Unhangout is another wonderful project from the MIT Media Lab and supported by the MacArthur Foundation. It is an open source project and those more familiar with the innards of code can modify and use. Basically, unhangout works as a platform for virtual unconferences.
Anyone familiar with the BarCamp or EdCamp movements will understand the workflow. There was a lobby where participants could join a Google Hangout OnAir. The lobby had a wonderful chat feature.
Then there were breakout sessions organized into separate hangouts. Thus ten people could join a session.
Today’s unconference was a joint venture from the #clmooc sponsored by the National Writing Project and connectedlearningtv. The developers from the MIT Media Lab also attended. I joined late and entered the room Writing as Making/Making as Writing. Their were seven other participants in the room. The Google Hangout worked, beyond some usual bandwidth glitches, quite well. I was able to share stories of what happens when we “schoolify” making and discussed how writing is both instant improv and a deep reflective process.
There were some limitations. Today’s unconference was small scale. Google Hangouts may or may not have a cap of 10 participants. This would limit the number of people who could actively participate in each breakout session. Yet maybe smaller sessions will allow for more in depth conversation. I cannot wait to see where the MIT Media Lab developers: Philipp Schmidt, Drew Harry, Srishti Sethi take the project.
Overall, for me, unhangout is one of the most exciting digital texts and tools to emerge in sometime. In terms of classroom use I see many potential opportunities. We could have interest driven self directed professional development (i.e.#edcamp). Students could join book clubs or discuss specific disciplinary texts across districts, states, and international borders. Most importantly students could find others with similar interest driven passions and create their own unhangout experience. This would unite the connected learning principles with emerging pedagogies of digital texts and tools.