Last week an impromptu conversation I had with officemates had me thinking about the rhetoric of digital spaces—specifically the attitudes embodied by dating apps. The most popular dating apps, to me anyway, each seem to strike their own distinct tone: Tinder is for swipin’, Hinge is for something more serious, and Bumble kind of seems to operate in between. Depending on what you’re looking for, one space might be more conducive to your search than another—which is an interesting notion given that all three applications serve the same purpose (more or less).
It’s an idea I explored while working through the curator Extend module and the same could be said of learning in a sense—in person, online, on a boat or a plane—learning can happen anywhere, but depending on the tone of the space, some components of that activity might get accentuated or mitigated. It’s a concept worth considering, especially given the speed and scale with which we’ve pivoted online. While I’m definitely probably not qualified to give anyone dating advice, I do have a few recommendations for digital spaces worth considering.
Padlet has proven to be a total workhorse for us. We’ve seen it get utilized as an announcement style pin-board, a space for low-stress discussion and feedback collection, even as a way to compile notes at the end of workshops. Within Blackboard (or any LMS, really), Padlet signals a visual distinction that can offer a friendlier vibe than your nuts and bolts discussion forum is generally able to achieve. The flat space offers students a different way to engage with material that asks them to visually organize it, rather than passively receive it. In addition to a number of slick looking templates and presets, Padlet also lets you do a little window dressing yourself should you feel compelled to upload your own imagery. Signing up for a free account gets you 3 padlets, with the option to pay and upgrade for more capacity. If you’re curious what Padlet looks like in action, you can check out our OERx21 conference presentation embedded below.
Since pivoting online, we’ve had some time to iron out wrinkles in process and offer different kinds of online solutions to instructors and students. In addition to YuJa and Zoom, students and faculty can take advantage of Microsoft Teams which comes locked and loaded with your Trent login. Whether you’re looking to curate the experience yourself, or let students take control and do their own thing, Microsoft Teams lets you chat with text and video, swap files, and get organized. Teams functions as a bit of a liminal space: it’s not bolted onto Blackboard, but it’s still considered ‘in-house’ when it comes to institutional software support (Trent Online and IT will be there to help you if things get weird). Perfect for collaborating on bigger projects, students can get to Teams with Trent’s offering of Office 365.
You might have heard about how they walked away from Microsoft’s billion dollar offer, and with over 100 million active users it’s safe to say that Discord is kind of popular. Originally marketed as Skype for gamers, Discord has evolved over the years into a one-stop-shop that combines voice chat with streaming, screen sharing, texting, and a robust assortment of management tools to help cultivate your community (stuff like custom emojis, for example). It’s a piece of software we’ve written about before, and since then Discord has put even more effort into shoring up how users get onboarded and communities get created within their platform. While setting up an off-site space might seem intimidating, having a soft place to land that’s outside the LMS can help build camaraderie in a bit more of a laid back atmosphere.
So there you have it: the in-house, the on your own, and the in-between. What you do with it is up to you! While all 3 of these tools offer different spaces in which we can communicate, they all tackle communication from different angles. Have you used one of the things mentioned above? Got one you can’t live without that you’re dying to tell everyone about? Feel free to leave a reply below and tell us what time it is.