Spreecasting: A new frontier in online learning?

Two months ago, I didn’t know anything about spreecast.com. My indefatigable ed tech mentor, Leigh Graves Wolf (who is generally awesome and knows a lot of stuff about a lot of things) sent me a tweet from the SXSWEdu Conference in Austin, TX in March. It went something like this:  @mshagerman check out spreecast.com Use it in CEP 820?

As with anything Leigh recommends, I check it out straight away. I was immediately hooked. It had been a long time since I had explored a tech tool with affordances that were so immediately obvious for teaching and learning online.

At its most essential, spreecast is a social broadcasting tool. As an instructor, you can broadcast yourself, talking, to students who, upon receiving the link to your broadcast, can join in the conversation via IM. Instructors can invite students directly into the video broadcast to speak as well. In fact, you can have up to four speakers in the spreecast video window at once — for free — and the entire conversation is on the cloud, and being recorded. Although you do have to sign up for a spreecast account, nobody has to download a thing. Once the conversation is over, you can embed the spreecast in your course website/CMS and send out the link in an email to students who were not able to join the live conversation.

Since March, I have either hosted or participated in six spreecasts. Three of the spreecasts were conversations with new literacies scholars whose work our CEP 891 students had read. This, by the way, was super cool. Julie Coiro, Doug Hartman and Mike DeSchryver each agreed to have informal conversations with Paul Morsink and I about their work. We invited our CEP 891 students to join in live, if they could, but we then shared the links to the recordings with the whole class.

Paul, Rand Spiro and I also hosted our final project exhibitions for CEP 891 in spreecast this past weekend. Normally, this synchronous event would have happened in Adobe Connect. Spreecast was so much easier. Students just joined in the conversation. Now, to be fair, Adobe Connect does have certain affordances that spreecast does not. Coordinating conversations was a little more challenging without the “raised hand” feature that Adobe provides. That said, we decided to promote all students to the “producer” level in spreecast which meant that they could add themselves to the spreecast window when they wanted to contribute via video to the conversation.

Finally, for CEP 820, Ammon Wilcken, April Niemela, Sean Leahy and I recorded a final thank you message to our students using spreecast. Since Sean lives in the Netherlands, April in Idaho and Ammon and I live about two hours apart from one another in Michigan, spreecast let us come together in a common video space to provide some concluding thoughts to our students. We did it in one take — and in 10 minutes, we had recorded the message and sent it out to our students who also live around the globe.

In two months, spreecast has become a very important instructional tool for me. Here, at MSU, the semester is nearly over but I’m already thinking of ways to integrate it in new and different ways in my online courses this fall. I’d love to hear from others — have you used it? And if so, how?