Review of Tokbox

Tokbox  http://www.tokbox.com/ is an on-line communication tool, allowing for videoconferencing with up to 20 participants for free.  There is fullscreen view with almost no options, and a reduced screen with the option of sending text messages.  In addition there is a dropdown menu that opens screens to a few other web sites to allow sharing over other tools:

Of these, EtherPad.org seems to be the only one that allow for collaborative work during the session.

I tested TokBox with a colleague, one of us on a Mac; the other a PC, both working from home.  It worked well.  What you cannot do, it seems,  is to  share other images such as Powerpoints, spreadsheets or jpegs using other programs- everything has to work through the dropdown list.  I imagine these options will increase if they continue to develop the site.

You can also record videos off your web cam and send them to others by email. These can be viewed by going to Tokbox itself, or you can find the flv file in your Firefox cache and save it for use with other video players.

With a standard webcam and built-in mike you are ready to go.  We had to play with our sound settings a bit but once we got that adjusted the discussion went well.

Needed skills?- really not many except to play with different buttons- and there aren’t too many.

Needed Resources: a pc, webcam and access to the internet. There was a bit of a delay so I imagine fast internet is important.

Usage:

  1. Go to the website and sign up for free.
  2. Add contacts manually (using email addresses) or through other services such as Facebook.
  3. Invite contacts to a session.  As with instant messenger you can see if they are on-line.
  4. Test your camera and sound settings and lighting so you can be seen- you see your own image on the screen.
  5. Start the session.

Here is a screen shot of setting up a conference:

Here I am videoconferencing with my colleague Dr. Criglar

It wasn’t possible to record the session itself off the screen (Tokbox cannot capture what is going on the screen itself – but we could have it with http://camstudio.org/ or perhaps with http://screenr.com).

However, you can record videos from your webcam: Here is a video review I made using the Tokbox video tool.

Please describe a scenario of how you might use this tool in a teaching environment (about 500 words).

I am interested in conducting remote conferencing with graduate students from our institution who are working at remote facilities.  I think this would work fine for this purpose with the limitation that you cannot “show your data” or “go to the blackboard”.  On the other hand, you don’t need elaborate facilities, either.  You could send Powerpoints, for example, containing prepared images, in advance, so that everyone in the group can independently view them during the session, with the voice-over provided by Tokbox.

What are the advantages of using this tool in a teaching environment?    The chief advantages are ease of use and zero cost.

What are the disadvantages of using this tool in a teaching environment?  Again- it doesn’t have the ability for real-time demonstration of other files, or the ability to use a drawing tool in real-time.  There is a bit of a time delay so it would be hard to have an effective multi-voice conversation, so you’d want to have a the equivalent of a “talking stick”- perhaps that could be handled through the texting box at the bottom of the screen.

The audio continues to work even if you open a different window, so it MIGHT be possible to open a concurrent session with a collaborative “whiteboard” such as www.twiddla.com It also allow multiple users.

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