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Presentation given at the 1st Annual METSMaC Conference (Middle East Teachers of Science, Mathematics, and Computing) - April 26-28,2005, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Online Webcast: Computer mediated communications tools used with teachers and students in virtual communities of practice

By Vance Stevens
Lecturer of Computing, Petroleum Institute, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

This presentation is a demonstration of a quartet of computer-mediated communications tools: Elluminate available through, Talking Communities available through,, and Yahoo Messenger. I will be assisted in this presentation by two online colleagues:

Michael Coghlan in Adelaide
Talking about the use of virtual classroom tools in elearning environments, particularly with focus on the conference theme of Strategies for Effective Learning
Sergei Gridyushko in Minsk
Talking about the recent BelNATE conference as one example of use of these tools in building communities that in turn pitch in to train other teachers in their use.

All are welcome to join the webcast. Here's how to run one:

You need a reliable anchor point and help desk that anyone can reach. I like to use as an anchor for online events. If you need help you can go to the text chat there (log in as a guest if you aren't a member of Tapped In) and someone will be on hand to assist. .

If you have a web cam you can broadcast to us via Yahoo Messenger and we can attempt to keep your cam on our screen as we present from Abu Dhabi. I'm vance_stevens in Yahoo Messenger.

The webcast itself starts at Learning Times at 07:15 GMT Wednesday April 27. Abu Dhabi will try to get there early, by 7:00 GMT if possible. (And Michael Coghlan should be racing home from the suburbs of Adelaide by about this time.)

Minimal participant advance preparation ...

We will move at some point to the Alado Webheads room at:

Session Report

Thanks very much to all the Webheads who met me and a room full of about 50 participants, science and maths teachers mostly, who had dropped by my presentation to learn more about the tech tools they had little familiarity with. Sergei was first to appear and took on moderator duties when my connection would time out, which happened many times during my demonstration. Michael had appeared 4 hours earlier, at 7:20 Abu Dhabi time (caught me printing handouts in my office) and he did manage to race home from his appointment in the suburbs and join us just in the nick of time. Michael Ivy tried to get in, and Maria Jordano popped by for a few minutes. Sus made an appearance toward the end and enlivened the proceedings at just the right moment. The audience watched the manipulations on the screen up front and asked questions like, what kind of bandwidth do you need for this (Sergei said he was using 33.6k dialup) and how does this apply to our students. I mentioned the work of Webheads helping students communicate with real audiences and suggested an online science fair.

I pushed the envelope as much as possible over our flaky ISDN connection. Timeouts would occur when I was sending video while trying to talk, but at the very end I decided to try my new trick of sending someone to Alado and then sharing a portion of my desktop where I logged on to Alado and then joined that person so that the Alado interaction could be viewed in the shared LT window. I was able to hit the mic button in Alado and talk to Michael there (my patiently suffering subject for this experiment). When Sus was speaking in Learning Times I held the mic for Alado up to the speaker and it's possible that Michael was able to listen to that. So we had, theoretically, a patch between Alado and LT in which the LT people could see what Michael wrote in Alado and he could hear noise from LT, though it wasn't coming across clearly there on account of the multiple programs running on my computer, one being shared with the other, plus the video. (I would have gone to Alado but Sergei, a third of my online audience, was unable to go there ;-)

If you've found it hard to read that paragraph you can imagine what my on site audience was going through. So I pointed the web cam at the nearest one, Rita it turned out, and got her to say Hi to Sus.

(That's Rita on the left, who happened to be sitting nearest to me when I needed someone from the audience to talk)

We'd already taken a few questions from the audience and handled them online. If the connection had remained stable it would have been a brilliant presentation. Unfortunately we lost the thread at critical junctures, such as Sergei's presentation. It happened to us while James was talking last week as well. We are perhaps pushing the limits of what we can get for free. At any rate I never cease to be amazed at how webheads band together to not only provide these wonderful tools for us to experiment with, but come together to help each other use them.

Thanks to all, Vance

There was a practice session for this presentation at the Officer's Club in Abu Dhabi on April 26 involving numerous online volunteers who assembled on short notice to help me test the connections. We started with Learning Times where Michael in Australia was talking with Candy in San Diego who was connecting from her classroom and broadcasting web cam shots of her moving around a class full of students in a computer lab. Sergei was there as well, and Elder Bob. Eventually I decided to share one of my browser screens and show those present how to log on to Alado. My intent was to simply to show the logon procedure, but knowing I could use the browser window I was using for application share after leaving LT, I simply continued with the process and logged on. iVocalize launched and connected and I found Gianluigi waiting for me at Alado. The interesting thing was that those in LT could see Gianluigi in Alado via the screen share in LT, and they could see me text chatting with him. I decided to talk to Gianluigi although I was still in LT and had not relinquished my ability to talk there, and to my surprise, this worked as well. Gianluigi could hear me, and when I wanted I could go back to LT and talk to the people there. It was interesting and unexpected to know that I could be in both places at once, and let the LT folks see my conversation with Gianluigi via partial screen sharing.

Bio-statement (60 words):

Vance Stevens is a Computing Lecturer at Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi, with ESL and CALL experience since the 1970s. He has conducted research, produced numerous publications and CALL software, and served on various editorial boards and committees of professional organizations. He has developed communities of practice for students and teachers based on the 'Webheads' model of online community development.

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Last updated: May 16, 2005