On Saturday February 3rd, I presented a workshop for In.tech.gration 2007: Teach & Technology in the 21st Century, offered out of Nipissing University. On the website In.tech.gration 2007 is described as:
“a technology in education conference for students enrolled in Nipissing University’s ITeach program. This one day event will include keynote speakers and many hands-on workshops. The goal of In.tech.gration 2007 is to give students hands-on experience and resource for integrating technology in the classroom.”
When the organizers asked if I would be interested in presenting, I don’t think they realized that I was half-way across the world in Sri Lanka, working on another project. But I didn’t hesitate to say, “YES!”. My workshop was entitled, “Open Source, Online and Oh, So Engaging!!”. I provided this description:
This is a different kind of workshop â€“ your presenter, Sue Lister will be online, not in a classroom â€“ coming to you from Sri Lanka! And you will â€˜attendâ€™ online not by going to a classroom! At the specified time of the workshop, you will access the workshop website and communicate first through a text-chat area and then as we proceed and get bolder, we will try voice, video and even shared desktops! Prepare to maximize your computerâ€™s resources as we go on a virtual tour of education tools, resources, software and ideas. There will be some pre-workshop activities to get you set up and started on your investigation into collaborative, open-source education software. For more information and detailed steps for getting signed on, please visit the workshop website at: www.newmediaworkshops.com/2007/
In some ways, the workshop was pretty easy to organize but there were a few things that caught me off guard. I asked for the email addresses for all the participants approximately 1 week prior to the workshop date. I wanted to give everyone some preparation time to download the required software and get used some of the applications or environments we were going to use such as Moodle and Skype. Although I tried to stress the importance of downloading the software and doing tests ahead of time, PRIOR to the start time of the workshop – most of the participants had not done so…. I’m really not sure why and I wonder if I had started two weeks in advance if this would have been better.
Listed below is the software I had asked everyone to download and install:
Skype – www.skype.com/ (I asked for the Skype ID of each participant and if they did not have one, then strongly suggested they should take measures to install and set up Skype prior to the day of the workshop – I planned on using Skype
Free Mind – http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page
GIMP – http://gimp-win.sourceforge.net/
Audacity – http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
I wanted everyone to have Skype installed on their computers because I didn’t want to just use text-chat options for the entire workshop… an hour and 20 minutes. I set up a SkypeCast in advance of the Workshop with the plan that I would use a Web Huddle ( https://www.webhuddle.com/) for the demonstrations and then the SkypeCast for the audio. WebHuddle has audio capability but my tests showed that the quality was really bad – whereas, Skype is pretty reliable… it proved this (again) on the workshop day. I had used this type of set up a few months ago while I was training in the Worldbridges Webcast Academy…(some day, I’ll have to finish my training!). SkypeCasts are useful because you can have a large number of people participate at one time and as the administrator, you have ultimate control over the microphone. They can be public where anyone can enter or now you can have private ones – which is how I organized this workshop’s skypecast.
I asked that everyone meet me in the Moodle Course I set up. On the opening page, I posted a message saying that they should proceed to the Chat Room I had created for the Moodle environment. In the chat, I introduced myself and had everyone else report in about their experience text chatting, with LMS’s and webinar’s such as this one. We also worked out a few technical problems such as one person hadn’t received any of my pre-workshop emails. As it turned out there were about 4 people or so in the workshop conference room in North Bay while another two or three spread out around the university. In the second workshop, it was about the same….one participant from the first workshop decided to stay online with us for the second workshop, while he was ‘participating’ in another workshop!
I first talked a little bit about Moodle and then went quickly into how and why you would use a wiki – I gave everyone a few minutes to go in and try the Moodle Wiki I had set up prior to the workshop. In the second workshop, I asked one participant to use the wiki to capture any websites or additional information we could use after the workshop as things progressed. I would do this again as it took the heat off me and I believe, this helped show that I was not the only fountain of knowledge and skill in the group!
Next, I wanted to do some demonstrations where everyone could see my desktop while I explained things using audio…. This required that we jumped to the Web Huddle space I had created prior to the workshop – No one had a problem entering the area and we all congratulated each other in the Web Huddle text area. I started first by walking around Moodle and talking a little bit about how a teacher who is presenting a course online, can edit and design the course within Moodle. But I really wanted to get onto other open source software so I asked that everyone watch for a bit while I demo’d some of the features. Next, I gave them some time to open the FreeMind software they had downloaded and try it out for themselves. The workshop, continued on like this with me talking and demoing… some others asking questions through Skype and others asking questions in the webhuddle text-chat area. This part worked quite smoothly from a technology and presentation standpoint… but if you did not have Skype installed, you can imagine without the audio instructions, this part would not have been very interesting.
Here is a video I created from the WebHuddle recording (3.5 megs – 2:30min – no audio):
One thing, that I found extremely helpful when doing this workshop, solo, was the use of another computer. It sounds like over-kill but had I not had a second computer, showing me what the students were seeing in WebHuddle, I think things would have been disastrous…there were many times when I had to re-arrange the application on my desktop so that what I wanted to be seen…could be seen over the miles.
Another change, I would make in the future, (besides DOUBLE emphasizing the need to download and become familiar with the communication software for the web conference), is to have someone assigned at the other end (in this case the Nipissing Room assigned for my workshop) to project the conference on a big screen as well as to hook up speakers. This would be an amiable work around for those who don’t want to get totally immersed but just want ‘to see’.
All in all, I will definitely do another workshop this way…it was fun – and I believe with preparation from the participants & facilitator, it can be effective as well!