Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Real-time Intercontinental Collaboration via Twitter, Periscope, and PollEverywhere - sometimes this stuff actually works!

Last October at the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference in Orlando, Raechelle Clemmons ("CIOs Sound Off: To Be, or Not To Be, Social". The idea originally was to present a sort of debate about the advantages and disadvantages or participating in social media, particularly Twitter. The session was Rae's idea, and we brought in Dee and Jack to present the "anti-Social" side, but most of the audience were already involved in using Twitter as a professional resource and were largely interested in discussing how to do so effectively.
@rclemmons) and I, along with Dee Childs & Jack Suess, presented

One of the participants, David Gunsberg (@dgunsberg) liked the concept so much that he recruited Kim Tairi (@kimtairi) to present a similar session at THETA 2015, being held this week at Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. For their session, they decided to take things to a new level by inviting me & Raechelle to watch & participate via Twitter from California.

The first challenge of course was figuring out when 1415 Australian East on Tuesday would equate to for me & Raechelle. With the help of a handy time calculator I determined it would be 9:15PM on Monday for me, and a couple of hours later for Rae in Wisconsin. Then the schedule got shifted 30 minutes later, not so bad for me but too late in the evening for Rae.

The choice of Periscope to present the audio/video was the most unusual part of the experience. Periscope is a personal video-streaming tool for iOS devices, which they had running on Kim's iPad Mini in the room. Periscope is essentially one-way (you can respond with text comments) and has a very simple and clean interface. It worked extremely well for me - I could see the slides and the presenters (they walked in and out of view) and hear everything. It did freeze briefly a couple of times, but not enough to break my concentration. It also had a remarkably intimate feeling to it - I was getting the view from a table near the front of the room rather than the typical conference streaming from the back. I could see David and Kim when they set it up and finished, talking directly to me. It was a remarkably engaging experience, much more so than the typical "virtual conference" environment.

In addition to tweeting, I was able to participate in the poll questions which they offered via PollEverywhere. It was fun to be able to compare my answers in real-time to the people in the room. At first I was a bit stumped about how to respond - my phone was tied up using Periscope and I was busy tweeting on my laptop - but then I realized I could tweet my poll responses to @poll and it worked like a charm.

This was my second encounter with immersive international participation in a conference, but from the "other side" - I interacted multiple times Maha Bali (@Bali_Maha) who describes her experience here. We've been talking about the potential for technology to eradicate the boundaries of distance for a long time, but I think we're just starting to see what we can really do and we have barely begun to comprehend what it means.

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