19) Try a new video conferencing tool
I did not try a new one this summer, but as a Fablearn Fellow this year I have had plenty of new experiences, some positive, with several of these tools. The fellows meet monthly via video conference, sometimes as many as 18 people. Our first attempt, in January, was with WebEx, and it was not great. Not too bad, but the sound quality was bad unless all but one person were on mute, there was a great deal of feedback, and it was a bit hard to manage the chat window and the conference window. We have done several of our other monthly meetings in Zoom, which is better, but still a bit hard to get used to. The chat window and the main window and the views of the individuals are difficult to see if someone is sharing their screen. And the sound is still better with most people on mute. Headphones also really help (and don’t we all look cute in them?). We have also held several smaller meetings with Google Hangout (limited to 10 people I think). It is great for a very small group.
20) Try out a backchannel tool
It is interesting how people respond to having a backchannel. I remember coming out of the global week experience thinking that the tool was not ready for this many people, or maybe our wifi couldn’t handle it. Some people found it frustrating and so distracting they could not look at the backchannel. I remember that happening when we had one in a faculty meeting (back when Matt M. was at Casti, I think). I actually quite liked it, because I felt that I could make some points in the backchannel and I did not need to make them in the discussion. I think with students it would be very interesting to try it out in the smaller setting of a single classroom. I was at a conference this summer where twitter was encouraged as a backchannel, and I did find myself tweeting back and forth at one point during a lecture with the woman sitting next to me. We were having fun with it, but I am not sure it made us great listeners.
In class, I am thinking of something a bit more contained, either a Google doc or a discussion in the class portal, for an online discussion to go with classroom activities. It might also be good to have some kind of backchannel discussion for certain types of project and homework. I might have to give some more thought to how that could be helpful for some students, but not too distracting for others.