Saturday, May 19, 2007

Online collaboration and the impact of technology

I use technology every day of my life. My profession as a teacher, particular a business teacher, means I am constantly teaching students how to use various aspects of technology available at school as well as expecting them to use a range of technologies and needing to use a range of technologies myself in the preparation of units and lessons. I am also a writer so I am always researching and writing and involved in various online communities. I also operate a couple of blogs and a wiki (writing collaboratively with a friend).

Yet, with all this experience, including teaching an introductory course on how to create websites and having my own website, I found I didn’t know enough to feel confident in volunteering to set up the infrastructure of the website. I learned a lot with this process although I still don’t know how to use Dreamweaver and my own website is still a one-pager showing an ‘under construction’ sign.

Operating within the confines of the free web publishing site the group used was different in that the navigation structure wasn’t transparent. I had difficulty understanding how the pages were interconnecting because I couldn’t (or didn’t know how to) access a pictorial overview of the hierarchical structure. Having said that, I found web publishing site easy to operate within. I had no difficulty importing data, creating paragraphs or pages, inserting pictures and tables or hyperlinks. I did have difficulty trying to create ‘hot spots’. A hot spot is basically a hyperlink over a picture. I could get it to create a hyperlink to take me to a page with the pictures and from there a click on the picture took me to the correct page but I decided not to leave it that way as it was too cumbersome. The addition of an additional step just to get to another page of the web was unnecessary and irritating.

Communicating through the various methods was an interesting experience although the only advantage of the discussion forum for me was that each topic was identifiable by the subject heading and all posts regarding that topic were kept together. The discussion forum always meant more time for me as I had to go online to access it.

I find email to be my preferred method of asynchronous communication. I have several email accounts and forward all of them to one account with each message going directly to specified folders to make identification and reading easier. As I have this program open all the time, I don’t waste time waiting for connections and get and respond to messages very quickly.

The online chat provided a comfortable mode of real-time communication. I’ve used chat before and am comfortable with the fractured conversation threads although I am aware that many others aren’t. Because I can follow the conversations fairly easily I found I was often remiss in nominating who I was responding to, particularly in the early chats. As we progressed through the project, I remembered to do this more often. It helped others to recognise who was responding to which comment.

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