Sunday, July 17, 2011

Blackboard Collaborate

My professor asked us to look at a scenario and figure out what type of distance learning technology we would use to remedy the problem. The scenario is as follows:

A high school history teacher, located on the west coast of the United States, wants to showcase to her students new exhibits being held at two prominent New York City museums. The teacher wants her students to take a "tour" of the museums and be able to interact with the museum curators, as well as see the art work on display. Afterward, the teacher would like to choose two pieces of artwork from each exhibit and have the students participate in a group critique of the individual work of art. As a novice of distance learning and distance learning technologies, the teacher turned to the school district’s instructional designer for assistance. In the role of the instructional designer, what distance learning technologies would you suggest the teacher use to provide the best learning experience for her students?
I began to peruse my textbook looking for a new idea to remedy this situation. Now as a first grade teacher in a low income area I have no real working knowledge of distance learning technologies, but I love to Skype and video chat with my family that is scattered all over the country. When I came to the section on desktop two-way audio/video I knew I had come across my answer.  But the first sentence talked about this technology being costly and cumbersome (Simonson, 2009), which was hard to believe having used Skype for free a million times. But as I started hunting I came across Blackboard Collaborate.
The website explains that it is a combination of Wimba and Elluminate. If I just sounded like I was speaking some foreign language, have no fear, I am going to keep it simple!

These programs offer users the abilities to have more engaging collaborations by using web, video and audio conferencing, instant messaging and a host of other options. The main focus for my assignment was the web and video conferencing.
Their video conferencing used a bevy of wonderful additions to my basic idea of video chats. Blackboard Collaborate offers not just teleconferencing, but also the ability to use 6 simultaneous cameras, live chat, use log ins with profiles, and an interactive whiteboard space. You can look at this link to see a video on how this technology works at, Introduction to Blackboard Collaborate Web Conferencing. But as educators in this day and age we must always remember that the key to success in the classroom “is not which technologies are used, but how they car used and what information is communicated using the technologies” (Simonson, 2009).
I felt like the teacher in the scenario could use the Blackboard Collaborate program with the museum curators to create the tour and then hold a lecture. The teacher could work together with the museum staff to create a whiteboard presentation on the exhibits. On the day of the “tour” the experts would join in with the class via teleconferencing. They would be visible on the Audio and Video panel. Each student could log in to the site for a live chat with the presenter, and the teacher could even have a microphone set up for a question answer session. This program offers a wealth of options for how to construct a distance learning experience, and that paired with a great lesson plan and a partnership with experienced professionals will lead to a very interesting and educational experience for the students.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson

If you are interested and want to know EVEN more about Blackboard Collaborate check out this video:

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