Learning Spaces: Virtual Conferencing
There are times when synchronous communication is important. Chat and instant messaging, audio and video conferencing are ways to provide this type of real-time interaction. From live awards ceremonies to expert speakers, virtual conferencing allows learners the opportunity to be actively involved in events that would otherwise impossible.
Skim the Webcasts from the Library of Congress. These are shown live as well as archived at the Library of Congress.
Let's explore four ways to interact in real-time web conferencing including chat and instant messaging, audio conferencing, and video conferencing. In addition to these three features, virtual conferencing may also include white boards and shared workspaces such as slide presentations, software applications, and file sharing.
You'll find that many of these tools overlap. For instance, at We Collaborate, they provide forums, a social networking group, and tools such as Blackboard Collaborate.
Chat and Instant Messaging
Instant messaging (IM) involves real-time communication between two or more people through a network such as the Internet. Although instant messaging traditionally involves text-based sharing, many of the IM services now provide tools for sharing images, audio, and video. Libraries often provide multiple tools for communication. Explore the options available from Topeka and Shawnee County Public Libraries.
Many popular social networks such as Facebook have a built-in chat component.
Libraries are increasingly embedding chat widgets on their web pages. Go to the University of Illinoise at Urbana-Champaign's LibGuides page. Notice how the AIM chat is embedded on the page.
Some chat tools require an installation. After installing client software on your computer, you can have real-time text conversations with others who also have the client software installed. Most services have a "presence information" feature that indicates who on your contact list is available.
Although some people still use online chat technology using Internet Relay Chat (IRC), instant messaging is more common today.
Read Instant Messaging: IM Online! RU? by Robert Farmer in EDUCAUSE Review (Volume 40, Number 6, November/December 2005).
A new category called "meeting tools," "feedback tools" or "back channels" are becoming increasingly popular. A temporary area can be set up to share ideas and brainstorm. The meeting and be temporarily archived.
Go to Today's Meet. Create a channel, share the URL and try this with a friend.
- Stinto (free) - basic chat room
- TinyChat (free) - create a chatroom that incorporates audio.
- Today's Meet (free) - a web-based chat tool that's very simple way to hold a text conversation.
Voice over IP refers to using your voice over the Internet like a telephone. This is live, two-way audio communication.
Audio Conferencing Hardware and Software
In addition to a service for conferencing, you'll also need a microphone. Most laptops now have embedded microphones. You can also purchase a microphone for less than $10 that can be plugged into your computer.
Read Skype an Author Network.
- Gizmo Project - acquire by Google, free, closed source, peer-to-peer, Voice over IP network uses open standards technology for Internet phone.
- Google Talk - video and voice
- MeBeam - browser-based video chat
- Skype. This proprietary, closed source, peer-to-peer, Voice over IP network provides some free voice and video conferencing services.
- TokBox - live video calling
Video conferencing is live, two-way communication through audio and video communication. Whether you're down the hall or around the world you can connect with others through live video. Through NASA video and NASA direct events, children are even able to interact with people as far away as the International Space Station. In some cases questions are provided ahead of time, however in other events young people can interact live.
According to a 2010 PewInternet study titled Video Calling and Video Chat, almost a fifth of Americans have tried video calling using services such as Skype, Google Talk, and FaceTime.
Read An Author in Every Classroom: Kids Connecting With Authors VIA Skype by Kate Messner in School Library Journal (September 1, 2010).
Read A Window on the World (2010) by Cindy Phthisic in Instructify. This article explores uses of Skype in the classroom.
Explore Videoconferencing out on a Lim.
Video Conferencing in Learning
There are many applications of video conferencing in the classroom.
Watch videos from Skype's media library to see lots of examples of using Skype in teaching and learning.
Virtual Conferencing Hardware and Software
In addition to software and an Internet connection, you'll also need a web cam and microphone. Some computers such as the new Macs come with a camera and microphone embedded in the monitor. However it's also possible to buy external cameras such as the iSight. You can also purchase an inexpensive "eyeball" type camera or hook up your video camera.
Read Skype Adds 10 Way Calling (2010) in Instructify.
- AOL Instant Messenger (text, audio, video)
- Blackboard Collaborate (text, audio, video, whiteboard). Great for virtual conferences and classes.
- FaceTime (Mac, iPad, iPhone)
- Google Talk (text, audio, video)
- Skype (audio, video)
- MSN Live Messenger (text, audio, video)
- Yahoo Messenger (text, audio, video)
- Speaklike - allows you to chat and communicate in different languages
Videoconferencing from Library Success
Links to the materials in this section can be found in the navigation bar on the left side of this page. Continue to the Learning Spaces: Collaborative Web & Wikis page.