Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Week 4 - whew!

Week 4 seemed to zip right by. We had a great moderator on Nicenet, Sueanne Parker, who was very active in encouraging everyone to be more specific, think more deeply, and broaden horizons. We had more people mentioning lack of resources, and also many people giving suggestions for what to do with very few resources. I am very impressed by the resourcefulness of so many of the teachers.

The posts on Nicenet seemed much better this week, so I think I did a better job of putting together the questions. I've been working on these with my colleague Char, who provides another perspective on the assignment plans and great advice about how to frame the discussion questions. Each group is different, of course, so the questions are a bit different from one course to the next.

It would be much better all around if the teachers could actually try some of these techniques with their students while we're in this course. It was much easier last term that way - even more great ideas emerged when the teachers were able to test the concepts with actual students. I hope that there will be enough ideas - and discussion of projects by the end of the course - that everyone will try to implement at least one new thing in their classes.

Looking at technology used online in another way, I was involved in a webinar (web-based seminar) with some teachers in Israel this morning. Rick Rosenberg, the Regional English Language Officer, is doing a face-to-face session on technology tools. He invited me to talk about software. We tested the setup the night before - voice and video on Skype, chat on Skype and a Ning (a kind of social network site), and a range of tools on Adobe Connect - and everything worked. It seemed very slow on my end, but I thought that might be because Rick was on a wireless connection.

However, when time came for the actual session (7:30 am my time, 5:30 pm there), the audio did not work at all. I had no idea if they could see and hear me. After struggling for 15 minutes or so, we shifted to chat on the Ning. That worked well enough, but it just was not what we had hoped for. Rick said later that the technicians had made some sort of change to the system earlier that day, and the technicians had left by the time for the webinar. I'm hoping they were able to see the PowerPoint show that I'd sent to Rick earlier. (Here's a link to the PDF version.)

Lessons learned: Always have Plan B (we did - the chat); don't let the technicians make changes to the system before a webinar; and make sure the technicians are available during a technology-heavy webinar. Generally speaking, chat or a Nicenet-style discussion board will work well, but audio and video are tricky.

We'll hope for better luck next time!


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