Collaborative Professional Development: How to (hopefully) get it done

I had an excellent informal learning "session" today with Brian C. Smith (New York), Brian Mull (Louisiana), Karen Janowski (Massachusetts), Robin Ellis (Pennsylvania), and Kelly Dumont (Utah). In an attempt to discover the best way to build upon the model for global, collaborative professional development created by Darren Kuropatwa, I have been searching for a way to:

  1. Share my screen
  2. Stream audio/video of my class
  3. Provide a chat-room for communication between classmates regardless of geographic location
Thus, as I was messing around with a partial solution (Ustream) for the upcoming Social Software in the Classroom professional development class that I will be co-teaching with Robin Ellis, I sent out a Twitter tweet announcing partial success:
A few minutes later, I'm greeted (through tweet) by several other interested parties.

To make a long story short (we played for over an hour), we worked out what should be a pretty darn good way to create a highly collaborative global classroom environment with up to 10 different sites.

Total cost: $0.

As of right now (translation: if we don't find a better way to do things), the order of class preparation will be as follows:
  1. Install Skype on client machines - I'll be doing this in our computer lab.
  2. Install YugmaSkype on client machines - This is optional because Yugma installs itself when you try to use it, but installing it ahead of time will speed up the process.
  3. Have all participants create Skype accounts - I'll be taking my teachers through this process at the beginning of our class. Remember, you can have up to ten people connected through Yugma and roughly that same number for Skype audio, but you can have an unlimited number of people in a Skype chat.
  4. Add participants to your Skype list (or the Skype list of the person whose screen will be broadcast) - then when you try to initiate a Yugma shared desktop session, you can easily select participants.
  5. Initiate a conference call (Skype audio) with up to ten distant participants - these are the participants that will be able to hear instruction clearly (through Skype). Ideally, you could have one person per site connected through Skype audio.
  6. The meeting host that will share the screen then starts YugmaSkype and invites up to ten participants.

    At this point, up to ten people (or sites) can both hear the instructor and see the instructor's screen. We will also be doing the next step(s) to allow more than 10 sites to participate:

  7. Use to broadcast the video (and somewhat limited audio) of whatever else we may want to show (a screen, class, or instructor). Ustream is free, but you can only create one stream per computer. In our tests, the audio from Ustream was sub-par (choppy and had consistent lag). However, if it proves adequate, we may resort to using it entirely for audio.
At this point, I would love to hear from you. Where are the chinks in our anticipated armor? What has worked best for you? What problems will we encounter?

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