Posted by: | 10th Jun, 2009

Synchronous Communication Tools

I’m really liking the E-learning toolkit activities. This week, I’ve spent several hours tinkering with various synchronous communication tools including Skype and Wimba. It is quite easy to recognize the value of these tools, especially in light of this week’s Anderson (2008) reading where the key attributes of online learning were discussed. As a learner in the MET program, I can attest that a good online learning design needs to incorporate synchronous communication tools in order to foster appropriate interactions between teacher-learner, learner-learner, learner-knowledge, and learner-community. Selfishly, I am most interested in using these tools to increase interactions between learners and the community outside of my school. One of my professional goals is to go outside the confines of the school walls in order to tap into the vast network of outside expertise and knowledge. I had planned on using synchronous tools to enable me to do so. I just think it’s silly to try to be a teacher know it all these days when there are others who are more capable and who don’t mind helping out. For example, recently my class and I started to study about the Holocaust. I know very little about the Holocaust, but managed to put a decent unit together. This is fine, but I can’t help but think that I could have been joined by an expert in the field. Bringing an expert in by Skype or Wimba might just be what the doctor ordered.

And so I tried out Skype…..

The download was quick and it installed on my Mac with no trouble at all. After that the sign-up process took minutes and I was all set to test things out. With no contacts, or no knowledge of Skype etiquette, I was hesitant to make a call. I used the search function to locate a number of a pizza delivery service in Brazil that guaranteed delivery in 45 minutes or less. I clicked on the green phone icon, and heard the call going through. The following transcribes my call:

Pizza Guy : something in Portugese

Me: Hi, can I make a delievery order?

Pizza Guy: What?

Me: I want to order a pizza and I wonder if your 45 minute guarantee applies to me?

Pizza Guy: You have to be kidding me

Pizza Guy: hangs up

The point is that the call worked and it was free, opening up a huge world of possibilities for my teaching practices. What I do worry about, however, is how to support my guest experts who may not be familiar with Skype. Perhaps they aren’t skilled with technology at all. I wonder if someone has designed a tutorial for this purpose. I’m going to check!



Skype is a great tool. I use it all the time; in fact Skype is my long distance phone carrier: I pay $3/month for unlimited in North America and have a bank of time to call family and friends overseas.

For your Holocaust module, contact the US Holocaust museum: they might have someone who can Skype in to your class–or know how to put you in touch with a local survivor (there are some in BC).

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