tools

Zoom zoom zoom?

As part of the Spring 2016 VCU Online Learning Experience (OLE), I participated in a synchronous video chat using Zoom. While it was the first time I used Zoom, it was not my first time using video chat for communication. I have used Google hangouts, appear.in, Facetime, and Skype at the very least. That being said, this post is about video chatting in general, not about Zoom itself.

I don’t really love the synchronous video chat, personally, but come to think of it, I don’t really like talking on the phone, either. Video adds the added “bonus” of seeing oneself on camera, which can be lovely for some, but not so much for others (myself included in that last group). Still, it can be a useful tool for varied situations.

The idea in the OLE here is to introduce possibilities. There are many. Some will resonate more than others with participants. Some will get excited and decide they want to USE EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD BECAUSE THIS IS ALL SO COOL!

via GIPHY

Yes, I might have been that person at one point. The neat thing is the different perspectives that show up. For example, the conversation that I had in my group talked about various uses of video chat, in small groups and in large groups. Some saw it as a useful tool for one-on-one or small group meetings with students but felt that with more than about 4 people, it becomes unruly. Another possible use was that of recording a chat between a few people and posting it. Another took that a step further and said that it was a good way to get a message out to a large group all at once, where maybe only one to three people were actually videoconferencing while the other hundred folks were engaged in back-channel conversation either within the video chat platform or via something like Twitter. The next thing I know, two of them have figured out how to embed Twitter into their Blackboard course sites to create the back-channel conversation within the LMS they’re required to use. A few minutes after we wrapped up our video chat, one of them tweeted a link with the how-to instructions. As my team leader would say, “Connected learning, FTW.”

Thoughts on Wikipedia

Wikipedia. The largest encyclopedia in the world. Of the world. For the world. We’re talking over 30 million articles in 287 languages, folks. Yet, in some disciplines and by some people, shunned as a source of information.

How then, is it useful for education?  An encyclopedia, by definition, is a summary of information about a plethora of subjects. There are the obvious things: 1) it’s a great starting point for finding general information 2) it can be useful in leading the reader to other possible sources. How about the not so obvious things? Let’s take healthcare as an example. Even if a healthcare professional holds the opinion that the information in Wikipedia is unreliable, you can pretty much bet that there are patients out there using it for information, and it is useful to know what they come to the table with. For students, this is a great starting point for basic information about a topic (disease state? medication? biological process?). What information is essential for the patient to have? What might they misinterpret? How could it be explained better? What references were used in the creation of the article (evaluate one or two). Is the information in the specific Wikipedia article accurate? If not…EDIT IT. Now we’re getting somewhere, aren’t we? Check out what is happening at UCSF, where they are doing exactly that.

What would you do in your own discipline? How could you not just USE Wikipedia, but PARTICIPATE in it?

Oh the thinks we can think, if only we try! ~Dr. Seuss