Saturday, July 14, 2012

Useful Web Applications for Virtual Teaching

It seems to be that blended learning has almost become an obligatory part of the teaching/learning process, at least in a 21st century settings. But you as a classroom teacher can easily blend your teaching if your particular context allows for it.

I'd like to suggest some sites that you could use for when virtual learning is required. I am talking about the days in which, for example, you have to be absent from school because you broke a toe (or a nail...) . Or maybe you would just like to give your students a brief after–school reinforcement of the content for a test (yes, you care about them enough).

Check these out:

  • This is a Facebook app that allows you to switch it into study mode. You do not need to be friends (on FB) with your students to interact with them. You just need to start session, and a link will be provided for you to share with participant for them to join. Once in the session you can live video–conference with up to ten people at the same time. There is a chat room and also a nifty "doodle" option for mouse writing with which you can record a short video explaining a process. One of the things that set apart is the "smart chat" which allows for easy input of symbols and mathematical operators. This comes in pretty handy especially for Math and Science instruction. It's pretty neat and several instructors are already using it. It is free, of course.

  • Skype Premium. You could also try this one if you are willing to pay for an upgrade to your free Skype account. It has all the chat options you find in any IM service. You can also share your screen. Just make sure you have enough bandwidth to operate several people at the same time.

Photo Credit: Steve Sherman
  • Google+ Hangout. This one is a superstar, or at least is rapidly becoming one withing the niche. You need to have a Google+ account to use it and you do not need to have your students in any circle.  All you do is start a hangout and copy the link to share.  It is very stable and allows up to ten people at the same time. As usual, there is a chat feature which might not be the best one but it floats your boat. Just like with Skype, it has screen share feature, plus a series of apps to enrich the interacting experience. If you wish, you can record your session through Hangout Live and it will automatically upload to YouTube. This service is available in selected countries, though. You should go and check it out. This service is rising and becoming popular among educators.

  • Spreecast. You've probably not heard of this one; it is in beta mode. However, it is widely used by people from niches other than education. This is like a Ustream channel except for the much nicer and more social UI and features. You can have up to 4 people on video at the same time but the interaction between other attendees through the chat, Twitter or Facebook is simply awesome. If you have FB account, you can sign in with it. Every session is recorded automatically and available on demand. I can see entire blog posts about how to use this service for education coming, if not already (if you know of any please share it with me!).

So, which one is you favorite? Do you know about any other? 
I hope you have a nice time blending your instruction and being awesome inside and outside your classroom.
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