Well our first “open” professional staff development session of Social Software in the Classroom took place on Wednesday September 19, and everything that could have gone wrong did for Darren and I. It was an example of technology at its best and worst within the 3 hour time span. We thought we had prepared well, here were our thoughts, and by the way we had tried out the ustream.tv and yugma/skype ahead of time with several other people joining us! Remember, Darren is in Utah and I am PA, we planned on the audio/video stream so all could follow along with what we were doing and participate in conversations during class.
- audio/video stream original idea, Darren started the stream, I could not connect, nor could anyone else
- move to ustream.tv, seemed to work well, audio issues caused difficulties so everyone could not hear
- switched to Yugma/Skype, worked but had people in different chats, we started in one skypechat room and had to move to another, confusing
- Sue Waters came to our rescue and offered us a room in Elluminate which saved us, literally
Despite all of these hurdles, the evening demonstrated the extent people will go to help one another in this participatory culture. Once we were started in Elluminate we were able to show Karl Fisch’s video and have conversations about its content and the implications for teachers and students.
I have never taught an online course before so this was new to me, the idea of being able to share screens and talk to each other during our presentations was reassuring, knowing even though we would be roughly 2,000 miles apart we would still be able to see and hear each other, because of the difficulties we went through I learned quite a bit about how I teach. Darren and I worked together on Thursday, talking about the class and what we would change to make the rest of the sessions better. I also told him what I had been going through the night before, which I believe anyone who has ever taught will relate to. Sitting at home, computer connected, online through skype, the connection to Darren made, knowing he is starting, tells me to pick up the video stream, I try – nothing, no connection for me, the co teacher, panic! As the evening moved along, we were able to keep our audio connections, share screens, etc. and have our conversations. What struck me most was the realization of how much I depend on visual cues when I teach. Whether it is with another colleague, co teaching, or the visual cues from my students, I know how to pace the session depending on their non verbal feedback. All of a sudden I found myself with no visual or audio cues. Darren was having some technical issues with headsets in his lab, so when he was away from his computer, I was completely in the dark, with no one to look at or listen to in order to gauge what to do next. I was thinking to myself, do I go ahead and keep talking about how to navigate within wikispaces, how to edit? Knowing he was trying to troubleshoot, I didn’t want to ask any questions, he wasn’t close to his computer, do I ask a question and make him stop what he is doing to walk back to the computer, press the mic, answer me? Or do I wait patiently hoping he will resolve the issue at hand, come back and say we are ready to move ahead? My point being, if we had been in the same room, I would have known what to do, I could have read the faces of the others there, assessed what was going on and made a decision that would have kept the class moving while freeing my colleague to do what was necessary to get everyone in the same place. Something I learned about myself, something I had not thought of prior to this course or as part of teaching. We are looking forward to the rest of the sessions and hope any and all interested will join us at http://socialsoftware07.wikispaces.com Wednesday September 26 6:30PM Eastern Daylight Time.