I’m a novitiate webinarian

Today I took part in my first ‘webinar’. (As an English teacher I love creativity with language, but that particular blend doesn’t do it for me. I referred to it as an edumeet in a tweet afterwards, but I don’t think that’s any better. Offers?)

I hadn’t planned to take part, as I didn’t know it existed, but a couple of tweets linking to the Classroom 2.0 live show got me curious and I went along, downloaded the Elluminate web conferencing plugin and signed myself in.

The founder of Classroom 2.0, Steve Hargadon writes:

We strive to make our shows very beginner-friendly, and if you’ve never participated in a live web meeting, don’t be afraid to come and take a peek at the show’s format. We would love for newbies to join us and ‘dip their toes’ in the conversations until you feel comfortable enough to ‘jump in the conversations with both feet’! We want to encourage “experienced Web 2.0 users” to join us and contribute and extend the conversation by providing real-life examples and tips/suggestions.

And that was exactly what we got. In total around 130 people were on board, mainly from the States, but as we were invited to place a virtual pin on a world-map I could see that there were three or four of us in the UK.  As it happens, this week’s topic was Twitter, so it was right where I’m at. As the hour unfolded there was a continuous stream of text chat, with people sharing questions, answers, observations and links, while the audio stream and shared desktop space were largely occupied by one of my early Twitter follows, Rodd Lucier (thecleversheep on Twitter) who offered an imaginative and informative introduction to Twitter, supported by a beautifully put together slide presentation shared direct from his desktop to the Elluminate whiteboard space.

With the meeting going ahead on my laptop I was able to look, listen and learn, and even make a tentative contribution or two in the chat room, while responding to a call from my wife to make coffee, and then waking my daughter from her afternoon nap. Maybe, on a Saturday, I should have devoted more of my attention to those activities, but I was so excited by the new experience and by what I was learning that I didn’t want to click the ‘close door’ button, that shows you’re away, even for five minutes. In future, maybe I’ll be less avid, secure in the knowledge that each week’s show is archived shortly afterwards at the Classroom 2.0 Live website.

So, I found this a great way of stepping up my own learning. What about the possibilities for using tools like this in my own practice as a teacher? One idea that immediately springs to mind is that many colleagues offer revision and support sessions after school. Although I’m resistant to the idea that this kind of extra (unpaid) help should be seen as a right by the students, or as an expectation on the part of teachers, there are occasions when I have done this in the past and would want to do so again, but with a young daughter to collect from nursery it’s not possible. I could certainly see this kind of online audio conferencing with the ability to pull up documents, presentations, websites and the like being a way of extending the learning as I see fit, in a way that suits the time I’ve got. I think it would be more efficient than the sometimes lengthy email exchanges I sometimes get into with students, when I get far too hung up on proof-reading and editing my writing before hitting the ‘send’ button so that an explanation that might take five minutes talking can use an hour of my time on the keyboard.

I also think that an awful lot of wasted time in scheduled school meetings could be replaced by targeted collaboration between relevant staff, meeting online at a time to suit them.  I’d be interested to hear from anyone who uses web conferencing tools in this way.  All I need to do now is overcome my ‘introverted’ personality trait, suggest it to some relevant people who might be sympathetic to the idea, and see if we can’t get this particular ball rolling.

(It’s time to try and make things happen rather than just grumbling that they don’t…

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