class independently and in isolation. Web conferences allow for quality synchronous class meetings to take place with participants from any geographical location as long as they have access to a computer and the Internet. This medium lends itself to group collaborations and project based learning.
NCES stated that in the 2003-2004 school year 10% of all schools had students enrolled in distance courses, 24% of which used synchronous technologies to teach class.
Address factors that will affect the course such as group size, learning activities, instructor’s role, feedback, community and technical support. (Knapczyk, 2005)
There are a number of learning theories that are conducive to learning through web conferencing.
Communities of Practice
Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences- Linguistic and, Interpersonal,
Project Based Learning
Many other learning theories can be practiced with web conferencing depending on how the tool is used, or the course designed.
COMMUNITIES OF PRACTICE
“ Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”
The domain- a group with shared interest and expertise
The community- a group that interacts, discusses, shares and learn together
The practice- a group that builds a collection of resources and tools
Communities of practice problem solve, request information, seek expertise, reuse assets, coordinate and synergy, discuss developments, document projects, visit, map knowledge and identify gaps.
GARDNER’S MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES
Web conferencing tools lend themselves to certain intelligences as described by Gardner- Linguistic and Interpersonal Intelligences
Linguistic- relies heavily on written and spoken language as a means to convey and process information. Web conferencing tools lend themselves to formal lecture type lessons as the easiest use of the tool.
Interpersonal- involves the ability to work with and understand others. Users of a web conferencing tool must develop this intelligence in order to be able to communicate effectively in the class, though the communication skills needed in a conference are different from those in face-to-face situations.
Other intelligences may be targeted in a class using web conferencing though this is dependent on the content and focus of the class itself.
PROJECT BASED LEARNING
The project approach describes a learning experience where students apply skills and knowledge that they have acquired earlier. Students typically solve a problem or answer a question that mirrors a real life situation.
Web conferencing tools are used in real life situations and allow groups to connect and collaborate as they build solutions to those problems and answer those questions.
WEB CONFERENCING TOOLS
Dimdim can be a very useful tool for educators, as it is a free and relatively robust application. If you are interested in learning more about Dimdim and web conferencing use this website to get started: http://imet.csus.edu/imet11/portfolio/futrell_d/EDTE282/index.html
This resource offers tutorials and tips on how to successfully use Dimdim in the classroom.
Hastie, M., Chen, N.-S., & Kuo, Y.-H. (2007). Instructional Design for Best Practice in the Synchronous Cyber Classroom. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 10(4), 281-294 MURL: E-Journal Link.
Knapczyk, D. R., Frey, T. J., & Wall-Marincik, W. (2005). An Evaluation of Web Conferencing in Online Teacher Preparation. Teacher Education and Special Education, 28(2), 114-124.
O'Hanlon, C. (2007). A vRoom With a View. T.H.E. Journal, 34(9), 22-23.
Sims, R. (2008). Rethinking (e) learning: a manifesto for connected generations. Distance Education, 29(2), 153-164.
Tonkovich, A. (2007). The Personification Is Political: Activists in the Classroom. Radical Teacher no, 79(Fall 2007), 40-41.
Wilson, A. A. (2008). Motivating Young Writers Through Write-Talks: Real Writers, Real Audiences, Real Purposes. The Reading Teacher, 61(6), 485-487.