Contributed by Cindy, Jodi, Kim, Mia, Susan, and Wendy during their participation in the first Recreation North Facilitating Learning Online workshop in the spring of 2017.

1. Twitter as a Learning Tool

Chosen because:

Twitter is something I’m familiar with as a social media tool, but not as thoroughly as a teaching tool. However, I think it has potential and thus I would like to work with it and explore further.

Cost:   $0

# participating:   3

Communities:   Cambridge Bay, Rankin Inlet, Iqaluit

Advantages:

  • User friendly and highly interactive
  • 24 hour, 7 day access
  • Free
  • Can share individual documents, photos, videos, and links to group or individual learning opportunities (like webcasts or chat hosts)
  • Public140 character limit requires users to be concise and communicate effectively
  • Users are autonomous and control who they follow; can restrict other users by not following them
  • Can see who’s commented, retweeted, or likes posts
  • Popular with young audiences
  • Encourages and enables professional networking
  • Builds community
  • Communication is synchronous and asynchronous
  • Can use any device to access twitter: phone, iPad/iPod, tablet, laptop, desktop computer
  • Easy way to share resources/links to resources that individuals can re-refer to any time
  • Allows users to subscribe to relevant hashtags to supplement the learning

Disadvantages:

  • Requires internet or data access
  • Limited to 140 characters so restricts what can be posted
  • Have to have a Twitter account/profile
  • Cannot organize documents, videos etc. into folders
  • You can only message one user at a time
  • Not the ideal medium for visual content as videos can’t be posted (only links to videos)
  • Some people may have difficulty uploading videos based on connectivity strength
  • May be distracting and/or messages may get lost
  • Doesn’t provide easily accessed conversation threads
  • Can’t teleconference or engage directly with multiple users simultaneously
  • Not entirely useful in Nunavut communities without cellular service (data) as access is less timely

Findings:
It was really easy to engage users with Twitter. It was also easy to communicate. However I would say Twitter is more of a supplemental teaching/learning tool rather that something you could use as a cornerstone of your programs. For example, you can use it to tweet deadline reminders or to announce next steps in a program. Following appropriate hashtags is also useful (but sometimes distracting if not really what you’re looking for) and you can create your own classroom specific hashtag.
I really appreciate, perhaps more than anything, that Twitter provides an excellent medium to develop a professional learning community that shares observations, links, and learning resources.
I’m not including links below as there are so many, but for further information, google “Twitter as a learning tool” and many, many useful websites appear.


2. Skype

Regions tested:    Iqaluit; Paulatuk, Tsiigehtchic and Fort McPherson

Number of people involved in testing:    Each call was one except McPherson which tested with two other people.

Advantages:

  • Minimal technological experience needed
  • Free
  • Can have video + audio or just audio
  • You can also message
  • Worked well with a group of 3
  • Personalized interaction

Disadvantages:

  • Need access to computer, smart phone or tablet
  • ‘Iqaluit freeze’ evident in all 4 towns
  • I felt that more than 3 participants could get ‘messy’ with people talking at the same time

As suspected, Skype is not a great tool for use in the North but I was curious to try it with communities that I had not previously tried it with, hoping against hope, that it might be ok! I also tried Facebook messenger at the same time and it worked quite well. There was some video/audio lag, but nothing like Skype. I also suspect that our potential learners may be more comfortable with a FB interface. To keep it simple, I think I would create a new username for Rec North and try FB messenger with students before Skype!


3. DoodlePoll

I chose Doodle because it’s a user friendly and simple way to schedule meetings/teleconferences (does the work for you when it comes to some coordination leg work) but is not widely known in my work circle. I actually tested it twice, with two different small groups in the north. What i found was that Government of Nunavut employees have a lot of restrictions when comes to accessing online tools and none of them were able to participate…so, it kind of made things more difficult. It ended up that I had to call them, review the options and input their entries manually in the Doodle polls. I hadn’t really considered all the potential website restrictions. Also, some confusion around different time zones.

What other tools may be restricted at workplaces? I know the feds can’t use YouTube, FB is restricted at many places and other social media tools. However, others, like twitter seem to be used by select people at workplaces. How do you think this might create a barrier to participation? Are learners/facilitators familiar with how to bypass or circumvent firewalls/restricted pages?


4. Facebook

Chosen because: I chose this tool because it is relatively user friendly, many people use it already and if not, it is easy to set up a profile. I thought it could be a good tool to use to reach a variety of people in a variety of places and conditions.

Cost:   Free

# of people participating in this test:   3 Communities: Watson Lake, Tagish, Ross River, Carmacks

Advantages:

  • Easy to use
  • Access can be any time and any location with internet or data access
  • Free
  • Can share individual data files – documents, photos, videos. Can share with others and allow them to view and comment
  • Can see who’s commented
  • Communication can be real time – synchronous and asynchronous
  • Can use any device – phone, ipad/ipod, tablet, laptop, desktop computer
  • Able to make phone calls and video calls for free anywhere. Can also do multiple people on calls

Disadvantages:

  • Need Internet or data access
  • Limited in what you can do. Is more for viewing, discussing
  • Have to have a Facebook account/profile
  • Cannot organize documents, videos etc. into folders
  • Some people may have difficulty uploading videos based on connectivity strength
  • If using a phone, clarity in phone calls or video calls may not be great. Can get a slight lag.
  • Although desktop computer needs to have a microphone installed
  • Clarity of phone and video calls can be poor depending on bandwidth and cell/data coverage.

My findings: I have used Facebook a lot at work for our Carmacks Recreation group. It is a great way to get information out to the community. Many people are online, Facebook particularly and some actually request that we share what we are doing on here. So I am quite familiar with Groups, what I can do and what I can’t do.

The main things I tested were the use of Facebook phone calls and video calls. Of the 3 people involved in the test, we used both cell phone and laptops. We were in various places, B&B, restaurant, hotel and at home. We also had various degrees of connectivity, bandwidth and restrictions due to being in a restaurant, hotel and B&B.

Cell phone to cell phone calls – the first test was not super clear, had break up in conversation, static. These we attributed to poor bandwidth and poor data coverage.

Cell phone to laptop calls – On our second test, with the same person, it was better because he used his laptop rather than his phone. The conversation was more clear, no conversation breakup, and static. This test result was the same for the second person I tested it with.

Cell phone to cell phone video calls – first test was not clear, voice was broken, static. Second test was clearer as his settings on his phone were not set for video calls. Video quality was ok, could see people well.

Cell phone to laptop video calls – clarity much better, voice clearer. Overall better.
I always used a cell phone as I was away for work at the time of these tests and I tend to use my phone for many things.

Other Findings:
Here is a list of resources that provide more information on how Facebook can be used in the classroom. Some are based on a high school type setting and others for adult type learning.

Of 15 potential Learning Event Topics – these questions were not asked as I did not speak to recreation staff specifically.


5. Google Docs

Cost:   Free!

# of people participating in this test:   4 – 5 Communities: Yukon: Watson Lake, Tagish, Old Crow & Faro NWT: Fort Smith

Advantages:

  • Easy to use
  • Interactive and collaborative by users
  • Free!
  • Can share individual data files – Can share with others and allow them to either view or edit
  • Can see who’s editing at the same time you are working on a document
  • Communication is real time, access can be any time
  • Feedback and changes save automatically
  • Can access a revision history of a document throughout the process
  • Doesn’t take up space on someone’s computer

Disadvantages:

  • Might become challenging to find a document when you have many documents listed
  • Need Internet access
  • Limited set of features compared to Microsoft Office – however, it is free!
  • If combining synchronously with a teleconference call, can become very confusing as participants can comment on the side, write notes in the main part of the document and/or speak on the phone
  • Is no way to organize things by folders

My findings – Challenges:

  • initially I invited 4 recreation leaders from the Yukon to respond. Only 1 could reply promptly. Once I invited several people from NWT, I received 2 quick replies. (Challenge: due to life ‘happening’, two were unable to participate.
  • I was confused by requests that came to me to give permission for someone to edit. While in the document, I clicked on the Share button and inserted various email addresses – I double-checked that these people would be able to edit. And yet I still received an email asking me to give permission for a particular person to have access. I’m still not sure of what happened.

Good things!
Positive feedback about Google Docs being user friendly. Two people had never used Google Docs before. One commented that she liked it and plans on exploring it further. The other two have used Google Docs extensively and love it.

Some of their comments:

  • easily accessible from any computer
  • love being able to edit things (and watch people edit things in real time)
  • can access it from my phone
  • in Google Drive there are basically all the programs you have with Office but free
  • if your computer crashes, you won’t lose the files

6. Padlet

Pre-testing:

Purpose:  I really want students to feel empowered using the Padlet Tool in a simple, accessible way. I think I could facilitate learning more effectively if I introduce the Padlet tool at the very beginning through a Needs Assessment activity (i.e. Select the topics that you’d like to discuss in our course next week etc…) where the participants feel valued in that they are making a contribution to the course content right from the start.

I can communicate most effectively if I have a tool where participants have the choice to contribute anonymously, synchronously and asynchronously. I need a tool that I can use at the same time as the telephone because I can talk them through it to assist with any troubleshooting while watching their activity in Padlet. The tool needs to work in all communities, on any computer with all possible browsers. For my purposes at Aurora College, I need a tool where I can create folders to store readings, information and activities on a particular subject. For Recreation North, I don’t think the tool needs to have this feature. I would like to post video’s, web links, photos and audio easily.

Tool:  I have selected Padlet because it is new to me and different than Moodle. I have three years of experience using Moodle (an older version) with Aurora College. I hope to test out Padlet with an Adult Education course for college instructors that I am teaching in May/June at Aurora College. I see the potential of using Padlet with Recreation North and Aurora College.

Who? Where?  Tsiigehtchic and Whati

What?

  • Do my participants already have experience and feedback about the tool? Will I be able to create folders, post audio-visuals and weblinks? Can we use Padlet as a way to post journal reflections? Can we post anonymously? Can we comment on each other’s posts?
  • I have never used the tool before so I will need to do plenty of self-directed learning about the tool before I involve other learners. Padlet has great Q and A’s about all aspects of the tool, including how to use it with different equipment and web browsers.
  • Privacy issues should be minimal because I have control over who I invite to participate, although the link can be shared to anyone so if I am uncomfortable about that, I could make it password protected.
    I am not sure of the issues that participants might face yet. I will be asking them to participate in a synchronous (5 minutes) and an asynchronous activity (10 minutes).

Testing:

Timing:  I will be asking my volunteers to participate in a synchronous (5 minutes) and an asynchronous activity (10 minutes). This will be helpful because I can assess both aspects of the tool, however, we will only be
connected to the tool for a short amount of time on the internet. Recreation North may require us to use the tool for longer than this, which will limit the effectiveness of my testing.

Data:  I will not try to record my session. I will not be asking my participants to do something before the two activities (other than communicate with me through email and follow a few instructions on how to connect), however, I will ask them for their thoughts/feedback while I have them on the phone for the second activity. I will be testing written communication (live and asynchronous) and auditory communication (short video).
I will be further experimenting with this tool in May/June with an Aurora College for instructors. Perhaps it could be an opportunity for supporting a CoP with Recreation North if we don’t choose to use Moodle? I will specifically be looking for how well I can organize the Padlet site so that it’s not too overwhelming; if we can use it for journaling; if we can use it synchronously with little time delays.

Reporting:

What did you think of the tool you explored? Would you recommend it to others? Limitations?
Yes, I would recommend Padlet to others because:

  • you don’t need to sign in to use it (just click on the link)
  • it’s just one layer so activities/comments don’t get buried
  • you can easily post audio/visuals, weblinks, Google docs or any mosaic of resources
  • it’s great for centering in on one discussion topic
  • the free version is sufficient for our purposes
  • I tested it in two remote communities in the NWT and there no problems with loading audio/visuals or participating in a synchronous activity (posts were visible within a minute)
    • can be used asynchronously
  • students can put in a new post (resources, questions, audio/visuals)
  • the App is very accessible (you could recommend using voice-over to type instead of typing comments through your smart phone)
  • Limitations:
    • you can’t have a folder with multiple resources in it
    • am not sure how long the Padlet is stored for or if there is a maximum number of participants who can post comments in a post?
    • not suitable for a forum because you can’t comment on other people’s comments
    • posts are sometimes not visible if you don’t refresh the page (Padlet prompts you to refresh sometimes)
    • to be anonymous, participants have to sign out of Padlet (this is a tricky thing to do
    • there no paragraph breaks in posts which makes it hard to read, press arrow or enter key
    • to keep the Padlet confidential and anonymous, make it password protected because anyone can share the link
    • I think the comments would get very “busy” with more than 8 people
    • sometimes students might have more challenges with the internet if they are using it at a school instead of at home in the smaller communities

What features of the tool do you want to highlight – what do you see as having the greatest potential to support learning?

  • asynchronous learning – similar to what we did for Week 4 of FLO with Cindy/Mia, post readings/resources for the course, post an instructor “welcome” video/audio clip, students can insert their own posts
  • synchronous learning – a different way of getting an in-class discussion going, use an audio/visual while in class
  • it is very accessible (no need to sign in)
  • each student could have an e-porfolio in Padlet where learnings are collected from each course they take with Rec North
  • students could post their assignments to the same padlet if they are meant to be shared and commented on through peer feedback

Other tools I came across that I would recommend:

  • Pirate Pad – I played around with this with a teacher in a small community and he highly recommended it. He uses it for 8 or less people. It’s real time and has a very low band width. It’s great for synchronous discussions and also has a chat box.
  • Schoology – Some teachers in the Sahtu region have begun using it with their students (the free version) and they love it. It’s very simple to use for instructors and students. I plan to test it out with a course I’m about to teach so I can share my experience with you.
  • Moodle – I want to make sure that we don’t write off Moodle altogether. I think it is excellent if used in a simple way – especially for the forum and discussion thread purposes. I have been using it for 3 years and we have made it work!