What is Online Communication?

As more professionals work from remote or distributed locations, the need for cheap, flexible communication tools has grown. Recent technological developments are creating more ways for users to work anytime and anywhere, and these new tools are finding their way into homes and classrooms as well. Online communication tools put students in touch with distant family members, practicing experts, and their peers, wherever they may be located. Desktop videoconferencing, instant messaging services, microblogging platforms, and voice-over-IP clients facilitate connections and the dissemination of information between and among students and teachers, keeping learning communities in touch with each other on a more extensive basis than ever before.

The tools for remote communication that are used by professionals are easily adaptable to teaching and learning, and indeed we are seeing an increase in classroom use of programs for that purpose. Tools like Skype make it easy for students to move past the classroom walls and connect with their peers around the world as well as giving them access to experts in fields they are studying. Online communication tools may be synchronous or asynchronous; based in text, audio or video; and enable one-to-one, one-to-many, or many-to-many communications. Many may be used either from a computer or an Internet-enabled mobile phone, and some can be used from almost any mobile phone.

Brief, synchronous online communication through instant messaging, and near-synchronous or asynchronous conversations via Twitter (http://twitter. com), a microblog application, allow dialogs that are not bound by physical space or time limits.

INSTRUCTIONS: Enter your responses to the questions below. This is most easily done by moving your cursor to the end of the last item and pressing RETURN to create a new bullet point. Please include URLs whenever you can (full URLs will automatically be turned into hyperlinks; please type them out rather than using the linking tools in the toolbar).

Please "sign" your contributions by marking with the code of 4 tildes (~) in a row so that we can follow up with you if we need additional information or leads to examples- this produces a signature when the page is updated, like this: - alan alan Jan 25, 2011

(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • This technology seems like one of obvious importance, and at the same time, one that is so ubiquitous that it may not draw our attention as much as some of the other more unusual technologies. However, I think it is important to acknowledge the essential, fundamental role online communication can play in K-12 education for learners. Online communication bridges their learning environments, so they can have collaborators available to them at any time; they can share ideas and thoughts with collaborators at any time; and have the flexibility to interact in different settings. Some aspects of this technology is known, and some might say even common, but they haven't yet found the way to the heart of learning for K-12 and we need to consider its role carefully as we design and/or support experiences for learners. - jeanne.century jeanne.century Feb 21, 2011
  • With the use of Skype, our international middle school students currently have interviewed authors abroad . In addition, parents are often Skyped-in during student/parent/teacher conference days. Also, when students are ill, if possible, will tune in to the first 10-15 minutes of the lesson via Skype. During the summer students stay connected using various online communications and as new students come to our school, they are often paired with a student who currently attends our school....definitely helps students make an easier transition. (- michael.lambert michael.lambert Feb 22, 2011)
  • Many schools have taken advantage of free hosted services such as Flashmeeting to run collaborative projects http://mathsinwonderland.blogspot.com/ The Flashmeeting academic project has done a great deal to foster online communication and collaboration http://flashmeeting.open.ac.uk/home.html - judy.oconnell judy.oconnell Feb 26, 2011

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • The challenges faced in choosing products, that are sometimes heavily commercialised. There are a range of options, some of them being also embedded into learning management systems, while others are products like adobe connect or elluminate. Perhaps a hint of the complexity of choice in online communication would be good, and the implications of costing for schools - judy.oconnell judy.oconnell Feb 26, 2011
  • Here, as elsewhere, please mention how students with disabilities can be both en- and disen-franchised by technology. Online communication can open doors for those with physical and mental difficulties, but only if the tools are well-designed and the learning environment inclusive. If not the gap between those using the technology effectively and those not will widen gaps in opportunity and achievement. - roger.blamire roger.blamire Feb 27, 2011

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • As mentioned above, the connection to fellow learners and the bridge between "formal" and "informal" learning environments that online communication provides are essential building blocks toward more creative, learner-directed experiences. - jeanne.century jeanne.century Feb 21, 2011
  • The potential is outstanding, particularly as computer interfaces/screens/devices continue to develop. - judy.oconnell judy.oconnell Feb 26, 2011

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

Please share information about related projects in our Horizon K-12 Project form.