Interface - Communicating and Learning Online
Asynchronous communication is when students make a posting to a conference and then others respond to that posting later. It does not happen real time. Because the postings stay there until somebody removes them, students tend to put a lot more thought into what they are saying than in a discussion that is synchronous.
Synchronous communication is when students communicate in real-time such as when using chat. Students tend to rush synchronous communication but it can come in handy for quick conferencing or problem solving.
There are several programs and modes of communication that you can use to engage students.
We use regular email to communicate with students and their parents but not usually on a Cyberday. Instead, we use the messaging component of Moodle. This is an internal messaging module - only the students and teachers have access to the system and noone can send or receive email outside of the system.
We have also used chat on several occasions but are still trying to determine the best way to use this mode of communication. We have made use of the Chat features in Moodle. Again, like the messaging, this fom of communication is internal and is secure - only students and teachers from our classes are able to particpate in the chat. Moodle has the added feature that all chat is recorded.
Moodle really shines in how students can complete assignments, join forums, work together in a group, and complete a host of other activities. Using Moodle is more than just putting information online, it goes a big step towards putting the classroom online.
Collaborate is a completely synchronous learning environment where students can go online in one-on-one, small group, or whole class situations. It is good for students to have a microphone as audio is supported. A common whiteboard makes this and excellent place for online lessons. There is also the added advantage that lessons can be recorded - excellent for review of difficult concepts.
Finally, the ultimate synchronous communication, live interaction, is always an option with our program. If students need to see us in a face-to-face meeting to clarify a lesson or get help with an assignment, they are welcome to come to school. Students email or phone to notify us that they are coming to school and we have them phone home before they leave the class to return home.
Of course, all this can happen much more effectively thanks to the 1 to 1 laptop program funded by School District 42. Every student has the use of a laptop, both at home and at school, for the school year. These laptops are Macbooks and have a full complement of applications that students will use including word processing (Word), presentations (Powerpoint), Video editing (iMovie), Music creation (Garageband), and Video conferencing (iChat).