Small changes in “Lectures” – ustream, votapedia

Sometime in the next month I have to develop the presentation I’ll be giving at EDUCAUSE’09. The plan is to give this presentation at my host institution before EDUCAUSE and also to try some new technologies to make the spread of the presentation greater in terms of breadth and interaction. This is the start of some reflection and planning for that event.

I’d love to hear from folk their experience or suggestions.

A Problem

My current institution is spread across many physical campuses – 100s and 1000s of kilometers apart – that are connected via networks and some are serviced by a video-conference system. Most of the original campuses have rooms specifically designed to support and deliver presentations/lectures between groups spread across campuses. But there’s a problem, the number of rooms available for these activities is now limited, it’s becoming a bottleneck.

In addition, a significant portion of our student body are distance education students. That is, they never set foot on a campus. These students cannot currently (in general) participate in these video-conference sessions. They can eventually view a recording, but they can’t participate in the live session – both viewing and responding.

In my current role, I want to play around with some technologies and practices that might help solve those problems.

Don’t deny another’s reality

In this TED talk Emily Levine talks about many interesting things, but one of the points that resonated with me was the following idea taken from theatresports

You can’t deny another person’s reality, only build on it

It resonates with me because I’m a firm believe in agile, emergent of ateleological design. i.e. you make small, meaningful changes, think about what happened and then try another small, meaningful change.

Radical change that requires long term planning, a lot of money and significant complexity strikes me as high risk, high expense and as closing off the possibility of learning (i.e. if you’ve spent so much money doing this, it can’t possibly be wrong).

It’s not a technology job

I can hear some that this is a job for the IT department. It it is the job of the IT department to evaluate new technologies, judge their appropriateness, select the appropriate approach and then implement it effectively.

Ahh, no.

Such approaches are generally radical, high risk, expensive and tend to be used minimaly and usually inappropriately. The important point about any new technology for learning and teaching is how much and how well it is used. Such considerations need much broader consideration and insight than typically held by most IT departments.

This is not to suggest that IT departments aren’t knowledgeable about technology. It is to suggest that they typically don’t know much about learning and teaching and getting academics to improve/change their learning and teaching.

E-learning is not a job for IT.

Some early plans

My current plans are essentially to experiment with

  • a live streaming service,
  • an alternate clicker service, and perhaps
  • a back channel.

Versions of these services that require very little change from current practice on the part of the organisation, the presenters and the other participants.

The intent is to allow anyone, from anywhere (assuming they have an internet connection) to participate meaningfully in the presentation. To watch it and also answer questions, make suggestions and comments.

A live streaming service

The plan is to use something like to stream the presentation. This means anyone, anywhere should be able to watch the presentation. Importantly, the aim is to have this ustream be generated by the existing infrastructure within the video-conference rooms on-campus.

This minimises the need for change in what I do. I don’t have to play with my laptop and get it configured for ustream. It also means that the class, whiteboard and document cameras that are available in these rooms can also be automatically included in the ustream. For academic staff who have spent time developing skills in using these rooms this is important. It also broadens the experience the student can have, not just the talking head of the presenter.

As it turns out the local IT department think this is quite straight forward and are actively helping with the experiment. Thanks Dave and Chris.

Alternate clicker service

I don’t like the idea of clickers from publishers. Especially because they need all the students to be in the one room. I’m hoping to use an alternate service that enables anyone, anywhere to “use the clicker”. At the moment, I’m thinking of using Votapedia as talked about on this earlier post.

Currently, I’m seeing the clicker as the formal way I can encourage audience interaction during the presentation.

Back channel

I also want to have some other mechanism to provide an informal method for audience participation. One that I – as presenter – don’t control but one that I can benefit from by seeing comments and thoughts from a broad array of folk.

Twitter is currently looking like the front-runner here.

To do

Tasks to do:

  • Catch up on my RSS feeds as I think some folk I follow have done work in this area recently.
  • Search out literature on clickers, in particular the design of activities using clickers.
  • Experiment with votapedia and twitter mechanisms for formal and informal interaction.
  • Work with the IT department on getting ustream working.
  • Write the presentation.

2 thoughts on “Small changes in “Lectures” – ustream, votapedia

  1. Pingback: Alternative audience response systems – web, twitter and mobile phone « The Weblog of (a) David Jones

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