Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tools of Interaction

One of my favourite synchronous tools for interacting with my students is Skype. I do a text-based Skype session with my class every week as a way to practice the skills taught in the lessons (housed on our website). I think it's fantastic because the students get immediate feedback on errors and can save the chat for future review. The system I use for correction is to simply use their name in parenthesis with the corrected statement, and this doesn't interrupt the flow of the class at all, but they can look at the saved chat later to analyze their errors.

I have been using Skype video as well when there are just two of us (a limitation of Skype is that you can only use video for two people at a time) and I like that when there is a misunderstanding, I can type a word, phrase of reference instead of interrupting.

I also like putting a face to the name of the students in my class. My students role play in groups of 3 using Skype audio and I find the ability for a nurse in Israel to connect with nurses in Winnipeg very rewarding. I declare my presence by regularly changing the phrase or comment beside my name, using it also to announce the chat time for the week.

So, as you can see, we depend heavily on the variety of options offered through Skype to teach the material and keep us connected. The feedback from students regarding Skype is very positive. We have tried WiZiQ and are currently trying ooVoo, which have the advantage of video for 6 people at once. Somehow, we keep going back to Skype though (our comfort food, perhaps?)

It may not be original or fascinating, but the asynchronous tool I like most is the discussion board on our website. I tell the students to think of it as an extension of my living room and encourage them to visit it frequently. I am impressed by the learning which takes place as people read and respond to each other's postings. It keeps people happy, connected, and part of a community which can gather 24-hours per day, 7 days per week. This is a far cry from the two afternoons per week that I used to see my class, with no communication in between (yes, I'm that old).

The simple combination of Skype and a discussion board has resulted in (what I see as) a successful online program where students feel they are being seen and heard no matter where they live, and are part of a learning process that will lead to their professional success as nurses in Manitoba.

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