Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Skype v. Blogger: The Battle of the Fishbowl

Instead of using Blogger to continue the outside circle’s discussion of the assigned chapters for Fishbowl, we tried out Skype. Skype is a free program which enables people to make free calls over the Internet to other Skype users. It also provides an instant-messaging type service for groups to communicate with one another in a “chat room” setting.



The students signed up for accounts through Skype and added me to their contact list. We made sure to communicate with the students the importance of not publishing any personal information over the Internet and encouraged them to use their Blogger display name along with an additional set of characters as their Skype username (both for safety and to create a unique username).After a few glitches, we were able to get everyone added and connected to one another. We completed some initial test runs with practice questions balancing two chat sessions occurring at the same time. We displayed the conversation side by side on their screens as well as projected onto the screen at the front of the classroom. At first it was truly mesmerizing to see how fast they were posting. However, it raised some interesting pedagogical questions regarding depth and quality of insight. My hope of using Skype versus Blogger was to use multiple online conversations with the outer circle in tandem with the inner circle conversations of the fishbowl. With Blogger, we created one post and the students commented on that. Even if we created multiple posts in Blogger, it would be difficult for students to follow multiple conversations due to the refresh issues.

When using Skype with the Fishbowl technique, I was looking for how it enhanced or detracted from the conversation. With Skype students noticed the conversation moved at a much faster pace allowing for them to comment more frequently, but at the same time, they put less thought into what they posted. Once again we, as a class, went back to the drawing board establishing Skype guidelines while reflecting on our Blogging guidelines. We had to focus on what it was we did well and liked about Blogger, but at the same time how could we make Skype better while increasing our learning and collaboration without sacrificing the quality of conversation.

It was really amazing to see them connect so easily to one another in the two smaller outside circle groups. I had split up the outer circle into the two smaller conversations so that the connections could be more instantaneous and lively. I also enjoyed hearing and seeing their connections between the conversations from the inner and outer circle as well as between the two Skype conversations. They did a much better job after reflection and analysis of referencing one another, using complete sentences, and expressing complex thoughts. In addition, since we are using an inquiry based approach to this entire semester focusing on the question of “what does it take to challenge the system?” I have been impressed to see how easily the students connect back to previous pieces of literature we have studied (Macbeth, Inherit the Wind, The Chosen, Fahrenheit 451) as well as referencing common themes and motifs they see reoccurring through each (appearance v reality, relationships between men and women-marriages, hands, eyes, challenging the system, price of progress, ambition, power).

Skype is still up for debate, but the students really seem to see the value in it as seen from their commenting to the posts regarding its trial run in class. Also, within the links below, please read through the transcripts of their conversations :

http://annesmith9h.blogspot.com/2006/11/chosen-fishbowl-1-3-period-2.html

http://annesmith9h.blogspot.com/2006/11/chosen-fishbowl-1-3-period-5.html

http://annesmith9h.blogspot.com/2006/11/reflecting-back.html

The Chosen Period 2 Fishbowl Group One

The Chosen Period 2 Fishbowl Group Two

The Chosen Period 5 Fishbowl Group One

The Chosen Period 5 Fishbowl Group Two



As for me, the verdict is still out on Skype. I am impressed by my students’ abilities with multi-tasking and the quality of conversation available to them through Skype. I agree that it is much faster paced allowing for their conversation to develop as fast as they want; but at the same time, I appreciate it more when they slow down and listen to one another. It was really important to have a conversation with them about the purpose behind Skype and more importantly, behind fishbowl. After we completed a few Blogger and in class reflections, now they are doing a more comprehensive job commenting and connecting with one another using Skype than they did with Blogger. I guess I just thought that I would not have to re-teach the things they did so well with Blogger. In my mind, it just took longer to get them to that “good” place than it had previously.

Regardless of either using Skype or Blogger, the growth in my students’ learning with the use of these technological pieces and fishbowl has been tremendous. They connect every piece of text we have studied this semester to each other as well as see connections with themselves as learners and with the world around them. They can produce interesting, captivating thoughts and are learning to value one another’s opinions and insights. They are learning and teaching one another! Isn’t that what education should be all about? Before Blogger and Skype, I was the only one who could witness their growth as learners because the fishbowl had to feed through me before my students had access to the technology. Now that they have the technology they are able to see each other’s thoughts and growth as teachers and learners. This is NOT education as usual.

26 comments:

shaunam said...

I really enjoy using the Skype. I find it easier and much more efficient. It moves at a much faster pace and I tend to get much more done. I especially like the Skype because I do not have to refresh the page every two seconds to see how the conversation has progressed. I also the fact that it is quick and instant and I get to read different insights that other people came up with. I enjoy Skype, and I hope that we will continue using it in the long-term future.

paigen said...

I am a student in Ms. Smith’s laptop class and I have to say that I like Skype a lot better than Blogger. For one thing, the conversations are so fast paced that it is almost like having an actual conversation without all of the noise. I am very impressed with how Ms. Smith is finding more and more ways to have us move into the 21st century without taking away from the old fashioned way of discussing. I am definitely very excited to have the laptops.

EmilyH said...

Well, I have to say that Ms. Smith already covered many of the things I had intended to say, but i have some additional comments from a students view.

When we began the year using blogger I really enjoyed it, but had trouble keeping up with the conversation because of the hassle of refreshing. Another problem with the slower aspect of it is that by the time my computer would load there would be several new posts and i would skip over several long comments and without a doubt missed out on some great ideas and insights.

Skype has all the great capabilities that blogger has of connecting the outer and inner circles, but without the hassle of refreshing, everything is instantaneous. But as nothing is perfect, skype too, had its issues. Just like Ms Smith said, some comments were lacking of hard thought. I found that in our last conversation we did a much better job of slowing down, listening to eachothers thoughts and expanding on them. I'm for Skype one-hundred and ten percent!

kjerstinl said...

There are disadvantages and advantages to using Skype over Blogger. Skype is up-tempo and fast paced. Frankly for me, it is somewhat easier for me to think that quickly. Skype allows us to know what the others are thinking in 5 seconds or less. For me, I think that this helps develop my ideas more. It’s hard to explain though, because when we were on blogger, I had to think a lot harder on what I was going to say. Instead, on this, my answers pop into my head quickly.
I’ve also grown to the two different conversations. I think that with a smaller group, there is more of a chance to listen to one another and we take more time to really comment on what one another are thinking. Plus, we can get more accomplished with having more conversations, because we cover more ground on many topics. On our free time, we could go back and read the other group’s conversation too on what they discussed.
There are a few problems about Skype though. One thing is that the inner circle doesn’t get as many people from the outside circle that come and join the conversation in the inside circle. I think we get so into the outside conversations that we forget that there’s another conversation going on. With blogger, things were so slow that it was easier to pay attention to the inside conversation. If we want to keep skype, we have to become better multi-taskers.

AleeA said...

I really agree with everything said by Mrs.Smith and Mr.Fisch! The laptops and fishbowls have been really beneficial for not only my learning, but others around me. With laptops, we have learned responsibility, patience, and respect of others property, and with fishbowls we have learned how to enhance our own personal learning and how to take it to the next level. Using the laptops and fishbowl as a way of learning is a huge example of challenging the system, and I think that it has been very successful. With Blogger, things are just so slow paced and annoying, but with Skype, we are able to talk in a way as though we really are talking. Yes, there were some challenges along the way, but that is the whole point of this, to CHALLENGE the system. I'm glad that I have had the chance to experiment with this technology because I feel that it will benefit generations to come.

christa s said...
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kimmy c said...

As a student in Mrs. Smith's Nine honors class, it is fun to be able to experience new ways to learn materials... and new ways to discuss what we learn. Skype and blogger are two of many ways that we can use in our fishbowls. So far, in my mind Skype succeeds where fishbowl is involved. On Skype our conversation flows more, where as in blogger, our ideas can't be all seen easily. We have to press the refresh button half a million times, and we don't have time to comment back on any other comment that someone else made, because too many people comment simultaneously, and it is impossible to reach one individual.
Also with Skype, we were able to not only talk and communicate much faster, but we were able to give eachother our thoughts on what we think about their previous connection or response. The most amazing thing was the ability to change the topic, if we had nothing more to say about the current topic. I enjoy fishbowls, and skype, and I hope that in the next coming year we can continue to use this system to better understand our literature for the avancement of our minds.

saram said...

I love using skype for fishbowls. I agree completely with Shaunam in that Skype is much faster paced and we feel like we can discuss so much more because we are not held back by having to refresh the page or taking the time to read extrmemly long comments. I never thought about how much time it can take to refresh the page and read other's comments until we had skype. Skype is really taking learning above and beyond because it's very helpful in learning to understand what we are reading by helping each other and, of course, it's fun! I really like using skype and I hope you continue with it.

chelseah said...

I am a student in one of Ms. Smtih's laptop classes, and I must say that I really enjoy using the laptops. I love technology, because it makes things a lot easier, but in Ms. Smith's class, she stresses that "this is NOT education as usual". Of course, teachers can do different activities in class to make learning different, but what more spices up the class, then using laptops. With the laptops, comes a lot of responsibility, and trust.

After experiencing both Skype and Blogger to do the Fishbowl, I have found the pros and cons of both. I liked Skype because the conversation moved so much faster, and once we got all of the glitches worked out, we had no more problems. With Blogger, the site was almost always having some sort of problem with too many people on it at once, or a refreshing problem. But I also agree with Ms. Smith when she said that we students weren't posting as complete of thoughts as we were on Blogger. I personally think that this was because the conversation was moving so fast, and we felt that in order to keep up we had to post our comments in short, concise comments; without the complete thought. Once we all got more on the same page, I found that the conversation didn't move as fast (faster, still, than Blogger) and we were posting more complete thoughts.

Overall, I have really enjoyed this year using the laptops, and trying out the new programs such as Blogger and Skype.

erinl said...

I also enjoy using Skype when we are having our class fishbowls. I personally think that it is extreemly easier to use than blogger because I don't have to refresh the page every five seconds. Both programs are easy to use but the fact that Skype is an instant messenger just makes it "cooler". I prefer Skype but I can work with both.

BenH said...

No, this is definitely not education as usual. And I would definitely say that this is for the better.

To be totally honest, I did not like live blogging that much. It was just too slow and discontinuated.

But Skype goes way beyond that. It is very close to an actual fishbowl, just digital.

I personally think it is great. It really helps when people are not actually in the inner circle, and it gives quiet people an even better voice than live blogging.

Mphair said...

I personally like blogger better than Skype. Because of Skype's major security issues and the fact that it is only a few months old makes me nervous using it. Also, as it accesses our computer several times per minute it runs the battery down really fast. There have been times when I have a really good comment and the computer dies and I have to get on another computer and retype it, by which time it is off topic.

I also have found that the comments in Blogger seem to be more thought out, longer, and in general better general language (capitalization, punctuation, spelling).

Both have a time and place, but it is my personal opinion that blogger is better for fishbowl.

TyC said...

I think that Skype is more effecient than Blogger, in the sense that it feels more like a real conversation. The flow is better and there is no need to refresh since it is an "instant message" chat room.
The one thing that I feel we may not be doing as wel as we were in Blogger is making connections to the inner circle. The inner circle and the outer circle are for the most part totally different conversations. I am nlot sure if this is a good or a bad thing, it is just different.

maria k said...

I agree with KjerstinL and her "disadvantages and advantages of Skype," but overall, I think Skype is incredible and that we can have incredible discussions when using it. On Blogger, everything went so slow. We wrote longer comments that took longer to read and longer to respond to. Not with Skype. I've realized that we're able to cover more topics and they are more organized and not jumping all over the place. We're able to get through more of our questions and dig deeper into the text.

Yeah, there are some disadvantages to Skype too, but I think that as we use it more and practice multitasking, we will get better and our conversations can become even more incredible.

kenna_d said...

I have really enjoyed switching from Blogger to Skype. Skype, as Ms. Smith said in her blog, is much easier to follow, and creates a much faster conversation environment. Blogger is great when it comes to posting longer comments, and it also allows readers to take their time. Skype allows the student to control the pace at which the conversation flows. Blogger is still an awesome learning tool, but for different purposes now, than I imagined before.

Zachf said...

After using Skype, I have found that it brings a discussion to a whole other level. Not only can the people on the inside discuss without disruption, people on the outside can hold the same type of conversation at the same pace.

I feel that the faster a discussion moves, more ideas will be presented and we can bring up new points quickly so the conversation does not dwell on the same topic.

The more we experiment with different things our discussions become more advanced. Skype has allowed us to further our thinking.

sarahc said...

I agree with what everyone else has said concerning the advantages and disadvantages of Skype and Blogger. I personally think that not only does Skype let the quiet people join in the conversation, but it also links everyone in the conversation. In Blogger, I noticed that generally, only two or three people would be having a conversation, and that their topic would be very different from the rest of the class. With Skype, we still see that, but not as much. Generally, everyone is on the same page and topic.
One disadvantage that has not been mentioned yet is that, with Skype, it is a private conversation. On Blogger, people from around the world could comment on the blog, but they can’t on Skype. Though very few out-of-school people ever blogged on our blog, we still don’t get the chance to hear their opinions until after class when the Skype conversations are posted on a blog. But by then, the conversation is old.
All-in-all, I really prefer Skype to Blogger.

BenH said...

I really do think that Blogger still has a place. It is better for at home us. But it was quite simply too cumbersome for fast paced discussion.

tomr said...

While I do agree that Blogger was slow and cumbersome, it did force us to think significantly more about what we were writing. The "casual" format of Skype is almost like a spoken discussion in that regard. In the Fishbowls, people say "um" and "kinda" and that sort of thing. I saw quite a bit more proper grammar on Blogger. Although this may not seem a big deal to some, it is to me. (See my This I Believe essay for further details.) We all need to understand that it's okay to stop for a minute and comprehend what others are saying instead of having our fingers in a constant frenzied dance across the keyboard.

AnnaD said...
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AnnaD said...

Well, this has been a big debate in our class: which is better? I would have to say Skype. Though blogger is good for assignments such as this, Skype is better for Fishbowl. Skype has the advantage that it shows all messages that have been typed while new comments are being typed, so it makes refreshing the page over and over obsolete. I definitely prefer Skype to Blogger.

BenH said...

I agree with tom. One of the downsides of skype is that people almost race to get their comment out so people dont wait. And that can often times cause a drop in quality.

_annaw_ said...
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_annaw_ said...

As many of the students before me, I thoroughly enjoy this technique. Recently, I had a fishbowl in my history class. As I had had fishbowl in Ms. Smith's class earlier that morning, it was easy for me to compare the techniques. Without the laptops, the people on the outside were listening, lining up to join the circle, or sleeping. In English, the outer circle constantly has something to think about. The only problem I found was that the laptops distracted those in the outer circle from joining the inner circle.

The only thing I truly have problems with is the amount of writing we do. Very few students in my class really know the basic principals of writing, and I do not type as well as the rest of my class. As tests, we have been given in-class essays-I cannot type very fast, and when you have a time limit, it can be extremely strenuous.

im said...

I suggest students use skype bot program "Anothr.com" to subscribe to regular rss feed list daily quotes, weekly project, etc.

Steven said...

Kept hearing people talk about Voip and IP Telephony. Didn't know what it was but i found the Lloyds Business website and it shed some light. Not as exciting as i though it was gonna be