Tag Archives: videoconferencing

Free Web Conferencing Tools for Teachers – Guest Blog Post

Free Web Conferencing Tools for Teachers

Awhile back Karen Schweitzer contacted me about an opportunity to guest post on my blog.  The topic of web conferencing is one that is near and dear to my heart and I have a wiki devoted to the topic of web conferencing/video conferencing in the classroom. Here is Karen’s post on web conferencing tools – thanks Karen!

MWSnap01069Web conferencing is a great way for teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms and their daily lives. There are many free web conferencing tools that can be used to schedule meetings, host parent-teacher conferences and webinars, broadcast videos, collaborate, and share computer screens online. Here are a few free web conferencing tools that work well particularly well for teachers:

Phonevite – Phonevite is a free broadcasting service that can be used to invite people to a web conference via telephone. Teachers can record a message for attendees and have the message sent to a specific group of telephone numbers.

SAM – SAM is a free online meeting scheduler. The tool eliminates the need for multiple phone calls and notes by setting a meeting date and inviting attendees to join via email.

Yugma – This free web conferencing service can be used to conduct online meetings and share your computer screen with other people. Yugma works with up to 20 attendees and supports Windows, Mac, and Linux users.

Dimdim – Dimdim is an easy-to-use web conferencing tool that requires no download. It can be used to deliver live presentations, whiteboards, and to share video and voice over the Internet.

Vyew – This free platform provides real-time interaction and live web conferencing. Teachers can use it to give live presentations, host webinars, or conduct parent-teacher meetings.

Mikogo – Mikogo is a free cross-platform tool for desktop sharing. It can be used for online meetings, web conferencing, and much more.

TokBox – TokBox is a free video chat and messaging service that works well for parent-teacher conferences. It is simple to use and works with email and instant messaging systems.

Palbee – This free online meeting tool connects up to 10 people online. Palbee users can talk face-to-face and collaborate on a web-based whiteboard.

USTREAM – USTREAM is a free video broadcast platform that can be used to broadcast live streaming video to an unlimited number of people. Video broadcasts are interactive so that viewers can interact with the broadcaster and other viewers.

Edmodo – Edmodo is designed specifically for teachers who want to be able to privately communicate with parents and students. This free site has many different features, including the ability to send alerts, files, and events.

Skype – This free software has become very popular among teachers and other people who want to make free video and voice calls. Skype also offers instant messaging capabilities and file sharing.

ooVoo – ooVoo is a free video chat service that connects up to six people at once. Two-way chat is always free and perfect for online parent-teacher conferences.

Meebo – This free online service can be used to instant message other people no matter which IM provider they use. Meebo works with AIM, Facebook, MSN, Yahoo!, MySpace, and many other popular services.

SpeakLike – SpeakLike is a free instant messaging service that can be used to communicate with parents who speak other languages. The service instantly translates any text that is typed. SpeakLike is available for communication in English, Spanish, Chinese (Simplified), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, and Turkish.

GroupTweet – GroupTweet is a free Twitter app that works well for teachers who want to be able to send private messages via Twitter. The app only sends message to people who have been invited to join the group.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen also writes about online colleges for OnlineCollege.org.

Teacher Uses Webcam to Deliver Lessons

While reading one of my email feeds, I came across a story that I found fascinating about a teacher who is out on medical leave and is using a webcam to conference online with his students. Frank Wilson, government teacher at Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus, Ohio, recently had knee surgery and didn’t want his students to fall behind while recovering. Wilson is a veteran educator of 47 years and teaches his Advanced Placement (AP) government students from the basement of his home.

According to the article in the Columbus, Ohio newspaper titled “Government teacher conducts class from home basement“,

With the support of Watterson administrators, class was in session live from Wilson’s basement.

The Web cam allowed Wilson to see, teach, and carry on discussion with his students from his basement, Winters said. They could see him on the projector screen, and he could see them on his computer.

“My students all have Tablet PCs, and our government classes are almost paperless,” Wilson said.

“We use the computers for everything, including testing online.”

“To be honest, this program has allowed me to continue to teach,” he said, adding the classes went well with minimal disruption.

“I could not have done this without the support of our technology department and individual staff members who were willing to sit in the classroom and take attendance for me.”

For liability purposes Wilson had an adult in the classroom at all times but I can certainly relate to being concerned that your students will not progress or lose direction whenever you out. Twenty years ago when I  first started teaching we were out of the classroom for staff development quite often. It was always difficult to pick up the pieces upon my return and leave meaningful instructional activities while I am out. Several times throughout my career, I have been asked to step in and take over a class while a teacher is ill or on maternity leave. A teacher cannot risk not having students adequately prepared for performance on high stakes tests and trust part of the preparatory work  be done by a substitute teacher. We all know good subs are out there although they are hard to find and keep for an extended period of time. The idea of using webcam to minimize a loss of instruction is a novel idea, although not brand new.

Teachers/trainers have been using webcam/videoconferencing equipment to provide distance education for a number of years. The number of virtual high schools is growing by leaps and bounds and the use of this technology greatly benefits small, rural districts that have limited funding and a lack of teachers specializing in the math/science content areas. I have become a huge fan and proponent of using this medium to enrich instruction and started a wiki to serve as a repository of resources, training and discussions at http://caisefiles.wikispaces.com. I would love the opportunity to teach or facilitate a class online – certification issues and not having a master’s degree have hindered me personally in this area but the opportunities are out there.

While Wilson finishes recuperating at home, his students are benefiting from the interactive technology he is  using to deliver his government lessons online. The success of this venture comes from the support of the administration, network infrastructure to facilitate this endeavor and the dedication of the teacher and students. A deficiency in any one of those areas will severely impact the project but when each piece comes together to provide interactive and quality instruction to students there is no finer instrument to provide distance education.