Go Ahead and Yack on Your PBwiki Published 2007-04-13 under ,

Yesterday evening, I attended a news conference of sorts held by Ramit Sethi, co-founder of PBwiki and BJ Fogg, co-founder of YackPack.  This conference was for educators and was to answer questions regarding the integration of YackPack's WalkieTalkie widget into PBWiki.  Now you can add voice chat capabilities to any wiki page allowing those viewing that page to talk with each other.  Its easy, its fun and its free.  ( link to video demonstration )

I praised YackPack back in a December post in which I focused on asynchronous communications - the ability to leave voice messages to one or all of a group of collaborators.  But the WalkieTalkie widget is for synchronous - real time - communications.  This is such a cool tool.  It adds a whole new dimension to a web page.  As I write this post, I have a tab open to the YackPack home page which (of course) has a WalkieTalkie widget on it.  It is fun to hear the  tentative comments of folks who are browsing the YackPack site and want to give the widget a try.  I can image browsing for a book on Amazon and hearing the author ask if I have any questions about the book before purchasing.  It's a bit scary... and really cool.

I will admit that when I first heard of the integration of the WalkieTalkie widget into PBwiki, I was a bit underwhelmed.  But the more I think about it, the more ideas of how this tool can be used to help extend the classroom.  Here are just a few ideas, most of which were discussed at yesterday's news conference.

  • Teacher posts a set of review questions for an upcoming test on her PBwiki site and then holds "office hours" during which time, students can come to the page and ask the teacher a question (or just listen to the questions from other students).  I know of a couple of teachers that do this but use IM for communications.  For me, I would find being able to explain an answer to a complex question verbally easier than using text messaging.
  • Teacher sets up several discussion pages on his PBwiki site and on each a different topic is presented.  A group of students visit a page and discuss the topic using the WalkieTalkie widget and then write up a summary of their discussion right there on the wiki page.  Optionally, the conversation can be recorded and then edited by the students.  This conversation can then be added as part of the wiki page (and be part of a podcast).  [note: at this time, you need a third-party application to record the conversation, but BJ (of YackPack) was interested in the possibility that recording become a feature of the widget in the future.]
  • A group of students from various schools (and even countries) use PBWiki to create a textbook or AP review site.  Using the WalkieTalkie widget, they can meet regularly to discuss issues that have come up while creating the wiki.
  • Teacher sets up a conference with a noted author, scientist, or public figure and uses the WalkieTalkie widget allow students to hear from and ask questions of this expert.  This conversation can even take place in the classroom where the students talk turns asking questions.  Again, students can summerize the conversation on the wiki page.

Mixing the power of voice communication with that of visual media (text and images) is a really powerful learning tool.  I congratulate the folks at YackPack for making such a great and easy to use widget and those at PBwiki for the insight to make it really easy to include the widget on any wiki page.

By the way, the news conference was held on a PBwiki page using the WalkieTalkie widget.  Just another use PBwiki and YackPack's WalkieTalkie widget.