It was quite an exhilarating experience. I must be honest. I have given many webinars in the past and I have found them to be less than optimal educationally. With the current technology, when I am really giving a webinar I feel like I am just a talking head. I talk to a webcam while moving a presentation on a screen. Maybe there are some questions using chat but since I cannot see the participants and have no way of knowing whether they are engaged, I don't really feel like I am teaching.
But this webinar was different. I was energized by the experience. The reasons are many.
- The diversity of the participants. I had SO many participants, over 70 at one point, and from so many places, from Israel, the US, Bogota, South America, and Trinidad and Tobago to name a few. When would I ever teach a face-to-face lesson with such a diverse audience? This diversity created a very lively chat in both English and Spanish with student posing questions, giving answers, sharing their own observations at a frantic pace. This was a great example of using technology to accomplish something educationally which could not be done any other way.
- The Elluminate platform. The platform used for this webinar, Elluminate was quite good. Besides the typical whiteboard for the presentation with the ability to share slides, highlight, write, or type, it included some features. You could give a Web Tour which opened a web browser window with your website for the participants. This allowed participants to click on links or you could click on further links which would then open for all attendees. You could also show high quality video as a part of your presentation. You can view examples of these in my presentation here. The one feature which did not seem to work well in practice so I did not use in my presentation was screensharing.
- Live Collaboration with Google Docs. The moment when the webinar really came to life was when I used Google Docs. I did a rather simple activity. I created a public Google Doc which anyone can view and edit even without sign-in. You can see instructions to do this here. I then shared the link with the live class. In moments, there were over 40 participants actively typing and editing the Google Doc. This gave the webinar a real sense of student presence. I no longer just saw students in a chat window on Elluminate but active participants in an online shared experience. This was the most exciting moment of the webinar for me. You can view the shared Google Doc below and add to it using this link.
If you would like to learn more about Web 2.0 learning, I am teaching a one semester course on MOFET starting this week. You can register using this link: Using Web 2.0 Tools to Transform Teaching and Learning. I hope you choose to join me so we can both gain from the learning experience.