Tuesday, June 23, 2009
When to Skype & when to Elluminate
I run into this problem a good deal in my job. A new tool comes out and everyone wants to use it - whether it is better or not. Now I understand this, I love playing and tinkering with new toys, but when I teach others, I more often go for stability than cool. The Newness of a tool wears off too fast for me. My first question when someone wants to try out a tool is not "Why?", but "What are you trying to use the tool for?" This gets at the heart of what a teacher is trying to accomplish by using a tool, and can allow me as a technology facilitator to help them find the most appropriate fit.
So the question comes across my desk about using Skype or Tokbox instead of Elluminate. We are lucky to have a university wide liscence of Elluminate & I am a big fan of the product. I've taught and been taught via Elluminate for the past couple of years and am familiar with it. Now I've never been very successful with the video on Elluminate and have mostly relied on the audio interaction. The whiteboard tool is excellent (especially when you upload presentations) and the polling feature is essential in a Distance Ed class. Application sharing can be a bit tricky, but an important tool. Overall the group interactions have been quite good.
The request to use Skype came as a suprise to me & I wanted to know more about why the change. And what it came down to was that these teachers missed the face to face and wanted more of that kind of interaction. The school based teams meet together in the computer labs and all get on Elluminate next to each other. Now I think of Elluminate as a great tool, because you can do it from anywhere, home, work, school, or Starbucks and because of the interaction tools for large numbers of people. But this was a different senario.
My typical recommendation would be that Skype is for one to one conversations and that Elluminate is for large group interactions, but now we had a combination of both. So guess what they wanted to do? Now we will be using Elluminate to facilitate the text chat, application sharing, & presentations, but utilize the video & audio frm Skype on the big screen in the 2 schools.
I'm interested to see how this works, becuase sometimes the best tool is a combination of them...