I have recently been involved in a CPD trial with the science learning centre using online software to connect with and speak to other teachers. We have been using adobe connect. From the end user point of view I really like it because it just works. The host sends a link, you click on it and it opens a user interface that allows you to see the other contributors, a presentation and contribute to a chat box. There is also a section that lists the contributors and allows you show symbols to agree/disagree, laugh, applaud or put your hand up to indicate that you want to make a contribution.
It is a very interesting experience to have a meeting online using adobe connect. It isn't possible for everyone to have their microphone open at once because the feedback from computers to microphones means that you hear echoes of the person who is speaking. This means that the meeting is ultra polite; we even have to raise our virtual hands to get a chance to speak.
The chat box is useful. It is like passing notes in a meeting but so everyone can see; a much more professional version of the bingo we might play during whole school in-service. It can get distracting for notes to go up on the screen while you are talking or listening, but we are now taking time at the end of each agenda point to read back over the written comments. After the meeting written comments (and a video of the meeting) are stored so we can refer to them, this is more useful than a normal meeting when you either have to make your own notes or remember what has been said.
Most of all though I like using the online video conferencing to meet with people I would never normally engage with. It is much easier to communicate face to face, even over the Internet, than by written format on a forum or in twitter. There is less room for misinterpretation I believe.
Our host Emily structures the meetings very carefully, and invites us all to contribute on each agenda point. Which I really like. It means someone like me can't push themselves forward and do a lot of talking at the expense of others. I can imagine that the success of using adobe connect depends a lot on the ability of the chairperson.
I don't know how easy adobe connect is to use as the presenter/host/chair, but I do think that there are a lot of positives, enough that if I had a group of schools spread out across a federation or LA I would use it to help connect the teachers and spread good practice.
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