Lessons in new media: don’t forget the old, simple stuff

Interesting experience at the Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) #change11 during this week’s live session. One of the main lessons: do not underestimate simple tools.

First, the presentation by professor Zoraini’s project of implementing mobile technology in Open University Malaysia. It demonstrated how using good old sms helped motivating and guiding the students.

On Not Worth Printing I read a skeptical reaction, asking for objective measures, other than student satisfaction, to demonstrate the effectiveness of the sms technology.

In my humble opinion, it would be great to have those additional insights, but I think that the participants’ satisfaction is a very important issue.

Web conferencing

My reflection has not only to do with the content of the presentation, but also with the tools we used. We started out using the open-source web conferencing software bigbluebutton for distance education. Unfortunately, the more than 60 participants made the poor thing crash and burn.

Good old Twitter was being used as a backchannel, and so we learned that there was another venue we could use in the amazing cyberspace: fuzemeeting.com, yet another web conferencing thingie. Thanks to diligent retweeting, quite some participants made it to that ‘place’.

However, some experienced audio problems and asked for help, using the chat-module of the web conferencing tool. They were saved by a simulcast on livestream.com/ett (EdTechTalk).

Looking at the MOOC-course, a maze of venues, platforms and tools, I think that one of the most popular pieces of it is the Daily Newsletter, aggregating coming events, blog posts, discussion threads and comments.

Second Life

I also started my other course, Awakening the Digital Imagination: A Networked Faculty-Staff Development Seminar. This live session took place in Second Life. One might say that this is a higher level of complexity: using an avatar in a 3D virtual world. However, we kept the technicalities very simple: avatars sitting around a campfire, using voice and text chat. It worked perfectly well – we discussed the text As We May Think (Vannevar Bush). Call be a Second Life fanboy, but I still prefer the immersiveness of the virtual world experience above the ordinary web conferencing tools.

meeting in second life

One has the very real feeling of sharing a same space, of being embodied. People socialize before, after and during the conversation. I have the feeling the whole experience leads to much deeper connections. We have a group blog for the Second Life participants and there is an infohub for the project at large.

My conclusion: even at the frontiers of new media simple text-based tools help a lot to keep things organized and people motivated. Do not neglect newsletters, Twitter-messages, chat modules or even sms!

Read also: Deconstructing learning through social media
The group blog virtualworldnmfsfall11

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8 Responses to Lessons in new media: don’t forget the old, simple stuff

  1. foveros says:

    **shudder** second life **shudder** I think that massive online games work because there is some sort of shared enterprise – Second Life on the other hand is silly seeing virtual avatars sit around a virtual fire doing voice chat or text chat.

    • Rainbowhill says:

      Entitled to your opinion foveros. I’m going to leave it at that.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, it does not work for everyone. As I said in the post, for me it works: I have a more intense feeling of connection sharing that ‘space’ with others, it also motivates me to keep up doing the posting and the reading. In open & distance courses everyone looks for the techniques which work for her or for him, that’s why I like the MOOC: it incites people  to try out  many platforms. 

  2. Rainbowhill says:

    If it weren’t for the #change11 back-channel it is hard to see how the alternative live session would have got up and running so quickly. It is nice to see how you have found the connection between that observation and the one Zoraini was trying to get across with her presentation. Hitting distance learners with SMS relevant to the course, and reminding them to participate in the forums encouraged them to feel part of the student community. User perceptions and measures of student satisfaction are just as important (if not more important than) double blind empirical studies.

    With such a large captive audience at OUM it will be interesting to see how Zoraini responds to these criticisms in future studies.

    An observation of mine; we see txt based web mediated communication and SMS as old school? It is less than 20 years old. Imagine how it appears in the developing world, or to young people. People are not born with digital proclivities. This is learned behaviour we are exhibiting.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, you’re right of course – txt based web mediated stuff and SMS is not that very old, yet it somehow feels like those communication forms ‘always’ have been there. 

      But for me the crucial distinction has to do with complexity. In my newsroom I organize a daily chat session with our newspaper community. I’d love to use Second Life for it, because I really think it has a high immersive intensity, but this would exclude for too many participants: firewall issues, hardware and broadband limitations, the fact that even headsets are not common equipment in many offices. So I use text chat (via CoverItLive) which seems to work perfectly well. 

  3. Anonymous says:

    We’ve been discussing this in the #nmfs_f11 here at Berkeley–how to change or supplement our pedagogy in order to add these web tools to our teaching. I began teaching a hybrid writing class 3 semesters ago and did a lot of tweaking while teaching. In using Prezi with students, I was happy to see that one of the Prezi guides suggests putting ideas on note cards–in a sense drafting the Prezi–before creating the Prezi. So that fits in perfectly with my ideas about drafting and prewriting.  And it was done with old-fashioned pencils and paper 🙂

    • Anonymous says:

      nothing wrong with pencils and paper. However, I do like putting my ‘notecards’ up in Second Life, shifting them around so as to form clusters, then walk around with other avatars to comment on them. It’s like a very simple 3D mindmap.

  4. Anonymous says:

    nothing wrong with pencils and paper. However, I do like putting my ‘notecards’ up in Second Life, shifting them around so as to form clusters, then walk around with other avatars to comment on them. It’s like a very simple 3D mindmap. 

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