Peter Scott and Eli Tomadaki talking about Flashmeeting

October 31, 2007

Peter Scott talking about Flashmeeting

Originally uploaded by openlearn2007

Elia Tomadaki and Peter Scott on Videoconferencing in Open Learning

Peter starts by talking about the development history of Flashmeeting – how it started and evolved. Flashmeeting is now about 4 years old. What they wanted to do was see what the effect was of a conferencing tool that allowed people to collaborate and share what they’d done with the wider community.

Peter gives a brief overview of how Flashmeeting works. He mentions issues about Flashmeeting relating to privacy. They did discuss making it open by default and decided against it. Some users do share their meetings but others are using it and just getting on with things. They don’t automatically publish meeting info such as where the delegates are from etc. Everything is recorded as a public set of data as XML which you can then suck into another engine and reuse it.

Flashmeeting is a tool to enable learners to meet, at scale, and to make what they produce available to the wider community. The talk is not so much about flashmeeting as an application, but more about the academic issues surrounding it’s use as a collaborative tool. He points out that Ale is doing a Flashmeeting right now, using the slides from the presentation. I can see her at the front with her web cam in her hand pointing it around the room at Daisy Mwanza-Simwame who is now asking a question about the type of internet access you need to run Flashmeeting. The answer is, definitely not satellite – too much lag introduced, but anything else should be OK.

Elia now stands up and starts to talk about how to book a Flashmeeting. Once you’ve had a meeting, the meeting you’ve booked is added to your portfolio as part of your personal record. You have a list of events that you can edit, annotate, make visible or invisible. In the OpenLearn website, you can have meetings related to a specific course or unit. Peter notes that they automatically tag the meetings with the context depending from where you launch it – so if you launch it from within a course that gets tagged. You can also add additional tags.

The Flashmeeting blog contains the flashmeeting booking page which looks pretty simple .You can elect to syndicate it. I wonder if syndicating it means making the meeting open to anybody. They are private but not secure so that anybody who knows the URL can come. But the URL is not obvious. You can also check the server load so that you can pre-plan your meetings. Only one person can speak at any one time. You need to click the green button to broadcast.

There have been 700 meetings and of these 500 have the word test in the title so they try to filter out these meetings. Flashmeeting has up until now been hidden away in the lapspace. For past month it has been made more available and is now seeing more use.

She goes on to describe the types of events and communities that have sprung up out of Flashmeeting. Peer-to-peer learning events, web conferences and presentations, social events such as video blogging and webcasts using Flashmeeting as a recording tool. Seems to be fairly successful.
There is now a screen up showing the sort of analysis you can do on a Flashmeeting recording. Interesting. Shows the “cueing” of putting hand up. Only happened once in this one which means that people were stopping talking and others were starting smoothly. There is also a record of the amount of text chat. Also shows use of interrupt button – some cultures use this more than others. Interesting. The first time we tried it, we thought you had to use the interrupt button to swap from one speaker to another and it felt really bad. It was much better once we realised that you could put your virtual hand up to take a turn.

The turn taking is also represented as a pie chart. I remember that when Rebecca, Anesa, Cling, Patrick and I all had a Flashmeeting, when we looked back over the recording, Patrick seemed to have spoken much more. This might lead you to think that he was just more verbose, however when you actually listened to the recording, Patrick was speaking more slowly than we were. I think this was partly because he was more familiar and comfortable with the medium. We were a little uncomfortable and I certainly found seeing my face in the big Flashmeeting window a bit disconcerting so I tended to stop as quickly as I could. I think it was also partly because Patrick was directing us as to what to do next because we were doing an OpenLearn study, so he wanted to make his instructions as clear as possible and speaking slowly can achieve this. Illustrates how important context is to analysis I guess.

They’ve now got an interesting slide showing eight different pie charts illustrating different sorts of event. So our event will be one with definite discussion leader who will show up as the person who spoke more often. If we were just engaging in peer learning, presumably the amounts of time speaking will be more evenly balanced.

Interesting thing is that with the broadcast only one person can speak at the time, but with the accompanying text chat, you can get lots of overlapping interactions. You can examine this through Flashmeeting but you can’t through a normal physical meeting.

Next stage is to track back through the users and find out what they think about these pictures (the pie charts).

Peter thinks that virtual meetings are significantly more demanding that physical meetings as reported by users. You can’t switch off during a physical meeting. I wonder if this is why live- blogging a meeting or presentation is so tiring. You have to concentrate quite hard on what is being said and on your reaction to it, and there is no respite. If you switch off, you lose the thread of what is going on.


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