Wednesday, September 19, 2007

News Flash!

Kristin Hokanson is a technology integration mentor in Upper Merion, Pennsylvania, and she recently introduced me to a great Flash-based videoconferencing tool called Flashmeeting. Flashmeeting is very easy to use from both meeting attendee and meeting booker perspectives. The interface allows for one person at time to speak using audio and video. Other meeting attendees can text chat at the same time. Link and file sharing, voting and virtual whiteboards are some of Flashmeeting's other features. Meetings are recorded and can be viewed again at a later time. These replays are editable, and meeting minutes containing the chat log, voting records, files and URLs. These can also be saved PDFs.

To book a Flashmeeting, you must jump through a few hoops and fit certain criteria as Flashmeeting is part of a research initiative at the Centre for New Media within the Knowledge Media Institute at The Open University in the United Kingdom. Data from meetings are used for research, so you must agree to having events recorded.

A week or so ago, I booked my first Flashmeeting as a meeting space for a Ning I
created, the Global Education Collaborative. Sunday night's meeting was a trial run for me. I thought I had booked a meeting for Sunday, September 16th, at 8PM CST, but I actually had booked it a day earlier as FlashMeeting's server is on UK time. Of course, they caution users about this, but I obviously didn't quite get it. Just prior to the announced meeting time, I scrambled to schedule another meeting for the correct time, and shot off the new meeting URL to potential attendees. Fortunately, about 10 or so people popped into our conference over the next two hours and great connections and conversations ensued.

Sharon Peters of LEARN was one of the first people to join the conference, and this Canadian is a treasure trove of knowledge. She has experience to back up her ideas about global education, and she cited many resources of which I had not previously been aware (view the replay to find out her recommendations). I was multitasking during our Flashmeeting, and I noticed Kim Cofino, the Elementary 21st Century Literacy Specialist at the International School Bangkok in Thailand, submit a message via Twitter, a sort of group instant messaging service. I sent her a direct twit with the link to our meeting and she subsequently joined us, fresh with ideas from the Learning 2.0 conference in Shanghai, China. I also noticed my friend, Westley Field, from Sydney, Australia, online via iChat and quickly sent him the link to our meeting. He joined the conference and told us all about his work at the MLC School and with Teen Second Life.

Early in the meeting, Sharon said that global collaborations happen when people
develop personal connections. If that is a criterion for successful projects, then I think Flashmeeting definitely can facilitate the necessary relationship building.  It was a truly invigorating online meeting, and you can see for yourself by watching this edited replay. Check out the meeting notes,too, for a flurry of URLS that were shared. I look forward to holding more Flashmeetings and connecting with educators world-wide. Let me know of your interest by stopping by the Global Education Collaborative ning site and leaving a message!