discussing discussion


My graduate education (or, as I prefer to call it, rad school) has exposed me to an entirely unique set of learning experiences that incorporate new media and communication styles.  It has rejuvenated my thought processes and demonstrated the various instructional benefits that technology affords.  Despite this, I can’t help but feel strong twinges of longing and nostalgia for my undergraduate lit classes, which mainly entailed showing up to class and discussing the material at hand.  My yearning for those class periods nearly overshadows the distant memory of research papers, character analyses, and all-nighters.  

Last week, my deep pining for instantaneous discourse was satiated.  One of my classes, which focuses on web 2.0 technologies as instructional mechanisms, altered the format of the content discussion.  Rather than posting to threads on the class discussion board throughout the week, my instructor introduced us to a whole new means of exchanging our thoughts and intellectual progress.  We met on Skype, a communication tool that offers text, audio, and video capabilities.  Our group consisted of about fifteen students, so the professor called each of us into one audio chat.  Thankfully, the size of our group prohibited us from video conferencing, because I distinctly remember last Thursday to be a bad hair day.  

The great thing about Skype, aside from the throwback to my glory days in undergraduate lit classes, is that it allows everyone with a computer to connect to just about everyone else in the world.  At absolutely no cost, users can download the desktop application, find people they know, and start conversing away.  Mac users (such as myself… go Apple!) will be able to start implementing Skype using the built-in microphone and webcam.  Skypers using a PC operating system will have to purchase an external microphone and camera, but a quick Amazon search informs me that these can be obtained for under ten dollars each.  For a couple of cents a minute, you can even use the program to call telephone lines.   The only difficulty our class discussion yielded was an echo, which seemed to be a result of one student’s microphone picking up the speaker output (but we still love her).  

Skype is similar to instant messaging hosts such as AOL and MSN, but takes computer-based communication to a whole new level.  It has proven to be incredibly helpful for collaborating with group members for projects.  Rather than trading e-mails over the span of several days, we can arrange a meeting time on Skype.  I have to warn you, though: doing this will greatly hinder your ability to procrastinate.  Just sayin’.

At the end of our discussion, anyone who was sonically present can attest to the fact that I practically begged my professor for more sessions like this.  Although I was slightly skeptical of Skype’s capabilities when we were told to install it, I quickly realized that, in this case, my distrust of all things web 2.0 was wholly unfounded, and it’s become an integral part of my sanity retention as I proceed down the digital path to my MLS.


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