Google+ Filled With Minuses

Using Google+, I just participated in a synchronous video conversation with my classmate. Prior to tonight’s synchronous event, we sent Moodle messages and emails to determine which mode of communication we would utilize for our participation in a synchronous event. We selected Google+ because we both have Gmail accounts and neither one of us had previously used Google+.

Prior to tonight’s “live” conversation, I found out that Google+ and Hangouts are one and the same. I found the icon to take me to the Hangout. I found out that I needed to start circles so that I would be able to connect with my classmate. I learned how to send an Instant Message through Google+; however, when I went to send a follow up message, I was unable to write any further text. It’s as if the chat room vanished.

When a giant green icon with quotes in it appeared on my computer screen and my computer rang like a telephone, I had no clue how to answer it. I clicked on the giant green icon and the next thing I saw was a person, my classmate who I had not yet met. While the conversation was most enjoyable and the experience fun, we both noticed that the visual of Google+ is nowhere near that of Skype.  While I could see my classmate, his image was unclear and even a bit blurry. Further, while the conversation was delightful (thanks partner!), the audio component also was not as clear as Skype.  There was a slight echo which did not go away, even when I turned down my speakers. When it came time to end the video call, we concurred that neither one of us really knew how to end the call. Instructions or icons would have been helpful as would the message option as Skype offers.

I would have no problem setting up video chat appointments with students. Talking face-to-face, so to speak, offers an opportunity to build a connection and have a genuine discussion. I could actually envision using a synchronous event to conference with students about their assignments. However, I would opt to use Skype because it offers a better video connection, clear audio, a message option, and has a short learning curve, whereas Google+ has a poor video image, an audio that echoes, and a learning curve that twists too much.  Thus, Google+ rates a minus in terms of using it for synchronous communication events.

Time to Break the Silence

The question, “As an online student, which form of interaction do you feel is most effective for you, synchronous, or asynchronous? Why?” intrigues me because my reaction to it surprises me.  While I like the idea of having an avatar as in the “Comparing 2D to 3D Learning” YouTube video, the reality is that right now as an online student I prefer asynchronous communication. In part, I think it is because synchronous communication is readily available as an option through Elluminate on Moodle or by telephone.  If I had a matter of urgent concern, synchronous communication would be my “go to” method; however, I enjoy the ability to read discussion posts or tweets from my #TT1411 classmates or check updates in diigo without regard to a clock or scheduled appointment.

Unlike synchronous communication, there is no need to silence any speaker to send a message or an email or to respond to a discussion post. Asynchronous communication forces me to be direct and focused. It also allows me to multi-task. For example, as I process this question and consider my words to respond to this discussion question, the Canadian and German Olympic curling teams are moving stones or rocks down a long ice alley toward a target with a broom. I enjoy the background of athletic rumblings and a commentator talking about a “hammer” as a backdrop to my studies which exemplifies asynchronous timing. The event to which I’m listening occurred yesterday. Asynchronous communication which suggests the ideal that communication would not be in sync is rather an opportunity to be in sync with one’s self.  I’m able to communicate with others on my schedule; others communicate with me on their schedule.

Admittedly, I am most assuredly looking forward to synchronous communication with a classmate. Sometimes the silence needs broken.

FuzeBox, Inc., Offers Real-Time Growth Opportunities

FuzeBox, Inc., which launched online in 2009, offers a free online meeting site. To participate in a FuzeBox video conference, FuzeBox recommends that users (host and participants invited to attend) should run a diagnostic test. FuzeBox technology checks software compatibility, the web camera, and the audio components of the user’s computer. One would be wrong in thinking that if all is well in the diagnostic test that all will go well in the video conference.

Many employers utilize FuzeBox and companies like it to host group interview sessions. Employers, conscious of time, conclude that it is economically better to host a group session of 15 candidates for one hour than to host sessions with 15 individual candidates. Economically, the FuzeBox forum makes sense if the position is a collaborative one.

I had an opportunity to participate in a group interview held on FuzeBox. While my pre-interview diagnostics went well and signing into the meeting went without a hitch, once in the meeting, I only heard silence. I could see the other candidates; I presume they were able to see me. However, it was like watching a silent movie. Mouths moved, but no words came out of them.

This led me to face a technology conundrum. Results-driven and resolution-oriented, I needed a solution. I ended up maintaining video and chat capabilities and calling into the meeting. Talk about multitasking! I’m not sure how one would enter the conversation if not logged in online.  To answer a question, the user  hit a “raise a red flag” button. Once one speaker finished, the audio automatically went to the next user who indicated a desire to contribute. This option is unavailable by telephone.

Given my challenge with the FuzeBox technology, I’m unlikely to use its forum again.  However, it challenged me to resolve the situation in the best way I knew too at the time.  I learned about a new use for technology, a group interview. I’ve learned that running a diagnostic test is not enough. The next time, I’ll contact the web conference company technology support team to confirm that my computer system complies during the time I need it to function to the best of its ability.   Meanwhile, I’ll stick with Skype.


Cell Phones as a Teaching Tool

#TT1411 students were asked to answer one question: Would you consider the integration of cell phone technologies into your teaching?  Students were to consider messages, reminders, and polls as possible implementations of cell phone technologies and were to choose from among three answers: very likely, thinking about it….maybe, or not likely at all, Students then had three technologies from which to choose as to how to answer the poll question: cell phone with text capability, web, or Twitter. I responded that I was not likely at all to use cell phone technologies in my teaching, and I chose to cast my vote on the web at

Polls, like surveys, are used to gather information. According to the website, polls and surveys differ in that “a poll is small, simple and quick”. Typically, polls ask one question and offer two to three answer choices. On the other hand, surveys tend to be more reflective and open-ended. Thus, it’s easy to see the possibility of using cell phone technology as a polling device or to send text messages or reminders to students. For example, if a guest speaker has only one available date and the date is for the upcoming class, a good way to check possible attendance (and potential benefit to the class) would be to set up a cell phone poll to ask: Possibility of guest speaker. Will you be in class tomorrow?  Two answer choices would be offered: Yes or No. If the class overwhelmingly voted No, I would cancel the guest speaker’s visit. Text messaging could be used to individually respond to or clarify student questions. Further, a general announcement text or a reminder text to the entire class could alert students of a class cancellation, a room change, or an assignment deadline.

Because students would receive or respond at different times, using cell phone technologies for polls, text messages, and reminders or announcements exemplify asynchronous communication. Interestingly, as I think about why I voted as I did, it boils down to how I view cell phone technologies. While I see the possibilities and practicalities of implementing cell phone technologies in a classroom, I view cell phone technologies as a tool for synchronous communication. For me, my cell phone connects me in “real time” to those near and dear to me. Since most of my loved ones are at a median mileage of 789 miles away from me, my cell phone serves as a tool to talk to my loved ones no matter how much geographic distance is between us. Admittedly, I occasionally use my cell phone for business; however, I prefer to maintain my cell phone as a synchronous tool to talk to loved ones, rather than to use it as an asynchronous tool to text, announce, remind, or poll students.