Friday, March 14, 2008

Venturing into 'new' tools?

Am on leave today... but that created the opportunity to 'play' with an online tool - "Chat". Haha... In fact, it was a very imprompt to (on Thursday) to ask everyone in the subject cluster to go into the chat on the following day - it was an appointment, and there's a mission to accomplish... hahaha...

Don't be surprise... Am really new to chat, although such a tool exists for ages. Well, different people have different strengths - that's where we could embrace diversity and one's strength(s) to complement each other, right??? :P

Chat has exists for ages but I have not been bothered how to use it... despite the fact everyone - colleagues, students had talked about it.

The motivation...

  • The Fear factor. No, no, no... I'm not joking. Yes, I was worry after attending Monday's eLearning workshop. Maybe I should re-position it... it''s driven by Needs... since we are going to model the use of the tool when conducting the eLearning model in May! So, time to catch up...
  • Yeap, "Chat" is one of the most basic collaborative tool when one could not do a face-to-face meet-up. This morning would not be fruitful if without the participation of peers! Thanks, folks! Yeap, something we can't quite experiment on our own... and certainly, it requires people who are game enough to explore to make the experience a good one :D

The experience...

  • For a first-timer, excitement and anxiety - the moment when we first got connected to others and start to manage the little icons/hyperlinks in the little dialogue window.
  • Impatience - it really goes back to how fast one thinks and how fast one types! hahaha... and especially when we don't 'see' any action from the others. What crossed my mind? "What's happening over the other side?". Do you notice that as far as one types, it is reflected on others' screen that "so-and-so is typing"? It's also exciting to see when more than one started to respond at the same time. It's an indication that one is around. Of course, when there's silence, that doesn't mean the others are not engaged in front of the computer - they could be thinking.
  • Oh yes, being away from the office added 'authenticity' to the activity - when one fellow could not do any face-to-face query... all help and guidance has to go through the 'chat'... Can't possibly ask students to do all discussions via the handphone or via mass emails, right? BTW, folks at Level 14 did a good job in saving me handling 3 separate chat windows! hahaha... U made it!

Learning points...

We are able to pre-empt better the kind of problems that one has to look into so that users can emerge in a 'conducive environment' for an activity via the platform. There are at least 2 aspects - the user psyche and the technical aspect.

  • For all to participate in such synchronous activity - the first important step is: Coordintation (a) REPORTING TIME to go into the chatroom! How do we know if all's there? Using GMail, the 'presence' will be reflected when one logs in. (b) Who is going to create that Chatroom (ie. who's the one going to initiate and start inviting others). Yes, need someone to initiate and invite. Beware - 1st time users can be so confused and would probably create several rooms and going into the wrong rooms! Hey, this was what we experience!
  • The Focus of the discussion - Yes, we're there for a purpose - it's not just casual talk and say hello. We wanted everyone to contribute constructively. To make the session fruitful, we have to define the topic of discussion. It would be even better if we know the topic before the session, ponder over it and start rattling when we meet online. This will also give a better control over the amount of time (for this meeting). In our maiden attempt, setting up a smooth-operating environment is at the top of our agenda since many of us (in the team) are not that familiar with group chat... It took longer than expected (only allocated 1 hour for that). But I thought the time spent is useful, for us to share the experience and "how to overcome these potential hitches" with our participants in the workshop. Of course, the one who gain most ought to be the team, as we go the chance to experience it! Hey, this is experiential learning :D
  • We also discover the "log (tracking/recording)" feature - that the dialogue is automatically logged in under the 'chat' page. #1: It captures the learning process! We had a hard time thinking, how online chat can be 'recorded' as an evidence of learning process. When the activity is designed with this in mind, one could easily retrieve segments to illustrate the learning. #2: We can always surface pertinent points in the discussion as follow-up. Of course, as a teacher, to monitor pupils' participation - Ah ha... whether they have 'attended' the virtual class!
  • It could be chaotic when there are 'side' conversations in the same chat room. For instance, we might be asking for a response from a particular participant, however, did not specify whom the message is targetted at. The rest may be confused? To answer or not to? So, some kind of norm has to be established.
  • Back to reality - all would not be smooth unless all technical issues are resolved...
  • Browser - different browsers (Internet Explorer or Firefox) results different 'look' of the platfom. On Monday, we noticed that not all systems support GTalk (oh yes, can't find the icon on Kevin's iBook). Today, we notice that different versions of Internet Explorer also offers different degree of access - IE7 allows the user to initiate a group chat whereas IE6 behaves more passively, waiting for others to invite. See? If all of us acted so quickly to resolve the problem by installing Firefox, then would not be able to tease out this workable way... who knows? our students use different versions/types of browsers - it's obvious that teacher has to anticipate and be able to guide pupils to work around the problem.

The (shared) Calendar...

  • The Calendar can help to coordinate - especially when it involves a group of people. Time and date - of course, it's also every participants' responsibility to visit and see his/her calendar, as well as the shared calendar.
  • Discovered that we can add others' calendars to ours - so convenient! While we can maintain our own personal calendar, we can also reflect events of others' calendars on ours! Good for planning :D
  • There's the "Discusssion" / "Add comment" feature available in the calendar feature, too! That is helpful in disseminating info or inviting inputs/feedback for a particular event.
  • Oh! It comes with a 'security' measure - only those who have been invited can add in comments - and of course, it's the login username that's reflected there... so can monitor who have input or not, based on the replies
  • Also discover one 'constraint', ie. no one can delete/hind/amend the comment once it's up (even the owner of the calendar). Ah ha! That reminds users to exercise responsibility in speeches!

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