Educational Technology Innovation and Impact/Blogs, Wikis and Online Interaction

Blogs, Wikis and Online Interaction

Instant Messaging in education

Instant messaging was originally designed to facilitate one to one personal chats. Starting out initially as a text based on line chat facility, instant messaging has been accepted over telephone and email communication as a quick, efficient and streamlined method of getting real time information between students' workstations.

Instant messenger services such as MSN Messenger enable users to chat on line via text, voice, mobile phone and video. The video function allows users to see one another whilst voice features enable users to hear each other while they chat. Therefore, audio/video synchronisation enables a real time experience to be felt by students. This is particularly useful students studying distance learning programmes who may otherwise feel remoteness from either their lecturer or teacher and from fellow students.

Furthermore, Instant Messaging can bring stimulate communication in the learning environment by making communication more fun and amusing. For example, users are able to express themselves with a range of animations such as winks, dynamic backgrounds and display pictures. Shared search facilities enable users to share photographs and files using shared searches. If users are not currently on line, messages are stored until the user logs on to the service the next time. However, there is the potential for students to be distracted by constant communication from less motivated learners.

Whilst there are many benefits to this real time communication there is the question of intrusion and as instant messaging has become more advanced users can now set their status to a wide range of options such as, away, offline, busy, etcetera to deal with unwanted or untimely contact. Whilst the use of instant messaging in an educational setting is relatively new, it is being used more and more frequently and although there are several benefits to instant messaging in an educational context there are a number of drawbacks, not least the question of security. Instant Messaging is not considered a secure method of communication and whilst most Instant Messaging providers offer what is known as encryption, it is not advisable to transmit data or other confidential information. Some of the benefits and drawbacks to instant Messaging in an educational context can be summarised as follows.

Benefits of IM in educational settings:

• Increased integration for distance/remote students • Stimulates communication and collaboration • Fun aspect can provide motivation • Connect from anywhere – home, office, mobile Drawbacks of IM in educational settings: • Creates an additional distraction to the learning environment • Not secure for transmitting data or other confidential information • Misuse of tool while online and face to face • Connect from anywhere – home, office, mobile

Instant Messaging – Collaborative Tool or Educator’s nightmare! Robert Farmer, Mount Saint Vincent University, Canada found on (accessed 05/03/06) 24/04/06) 05/03/06) 05/03/06) 05/03/06)