My wonderful collaborative partner shared this very cool new tool with me today. Basically, YackPack allows you to set up a private (real-time and asynchronous) audio chat group using only an internet browser. By the time I had arrived at work this morning, Chrissy had a chat widget set up right on our wikispace. So, I registered for an account, created a “pack” and we were audio chatting in a matter of seconds. Considering that she’s in New Zealand and I’m in Malaysia, anything that brings us closer together is fantastic.
Now, I know this sounds a lot like Skype, but I think this is going to provide some huge advantages for us because:
- No additional software or downloads are required. Students can access our YackPack from any computer with an internet connection. Plus it’s directly embedded into our wikispace so there’s no extra web address to remember. How easy!
- In addition to chatting live, you can leave voice messages for any of the users (one, several, or all of them at once). Our 5 hour time difference makes it somewhat difficult to set up Skype conferences, so this will allow us to have “conversations” whenever we have the time. If I wanted to, I could leave a voice message for every student collaborating on this project to receive whenever they log in.
- Students can chat and leave messages with each other individually. So far we’ve only been using 1 Skype account per class – meaning everyone had to be in on the discussion at once. Now we can have many conversations happing in real-time or asynchronously whenever we want.
- The group is entirely private – you have to be logged in and invited to the group to see our “pack.”
- It feels like a community – the visual set-up of the group makes it feel like an actual group – instead of just a list of people.
It’s not perfect though… So far I can tell that I don’t like:
- There seems to be no way to have multiple organizers – it would be much easier if each of us could manage our own class.
- The visual appearance of the “pack” is small – we have so many members that I had to reduce everyone to the outer edges to be able to see them all without overlapping – and I haven’t even added my class yet!
- Even though I love audio chat, it would be nice to have a text chat option embedded in the same window – instead we’ll probably have to use Meebo or another text chat widget.
Even with these minor drawbacks, I would have loved to use this tool for our International Teen Life project or for the 1001 Flat World Tales project – hearing a voice definitely adds that personal touch. I can imagine students narrating bits of their story, asking for feedback and hearing their collaborative partner in Serbia, Canada or the US respond – no concerns over time differences or software. Hello YackPack!