Global communication projects require participants to make connections with each other using synchronous and asynchronous communications. Synchronous communications involve participants connecting with each other live or at one given time. This type of communication may be accomplished via text and audio/video technologies. Skype and FaceTime are examples of video chats while Back Channel websites and instant messaging are examples of synchronous communications involving text only. Asynchronous communications allow participants to communicate with each other without having to be some where at any given time. In asynchronous communications participants can collaborate and communicate by leaving messages to a group, editing online spaces that multiple participants have access to, or by sending an email and have full confidence that partners will be able to view, listen to, edit, and contribute to the conversation. Knowing and understanding the technologies that support both of these types of communications increase the chances for a successful project.
Using both types of communications have been essential in my career as an educator. This summer we began a 1:1 iPad implementation that required professional development and conversation around the integration of technology. Employees of our school district our on vacation for nearly 10 weeks during the summer yet professional development had to occur. Many teachers, including myself, were away on vacation, attending conferences or simply unable to attend physical classes. Using both synchronous and asynchronous communications, we were able to hold viable professional development on a weekly basis throughout the summer.
I first created a Facebook Group for our school district around the subject of iPad applications. This asynchronous means of communication served as a space for teachers to post links to applications and websites that others might find useful as they began a search of applications to include on the student iPads in the fall. This Facebook group page continues to serve as a space for thoughtful conversations related to iPads and their use in our school district. Members of the group did not need to friend each other on Facebook in order to be a part of the conversation. This act respected the privacy of employees who wanted to separate their personal life from their professional life yet continue to use a communication tool they employees were comfortable with. The downside of the Facebook group was that not all employees were members of Facebook. These employees needed to rely on email to communicate their findings and others took responsibility for posting these findings on the group page.
I also investigated methods of synchronous communications that were comparable to Eluminate, the online, collaborative software that provides space for an online class among other means of communications. Enter WizIQ, an online teaching platform that allows a user to create classes and courses at a reasonable rate, sometimes free. Each week I uploaded content, invited staff members and held an online class. Sometimes I held the class on campus and several staff members who preferred to have face to face contact attended in person. Several staff members attended from the comfort of their own home, asking questions in the chat as the class moved along. I did quite a bit of traveling this summer so many classes were held from lobbies and living rooms of various cities. All I needed was a fast internet connection. And though I considered these classes synchronous because people attended virtually at the prescribed time, all classes were recorded and many teachers listened to the recordings if they were unable to attend due to time zone differences. I taught ten classes in this manner and thoroughly enjoyed the level of communication WizIQ allowed for our teachers this summer.
The classes on WizIQ were private but the link to my profile is not. If you are interested in watching some of these let me know.
I've participated in three Flat Classroom® Projects. All of these projects involved both synchronous and asynchronous communications and I became quite adept at using them both inside and outside of the classroom. What I'd like to do in the future is utilized Eluminate or WizIQ technologies with multiple classes in a project. I consider the teacher meetings for these projects, and for these classes, incredible opportunities to connect with outstanding educators from all over. I'd like to take part in connecting students in a similar manner. When students have increased opportunities to connect, communicate and collaborate with each other the more equipped for a global, digital world they will be. I hope to educate colleagues about these technologies, provide opportunities for global collaboration and encourage them to participate in such projects.