Friday, January 9, 2009

SLER makes the Highlights of 2008 list

Each week, on Tuesday night, from 5:30pm to 6:30pm Eastern time, I host the Second Life Education Roundtable, or SLER for short.

The meetings started last spring. I was looking for a place to meet other education professionals to talk about issues that were important. Nothing met at a time that was convenient for me so I decided to start my own meeting.

I determined that I wanted it to be a place where everyone would feel welcome, and anyone could chime in when the wanted. The best way to do that would be for everyone to sit around a round table - no head of the table, everyone can see everyone else, etc...

The idea took off and at one point we were hitting from 40-50 people each week.

This last Tuesday we held our first meeting of the year and had a blow out. The meeting featured Chris Collins, Sarah Robbins, Jonathon Richter, Jeremy Kemp, Anthony Fontana, and Daniel Livingston. It was our first "panel" discussion - where each of the panelist talked briefly about their view on the potential, possible, and probable future of higher education in virtual worlds.

We had 90 people at one point. I had to cap the sim at 90 (meaning I blocked any more than 90 from coming in). I wanted to make sure we did not crash out. Even then, close to a dozen people that I know of were IMing me and others to try and get in.

Certainly the response was mainly for the star power of the panel. If you don't know those people, Google them!

How nice to have as a follow up to our best and biggest meeting ever, to be featured in the Second Life Highlights in Education 2008 blog.

Montclair State University has made an exceptional commitment to Second Life. They trusted me nearly 2 years ago when people were still really joking about virtual environments. They have committed resources, time, and great support, for all the work that is going on - not just the Roundtable.

A small but dedicated faculty is engaged in what is going on. Congrats to everyone from MSU - the nod to the SLER is only one indication of the great work that is going on.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

SnapSession - DimDim

For today’s SnapSession I’ve decided to look into DimDim. DimDim is a web based collaboration tool. According to their main splash page, you can – “Host web conferences for up to 20 people free.” and they claim its the “worlds easiest web conference – lets you deliver synchronized live presentations, whiteboards, and web pages while sharing voice and video over the Internet – with no download required.”

The sign up process, including glancing over the main web page, took me – literally, less than 3 minutes. They don’t ask for a ton of information up front, there is always an option to update SETTINGS and information later on. This is smart in that it gets people in fast. I suppose, they run the risk of NOT getting this information, but clearly this is a strategy of doing what is good for the user as opposed to the company.

The first time you sign in, after setting up the account, a pop up comes up that asks you if you want help setting up your preferences. One could opt out here and go right to the main page or fine-tune some of the settings. The options seemed fairly straight forward, although I did not take too much time trying to figure things out.

The main options presented (biggest buttons) are to join a meeting or host a meeting. Quite logical, since that is really what most people are coming in for. Since I didn’t have anyone to chat with at the moment, I decided to poke around a bit.

I wanted to see what would happen if I started a meeting, without someone to join me. When you start a meeting, it asks you what features you want to include – so you can say yes to voice, but no to video, or any combination of 6 or 7 things. I like the flexibility of this – options, but no bells/whistles that aren’t needed for each instance – and things can be changed for the next time. Then, before beginning, it asks you for permission to use the voice and camera – I like this a lot. This tells me they care about privacy, somewhat, but also that THEY want to make sure YOU know you are now “on.”

One thing I could not figure out, when I started the meeting it did not automatically find my built in web cam. It was picking up my voice from the mic, but not the video.

At first I thought the only way you can get people to your conference is to use the built in email invite tool. I did find that there is a way to get a URL and give it to people, but it was not intuitive as to where it was. Perhaps going through one of the tutorials would be beneficial, but the point of these SnapsSessions is to see how much can I figure out in 15 minutes without help or tutorials.

One other good note, people can dial in – they give you a phone number and pass code – so one does not even need Internet access.

Another plus, you can share your computer screen, but something needs to be installed in order to do that.

So I started the meeting and sent the URL out to my network. A few minutes later, someone signed in and joined my meeting. When she joined in I started recording the session. We were able to chat – ALMOST in real time. There was a delay of a second or two and if you don’t have a headset on, you get that “Yankee Stadium Announcer” feedback loop. So everyone needs headsets! I thought the video might work if someone joined me, but we still couldn’t figure out how it worked. If someone out there knows, please let me know.

When the preset time to end the meeting came up (that was one of the settings I played around with), it asked me if I wanted to extent the meeting – nice feature! I said yes and we continued for another few minutes.

When she signed off, I stopped the recording and a pop up let me know that each recording session is separate and that if I hit record again it would overwrite the first one. Then it asked me if I was sure I wanted to stop. When I said yes, it told me that once I ended the meeting (as opposed to the recording), it would put it together and eventually email it to me. That’s ANOTHER cool feature.

Here is what I got in the email:
You have a recorded DimDim Web Meeting session that can be viewed or downloaded.



Click here to view Recording

Click here to view Chat Transcript


Click here to download Recording

Click here to download Chat Transcript


Clicking the “view recording” opened a web browser and gave me a black screen with the video only – but the audio was really pretty good.

I’d like to get a group together to test this out – a bigger group. If you’re up for it, leave a comment here or email me directly.

All in all, this product gets a thumbs up. Easy to use and fills a need. This could work for a classroom, although not as well as Wimba Classroom. But it is an alternative for small groups, impromptu groups, or meetings.