Posts Tagged ‘Collaborative Technology’

“Connect”ing via iPhone App

February 3rd, 2010

Thought I’d get in a quick blog while my computer updates (sigh).

Today, I was sent a video demonstrating the iPhone app for Adobe Conenct!! If any of us here were wondering how the new Apple & Adobe frenemy-ship was going to affect us, here we have it!!

For anyone that hasn’t used Adobe Connect Pro at Ryerson yet – it is a real-time collaboration environment that enables text chat, audio/video chat, screen sharing, and much more! It’s a chat environment on steroids!!

Until recently, Apple wouldn’t allow Flash-based applications on the iPhone/iPod touch, instead requiring users to download apps from the iTunes store. Late last year, it was announced that the two companies were taking a step in the right direction — allowing the development of iPhone applications in Flash. Not quite what many of us were looking for, but a start.

Sometime in the future, we can expect to be able to participate in online Connect sessions via our iPhone or iPod touch! This is a very cool development, and surprisingly one that Ryerson users may be able to take advantage of… whenever the pieces all fall into place.

(Note: the part about Adobe Acrobat Connect starts a couple of minutes into the video – they start by quickly showing apps for Boost Your Brain and Digg)

Can’t play the Adobe video in my blog post? Click here to view it on their website.

1 Month of Wave: Post the first

November 4th, 2009

I now have a Google Wave account.

I got it a few weeks ago, but haven’t really had the opportunity to try it out in a meaningful way. There’s no point in playing alone… Wave’s potential lies in the ability to collaborate with others. “Potential” is really the key word here. My first experiences with the features and user interface have left me hoping that it will evolve in the right way, but it does fall short in some ways.

What is a wave? It’s hard to describe… it’s like an enhanced wiki tool that you could use in place of email, plus gadgets.

Actually, it’s much more complex than that, especially once you start taking into account the ability to make public waves (so now you have a public forum? a public blog?) and embed waves into other sites (like your existing blog).

This video explains the concept behind Wave pretty well (and it’s pretty funny, too). Also be sure to check the Google Wave Intro at the bottom of this post… it shows some cool features that will be possible in the actual release of Wave.

Can’t see the embedded video? Click here!

One thing to keep in mind is that it is in preview — not even in Beta! There are no guarantees that features will work (and, in fact, I’ve had some work one day and not the next), so you can’t really use it professionally yet. Many of us are just trying it out, to see what we think we can do with it, and provide some feedback on things that just aren’t working for us.

Things I like:

  • Wiki-style group collaboration on documents (asynchronous… and kinda synchronous)
  • The ability to embed tools like polls, map tools, conferencing, etc. (although I haven’t been able to try them all yet)
  • The ability to make your Wave public, and search public Waves on different topics. Very cool!
  • The ability to add things like Twitter into a Wave. Not sure I know what to do with it, but it’s neat that I can.
  • The group of folks attending Educause that decided to try using Wave for sharing conference notes and info… I’m TOTALLY spying on you all!

Things I’d like to see improved:

  • The total destruction of the darn “Done” button you have to click when you’ve made an update to a Wave. Doesn’t seem like a big deal when you’re testing Wave on your own and have a 2-line wave. When you are participating in a BIIIG wave that scrolls forever, and has various long replies, etc. the “Done” button is tricky to find.
  • Long complicated waves can be complicated to navigate. Not sure how to improve this, but I am finding it challenging.
  • Difficulty in locating changes to a Wave. I know there’s a green bar on the side. Doesn’t help if I have to scroll for 10 minutes to find it. Give me a ‘history’ page with a list of changes, like you’d see in a regular wiki. The playback feature seems like a cool idea, but has been useless for me so far.

There are other points, but I’ll save some for my next post. Overall, I do see its potential, and I hope that Google takes the feedback that they are given.

One weird thing that’s come out of this is trolling for account invites. I’ve actually had strangers ask me for a Wave account invite when they saw me post on Twitter that I had an account myself. Weird, no? Unless I know you personally or professionally, please don’t ask me. I want to use my invites to gather a group of people that I can test and collaborate with.

Can’t see the embedded video? Click here!

Some other first impressions:

This series is a (roughly) 1-month attempt to figure out what the heck to do with Wave, with some commentary along the way.

EVENT: Adobe MAX

October 6th, 2009

I didn’t catch all of the keynote today, but there was one big announcement that I wanted to repost here.

Flash01Flash CS5 will include the ability to develop iPhone Applications using Action Script 3.

This is one of those announcements that is both positive and yet a little disappointing. Let’s start with the good stuff — Flash can be a great tool for developing interactive applications delivered online. We’ve all seen examples of Flash at work, with things ranging from online games to animations to video sites like Youtube. People with a creative mind can take Flash really far! Now Flash developers can create iPhone Applications that can be delivered via the Apple iTunes Store (or iPhone developers can use Flash to develop… either way). Sounds great!

Apple and Adobe have not been playing well together when it comes to Flash on iPhones. I’m not pointing any fingers, but I know that I want to pull my hair out every time I have trouble accessing a site on an iPhone because it uses Flash. The hair-pulling will continue, unfortunately, because they have not agreed to permit in-browser Flash support for the iPhone.

Regardless, it is a good first step — now I hope they can take it all the way home!

Some Links:

Now to find out about Connect Pro on the iPhone…. saw a tweet about this (#adobemax #adobemaxgs on Twitter) and didn’t catch it in the keynote. This would be a really great addition!

I hope I have some time to tune in to the sessions tomorrow… it’s always good to keep up on this stuff!

Event: Flattening the Classroom: Building Collaborative Learning Environments

October 5th, 2009

Event website

This two-day virtual event focuses on effective collaboration. I’ve missed some of it, due to some technical difficulties, but what I did catch was pretty interesting!

Diane Chapman – What is Collaboration?

Collaboration – a dirty little secret?
I’m not sure I agree with this statement… at our school, the lack of a potential for collaboration in some of the campus-wide tools is the dirty little secret that isn’t such a secret anymore. A key point made that I do agree with, however, is that collaboration has to be PLANNED in advance. Sure – it can be fun to be spontaneous, but it can get messy very quickly without a plan.

“Plan for inevitable bumps in the road” – This applies to any technology, and is often forgotten when using it.

“Group think is NOT Collaboration” – I love this quote!! “Group think” is when a group gives in to a dominant idea, instead of everyone participating equally. Something that we have to teach groups to remember, and something group members have to practise. Going along with the ideas of the group is not the same as adding your ideas to the mix. Yes, it’s easier to go along with everyone and seems to get the job done faster — but it defeats the purpose of the whole exercise!

The role of creativity in collaboration: unique viewpoints, not equal to chaos, important to collaboration.

Noshir Sarosh Contractor – Understanding and Enabling Online Collaboration Networks

Social collaboration is not as much about who you know, or what you know, but others’ perception of who and what you know. These notions make up different kinds of networks, and the different ways in which they work. It doesn’t just involve a collection of people, but people, networks, data, and the relationships between all of these areas – a “community”.

The best collaborative ideas come out when the community is not made up of people from the same circle – but we still often end up creating social networks with people that are from our area of the world.

Michelle Pacansky-Brock – VoiceThread: Collaborative, Community-Oriented Learning Spaces

What is a voice thread?

Online media “album” featuring presentations, imags, documents and videos. Thse open up into collaborative conversations where users may comment in text, voice, or video. She has used this from w/in Blackboard courses. Users are of varying skill and comfort level – she is there to demonstrate “mastery” (goes along with first speaker, who says that modelling is very important).

Students commented that they liked to hear their peers’ voices and see pictures and images – gave a better sense of the community.

Beryl Levinger – Technologies That Enhance Collaborative, Interdisciplinary Learning

DPMI – an INTENSIVE program, that leaves students with many skills that will aid them in professional life.

Feedback is an important skill…

Use mostly synchronous collaborative technologies for co-creation.

Tool-rich – mastery of a set of tools within a framework, some applied collaboratively and online, but some individually and on paper.

  • Results Framework
  • Logical Framework

Community-oriented – creating social bonds that enable them to work together effectively, and enjoy their time together, seeds are sown for collaboration

Avowedly collaborative – harness collective intelligence, use of wikis

Cheat, steal and be lazy! – DPMI Motto, and my second favourite quote of the day!! – build on the thinking of others! (Ha! I just posted about this topic!) Shared ownership and empowerment to collectively take action.

The ability to collaborate is as important as the outcome of the collaboration.

Collaboration as a learned skill…

Uses Zoho Wiki, Zoho Notebook (a shell that links all of the students’ personal notebooks… where they post various media, notes, etc.), Poll Daddy, Zoho Polls (peer-to-peer feedback), students must present poll results in their final presentation and explain how they used poll results to affect the final product.

Wiki inconveniences (that Google Docs addresses) – wikis don’t handle spreadsheets and diagramming very well, are generally asynchronus (only one student can update at a time). Use Google Docs for this, but link to the docs from within the wiki so that all content is accessible from the wiki.

Twitter – has gotten some students to participate that would normally not (sometimes because they are not as fluent in English, and is an easier method of communication). Yet, feels like a distraction. Still experimenting with it.

CMAP Tools – Synchronous/Asynchronous for mapping relationships

Students appreciate the collaborative aspect of the program MORE after the program than during it. Down the road, they realize that the skills that they have learned in the program are valuable for the real world, and they are skills that not everyone learns.

Telling Stories in Land and Food Systems: Future Advocates & Citizen Journalists

Podcasting – repurposing lectures, but not dynamic use of the technology

Day 2

Janet Salmons – How Did WE Work? Assessing Collaborative Assignments

Students are wary of group work, because they don’t trust their groupmates (to complete their tasks, to take the project as seriously, to provide a certain level of work) or the instructor (to fairly assess group work, to protect the group members from ‘bad’ group members).

  • Assessment of collaborative work requires planning, checkpoints
  • Assessment not only of outcomes, but of the process itself.
  • Assessment of the group and the individuals (not necessarily the same thing! peoples’ contribution differs!)

Balance instructor-driven and learner-driven styles.

Lecture Online?

October 5th, 2009

With all this talk of the dreaded ‘p’ word (that’s PANDEMIC, for those of you not in the University environment), a spotlight has been placed on ensuring courses can continue offsite. We already have the ability to deliver course materials online, quizzing online, assignments online… but what about the lectures themselves?

We’ve probably all seen some examples of lecture content online, and many of us have differing opinions about what is best. There is a big difference between a 1-hour recorded lecture viewed online,  and a free-flowing lecture and discussion where the students are all present and interacting with the instructor and the environment. (Hopefully that’s what happens in a face-to-face lecture, and I’m not ruling that out for online components.)

So what should we be recommending to faculty who want to have an online lecture presence? What is my idea of a perfect online lecture?

If we’re talking about an audio/video lecture, to be viewed asynchronously by students (with no real student participation),  the online lecture components are planned, to the point and as engaging as the technology and the topic allow. When I say ‘to the point’, I think they shouldn’t be “too long” (5-10 minutes is perfect!). That doesn’t mean the whole lecture has to be summed up in 5-10 minutes — but the important concepts should be broken apart into their own separate entries. These may be delivered via a streaming technology (where users must view them online, in a web browser) or something like a podcast (where users download the content, and view offline on their computer or on a mobile device)

On the other hand, an “online class” delivered via a collaboration tool such as Adobe Connect may go for much longer, as there are lecture portions as well as student questions and feedback. This is a less structured model, with its own benefits and drawbacks… and it requires more time. Participant audio and video adds another layer of complexity to this model, but when it works well can result in some really great community building and concept development.

Start to think about some of these possibilities as we plan for offsite learning. The method you choose will depend on the topic, the style of the lecture, the technologies available, and often how tech-savvy the students are.

Please feel free to leave a comment with your ideas and past experiences – we would love to hear them!