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TIRP Report - Point to Point

Richard Mrazek (November, 2004)

In 2003-4 we applied to the Technology Innovations Fund to support Point to Point Videoconferencing in the Faculty of Education. More specifically, the proposal was to pilot the use of supplementary support in the form of conferencing opportunities to faculty members and students working in distant practicum using “I chat” and desktop sharing.

In 2002-2003, the science methods instructors and supervisors attempted to supplement their supervision model with conferencing for students in distant practicum placements. Unfortunately it was difficult for instructors to access cameras and the necessary computer interface for this to be successful. In 2003 we engaged faculty members in a workshop with Apple Canada, exciting many of those supervising students at a distance about the possibilities that existed with improved software and hardware including desktop sharing. The five instructors who would be supervising P.S.II science education students agreed to pilot supplementary conferencing [in addition to their regular school visits] which would see each of the supervisors include two-three different students in each of the weekly conferences, to identify and refine ways of using the technology to enhance and improve our supervision model. This was to expose all students in the two Science (ED3601/3600) sections [40 students] to this medium. On a rotational basis each supervisor would use the desktop sharing licenses to explore this new tool. It should be noted that other than the specific time when these licenses are being used in these conferences (ie.3:00-5:00 pm Wednesday), they were to be used by other faculty members including Campus Alberta instructors and our Technical Staff to explore their potential.

The funds were to supply 6 Apple iSight cameras and 2 Pixion “Picture Talk” seat licenses. Unfortunately, the computers in the faculty pool for use in this project would not support the iSight cameras, so the cameras were distributed to faculty to encourage faculty members to become comfortable with iChat and the iSight cameras. The Pixion platform was unreliable and difficult to use. Experimentation demonstrated that it was not a good fit to the Faculty of Education needs.

IChat has been used extensively by some faculty members, but not with students. Throughout the last year, extensive trials have taken place to identify a solid desktop sharing system to engage classes in the Faculty of Education. As of June. 2006, we have narrowed the field to Elluminate and Breeze. In the fall of 2006, both of these platforms will be used and evaluated with classes, including a cohort of PSIII interns in an ICT Enriched environment.