For the sake of variety, I enjoy inviting guest writers to the TESOL Blog from time to time for the purpose of sharing even more tech resources with all of you. Today, it is my great pleasure to introduce Dr. Joseph Slick, an integral part of our team at Northern State University, where together we are envisioning ESL for today and for the future.
Dr. Slick recently had the opportunity to explore ways to interact with students digitally, as he wanted to extend student engagement through a blended learning environment. Because all courses are loaded into our LMS, or learning management system, Desire2Learn (D2L), he used that as a starting point and found Wiggio, D2L’s version of Google Hangouts and Google Drive.
Wiggio is a free online communications platform, where Wig stands for working in groups. The design of Wiggio is basic and shares many commonalities with other online communications platforms, which makes it convenient for first-time users to navigate and use. An attention to design simplicity makes this an accessible site for users. Teachers and students can post discussions, share questions, upload documents, upload videos, hold virtual meetings, and schedule appointments in a 24/7 virtual community site.
It is easy to register for and set up Wiggio. As a teacher, I first had to insert the Wiggio widget into the navigation bar of my D2L course. This allows students to click and connect to the free registration application. Students enter their information and receive a password confirmation, which gains them access. Then students join their group. Alternatively, teachers can email students with registration details. Once in, it takes fewer than 15 minutes to demonstrate the navigation and features to students. The design is similar to Google+ or Facebook, so most students already have an intuitive feel for using it. It is also recommended that teachers encourage students to play with the site. This play creates a positive emotional connection, which is essential for future use.
Because students are using a system they find familiar, they are interested in playing with Wiggio. This play creates an ongoing connection to Wiggio, and it also helps them to gain confidence in a short time. This confidence connects students to Wiggio even more, which is important. As Wiggio is not meant to showcase content, teachers can use Wiggio as a way for students to connect 24/7. It is designed to foster interactive collaboration. This interactive collaboration can help students to socially navigate the challenges of an assignment. The students can virtually share their personal experiences with their classmates.
In my experience, students had an almost instant rapport with Wiggio. Because it is easy to access, and because it is similar to their preferred social media, they were eager and excited to play with Wiggio. My students were even reluctant to stop using Wiggio because they were enjoying it so much. This fun encourages further collaboration and communication, which enhances the learning potential for every student.
Have you ever used Wiggio or another online communications platform? How do you keep in contact with students outside the classroom? Share your thoughts and comments below.
Dr. Joseph Slick, an English instructor at Northern State University, has been a TESOL professional for 16 years, working with immigrants and international students in the United States and internationally. His interests are emotional literacy/affect and advocacy for immigrants and students.