Blackboard Collaborate…as a Presenter

This past Wednesday, Nov. 20th, I had the privilege of presenting a webinar for the #kinderchat Campfire Chat Professional Development series hosted by Mardelle Sauerborn and Heidi Echternacht. I hope that I inspired a few of the attendees to give blogging a try, whether personally, professionally, for their class, or with their students.  I outlined the WordPress and Kidblog websites and apps and some of their features, but more importantly, I shared with my listeners why I blog and how I see it’s use with my students.

When starting any new project, the most important question to ask yourself is “Why?”.  I have found over the past three years that I have been developing my class blog that I appreciate the opportunity to connect with my students’ parents.  I want the parents to see and appreciate what their children are doing at school and offer them an opportunity to respond back via the comments.  I also hope that this provides a jumping off point for family conversation.  The question, “What did you do at school today?” has a little more leverage when the parents have already seen their child’s work and can ask more specific questions, or comment pointedly about what they have seen on the blog. I blogged specifically about the why here, and each day I add to my class blog or my students add to their blogs, I am pleased to have the ability to create these digital portfolios with them.

One of the last posts I wrote was about being a participant in a Blackboard Collaborate session. You can read that post here, so today’s post is about what it is like to present using Blackboard Collaborate and how this tool is easily used to share ideas.  PowerPoint slides are simply loaded and shared with participants.  You can see the Slideshare of my presentation embedded below. If you have any questions about my presentation content, please don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments. You can see and hear a recording of the Campfire Chat here.

In Blackboard Collaborate, any number of participants can join. Depending on how the moderator sets the parameters, there is capacity up to six people on the microphones at once, and all can add to the conversation.  In any session I have participated in, I prefer to have only one microphone, with people raising their hands (a feature in the sidebar) and waiting their turn to speak.  It sounds rather elementary, but it helps with the frustration of trying to jump into a conversation without having the visual cues or body language that go along with having a face to face conversation.  Only one person is visible on the very tiny video screen at a time, unlike Blue Jeans, our video conference method for EDCI 338, where you can have up to a Brady Bunch-esque 9 video screens viewable at once.

The audio from Blackboard Collaborate is generally clear, but sometimes is glitchy depending on the internet connection of the participants. Thankfully we did not have any technical issues that evening, and all went smoothly. A note to participants:  unless you are wanting to speak, it is a good idea to keep your microphone turned off, otherwise any noise around you will be interfering with the general sound quality.

One thing that I missed and had difficulty keeping up with that I enjoy as a participant was the chat window.  I found it problematic keeping my train of thought going as I was speaking if I looked over to the chat too much, so I had to ignore the chat while I was talking and hope that I somehow caught everyone’s questions at appropriate breaks.  This was an interesting phenomenon for me, as the chat window is one thing that helps keep my focus when I am listening to a webinar, but perhaps my concentration on the topic and my presentation slides was what kept me focussed this session. Thankfully Mardelle has archived both the written chat along with the audio and visual presentation. That way I can go back, read and listen to make sure I connect with anyone who has unanswered questions.  In fact, one participant did email me after the webinar with a few questions, and I am happy to network with her and support her in starting up Kidblog with her students.

Blackboard Collaborate is definitely an easily accessible, FREE platform that is useable by anyone with a good internet connection and updated Java on their computer.  It allows opportunities for collaboration and learning with other people around the world that could not happen without such technology.  I appreciate all of the occasions that I have been able to learn from others, and appreciate the opportunity I had to share my knowledge with those at the Campfire Chat. Thank you Mardelle and Heidi for inviting me to share in your forum.

To Tweet Or Not To Tweet…A Guide To Tweeting With Early Learners

It’s done.  The major part of our project for EDCI 338 is complete and published.  Already many colleagues and friends have read the e-book and have shared it out, with very supportive comments, so it is very encouraging that what Liane Loeppky and I created is positively received and will be useful for others. The next step will be to publish in the iBook store and I will update this blog post with the link to the iBook store when it is officially available.

Our project has morphed over the course of the term from our original plan of developing a scope and sequence for teaching social media to young learners, to what it became, a more widely available and hopefully more practical tool to help teachers get started using social media in a responsible way with their students.

Liane and I met a number of times face to face over the course of the past two months to brainstorm, write and edit our ideas.  We also took time apart to research and write sections of the book before coming back together to compare notes and collaborate on the writing and editing together. As we were discussing the content of our book, we decided that we should also have our classes collaborate on a children’s version of our book for other teachers to use with their classes.  So, my class discussed and wrote the “rules and guidelines” for twitter use for kids, and Liane’s class painted the illustrations for our book.  We are planning on publishing that book on issue.com, just like our teacher’s book, as well as publishing to the iBook store and I will add those links to this blog as we finish the project.

We produced both of these books with the Book Creator App, a simple to use iPad app that I have used to publish two other books. You can find those collaborative projects here and here, both written by my students together with Tasha Cowdy‘s (from Japan), Jason Graham‘s and Ben Sheridan‘s classes (from Indonesia). The experience I had with these projects made the choice of using Book Creator and easy one.  The app is intuitive, and projects are easily shared back and forth between collaborators via Dropbox. Thanks to Ben’s expertise, our two children’s books are available to download from the iBook store so that the students’ parents can upload them to their iDevices and enjoy the books from home.  Those families who do not have iDevices were still able to access the books through publishing on issuu.com.

It is our hope that this resource that we have created will encourage others to thoughtfully and intentionally teach their young students the basic etiquette for using social media.  As our students mature and age, hopefully they will be able to apply this controlled and guided group practice to their independent use of social media when they are at an appropriate age to manage the responsibility of being in such a public venue.