Ever Heard of an Unhangout…

If you are familiar with Skype, Facetime, and/or Google Hangouts then you also need to become familiar with MIT Media Lab’s Unhangout. You can read more about it on their site.

This is one of those gems you hear about and bookmark hoping that a need for it will come across your inbox. Here’s how a use-case happened for me.

It all starts with, “Is it possible…”

I had one of my teachers reach out to me. He was explaining this activity that he wanted to do with his students. They were learning the proper ways to conduct a debate. In the past they utilized Flipgrid to have students in his class virtually debate students in our sister school on the other side of the district. While this use of technology allowed the students to see & hear each other, it lacked the ‘in the moment’ feel of a debate. Students would have to post their opening statements, watch their opponents, craft a rebuttal, record and post, then wait and watch… (rinse & repeat)

All of this took time and made the event feel artificial. Being a Google district which has Hangouts turned off for our middle schoolers, we needed another option, hence the, “Is it possible…” question.

“I’ve got something bookmarked…”

Now I wish it was as simple as I showed the teachers Unhangouts and they were able to virtually debate, easy peasy. No, it did take some coordination with our IT department to open up parts of the network for the student accounts —

“It’s all a bit technical, but the important thing is…”

We did get it to eventually work. Now, why use Unhangouts?

If you are familiar with an Edcamp, think of this as Vidcamp…

As I mentioned, if you are familiar with an Edcamp, an un-conference where sessions are setup at the start of the event, then the same concept applies here with Unhangouts. A teacher can setup video conference rooms for the students (up to 10 per room) to be able to join. In the conference room, they are able to see & hear each other, type text (which the teacher can also pre-populate), share their screen, and start a recording (which saves into a Dropbox account of the teacher who created the event). The creator is also able to launch the event with a YouTube Video or other embedded material in the main event’s Dashboard. Here is a view of the dashboard:

Just like with any use of new technology for the first time, there were some hiccups. I believe one debate room’s recording didn’t upload to Dropbox, a couple of groups reported a little bit of a lag when talking. But, all in all, the virtual debate gave the students an opportunity to interact with peers which they normally don’t interact with in real-time.

Could or has Unhangouts worked for you? I would love to read about it in the comments below.

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