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February 5th - Initial Request

Hi everybody.

I hope this email finds you well and happy to be back at work for another year. You may have noticed that there is a new kind of LearnScope project this year that allows for National Online LearnScope Special Interest Teams.

I am thinking of applying to facilitate such a project on the use of voice technologies. (Surprising eh?) At this stage I envisage a core group who would agree to attend an online voice event every fortnight, and contribute some feedback on the events, and a larger group of people who would attend live sessions whenever it fits in with their timetable and interests. Ideally, the core group would represent each state/territory.

The downside of this national project idea is that only the facilitator gets paid (up to $7000), with 'participants of the team contributing their time in kind'. So you would be doing it for personal and professional but not financial gain. Attractive offer isn't it!

My thinking about this is in the very initial stages. Are you interested in being part of such a project, either as a core or peripheral member? If you'd rather not take part don't feel obliged to respond to this email. I will assume that no response from you means no.

If you know of others who may be interested could you forward their details to me and I'll contact them personally. And if this idea fires your imagination and you have some ideas about how you would like to see it work then let me know about it.

Hope to hear from some of you in the positive,

- Michael.

February 19th - Follow-Up

Hi everybody.

After sending a large number of emails out around the land, 14 people have expressed interest in joining this project in varying capacities.

I'd like to expand on how the project might work, and invite your input into the process so the experience meets your needs and interests.

As I said in my original email, at the simplest level "I envisage a core group who would agree to attend an online voice event every fortnight, and contribute some feedback on the events, and a larger group of people who would attend live sessions whenever it fits in with their timetable and interests. Ideally, the core group would represent each state/territory." (At this point most states are represented by the core group.)

We would use a number of different tools for these voice events. Yahoo Messenger, Wimba, Groove, Talking Communities, Chatterbox, Elluminate are some of the more common ones that I have access to. There are countless others. Goals of these synchronous meetings could be:

  • awareness and appreciation of the range/type of tools
  • understanding of their effective application in educational environments (on and off campus)
  • development of online presentation skills in synchronous environments
    and perhaps:
  • individual or joint presentation(s) using these types of tools for Networking 2004 Online Conference


My particular interest is synchronous voice environments, but this project could also incorporate an exploration of asynchronous technologies eg Wimba voice boards (asynch spoken discussions); addition of voice to Powerpoint type presentations a la products like Impatica, Breeze, and an amazing new product called Robopresenter; voice recognition applications, etc

Several potential project members work with language and literacy students - a subgroup could examine appropriate tools and methodologies for supporting these students.

A couple of people are interested in applying these tools in an indigenous education context. I imagine we could hold live events to discuss topics like this, and invite all interested to join us on this, and other topics of interest.

plus more....

I hope this infuses you with a little more excitement about the project. There'll be scope for whole team, small group, and even individual investigation. If you have any ideas please send them to me and I'll try and incorporate them into the project application. The closer we can make the application describe the actual needs of its team, the more sense it makes for everyone, and the more likely it is to be funded. (Application is due March 8th so maybe all ideas to me by March 1st so I can start writing.)

Let me know what you'd like to do as part of this project. Or if you're happy to sit back and enjoy whatever the rest devise, no problem!

And there is room for more people. I'd be happy to begin with about 20 definite starters.


- Michael.

April 8th - Success and Availability?

Hi everyone.

Good news! I was successful in my application to facilitate this national LearnScope project - an exploration into the use of web-based voice tools - so you can all look forward to some engaging meetings over the coming months using a range of different voice tools.

We'll get started in earnest in May. In the meantime, could you give me some indication of what times best suit you for the fortnightly synchronous meetings? I understand that many of you will not be able to attend all of these meetings, and it will be well nigh impossible to find times that suit us all, but I'll try and schedule these events when the majority are available.

So, some questions:

1) in general, would you rather have these meetings during work hours or after hours? (after hours reduces the possible hassles associated with firewalls and for most of us would involve working from home.)

2) What times and what days suit you best? (eg Wednesday mornings; Friday afternoons; Monday evenings)

3) What times and days are definitely not possible?

Please let me know asap, and I'll then draw up a draft timetable.

There is still some room for more participants so if you know of colleagues who may be interested, send me their details and I'll get in touch with them.

I look forward to working with you on what the pundits agree is one of the growth areas in elearning in 2004. (It took them 6 years to finally recognise the fact that voice has a role to play, but that's another story. -:) )

- Michael.

April 25th - Update

Hi everyone.

Thanks to all of you who let me know of your availability for our synchronous meetings. I've consequently drawn up a timetable for term two (see attached). But first there are a number of issues I'd like to share with you.

1) Project Outcomes

I need to submit a Project Plan with, amongst many other things, a list of the expected professional development outcomes for project team members. Can you check the attached document (pd_outcomes.doc), and if you have other outcomes that you would like to see added to this list can you send them back to me asap?

Other desired outcomes will no doubt evolve as we progress through the project, so what is submitted at this stage is by no means exhaustive or the final word on the matter.

2) Communications

Yahoo Email List

I have made an executive decision that the bulk of written communications for this project will take place via a Yahoo Groups email list. I have a personal preference for email lists over threaded discussions because they tend to elicit wider and more frequent participation. You will receive a message from me shortly welcoming you to our discussion list.

You do not have to be a Yahoo member to receive and post to this list, but you will need to get a Yahoo ID to trial the Yahoo Messenger voice tool later in the project.

There are certain concessions to be made when we use a Yahoo list. Every email will come with an ad at the bottom of the mail, but I have had a Yahoo account for several years now and I have not received one unsolicited email to my Yahoo account. Not one. So you can be rest assured that having a Yahoo ID will not result in any spam, or compromise your Internet security in any way. Many high profile and high volume lists use Yahoo for their listserv needs. This remarkable free service will no doubt end one day, but as well as a listserv it offers archiving of messages, a group homepage, calendar, file storage, and many other tools.

Wimba Voice Board

This is the spoken equivalent of a threaded discussion forum or bulletin board. We will make use of this board inside LearningTimes (, a community similar in many ways to LearnScope. Many of you I know are already members of LearningTimes, but if you're not try and get there sometime soon and sign up. It's a free and quick sign-up procedure, and again will not result in any spam. I'll let you the URL of the board when it's set up.

LearnScope (AFLC site)

The LearnScope site will be used

  • to advertise live events
  • for participation in discussions where relevant
  • to publish/report on project milestones
  • In addition, all resources developed by the project will be made available to the AFLC. Possible resources that may arise from the project are ‘how to’ guides on various tools, evaluations of particular tools, debriefing of live sessions, lists of skills required for online presenters, methodology assessments, etc.

Regular Events

A timetable for term 2 is attached. You'll notice that there are Tuesday and Thursday afternoon sessions, and Monday evening sessions. I have chosen timeslots when most core members are available, and have arranged it so that all sessions are repeated.

Apart from the first sessions where it is probably best to use the time getting to know each other a bit, I would like to issue general invitations to the Australian Flexible Learning Community (AFLC) to these live voice sessions on the understanding that they are welcome observers, and that project team members will do most, if not all of the talking. I hope this meets with collective approval. If not, speak now!

Firewalls and IT Support

If you try and join in the live sessions from a campus or institutional location I can guarantee you will have firewall problems and you will need IT support. So if you don't know your IT support staff start make friends with them now! Many of the tools we'll use are accessible on some campuses; all of them are accessible from home and that is why I often choose to work from home, and why we will hold several sessions after hours (Monday nights).

I'd like to make it clear that I am not the most technologically savvy person around. I can usually help with the basics, but I often need help from others for more complicated problems. I usually know where to get the help, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that we will need to draw on our combined resources to troubleshoot any problems that occur.

Mac Users: If you are a Mac user you can anticipate more problems as much of the voice enabling software available has been designed for the PC market and isn't always compatible. If you are a Mac user can you let me know please.

Optional Pre-Reading

If you would like to read up on the range of voice tools available, and how they are being used in education you might like to read the attached (draft) article I wrote as a part of my Flexible Learning Leaders program last year. Please do not circulate to others at this stage as it is a draft with some referencing errors and dead URLs. It hopefully will be published later in the year. (MC: this article will be in the next edition of The Knowledge Tree due out early June. If you'd like to read a draft before then let me know and I'll email it to you.)

Much of the raw data this paper was based on is at


That's all for now. An email welcoming you to the Yahoo Groups list will follow.

- Michael.

May 3rd - Time to Yahoo

Hi everyone.

There has been a rush of latecomers to our team, principally from Tasmania (welcome!) , and we now number about 27 people. (Who are we? Details coming soon!)


Many of you have already started testing and communicating via the Yahoo email list. For those who haven't yet you might like to try a test email to If you get a copy of the email you know it works. There again, if you have already been receiving emails from this list (like this one) you already know that it works!

Note that the default reply setting for the email list means that if you hit the reply button it goes to the whole group so if you want to send a personal reply to the person who sent a message you need to manually insert their address in the TO field.

We also need to monitor what is best to send to an individual, and what should go to the whole list. Many of us receive lots of email and may prefer not to see large numbers of messages that are better sent to individuals. In the initial testing phase I think we should be patient with short personal replies to each other (eg 'Good to see you hear David' type messages), but once everyone is sure the list is functioning properly it's good to be a little discerning about what is better to send privately or publicly.


Being able to post and receive mail from our Yahoo list does not mean you have access to our Yahoo Groups homepage at

Access to this page allows you to read messages and post from there, see archives of all messages, and upload and view files so it is worth doing. If you haven't done so yet you might like to go through the steps below supplied by Jenny Seaton.

I accessed and this is what happens-

I had to click on 'Join this group' then log in with my existing yahoo ID then I got a form to join natvoice. (Michael adds: I guess if you don't have an existing Yahoo ID at this point you will be diverted to the place where you can create one.)
I had to put in an email address where I wanted to receive the group emails.
I put in my normal email, I then got an email straight away to that account with a link to click on to get back to the yahoo form,
then I clicked on 'Join' at the bottom of the form.
It then said my membership is Pending and I would receive an email when it was approved by the moderator
Michael, as moderator of the group, gets an email asking to approve your membership, and sends the approval back to Yahoo.
All quite straight forward. (MC: Let's hope so!)


Once you have access to our Yahoo homepage, you can choose how you receive mail from the list. Click on Members and you'll see alongside your name you have the option of receiving mail as individual messages as they're sent, or if you prefer, you can set it to Daily Digest so you get just one email per day that includes any messages from the last 24 hours.


The next step for everyone is to download Yahoo Messenger - the free instant messaging tool from Yahoo. You can download it from This tool will almost certainly not work from behind firewalls in your organisations, so it is better to test it from home or via a dial-up connection outside a network.
We will be using this tool for the first two of our live meetings (beginning May 18th) so everyone who wants to join those sessions will need to get it. When you have installed Yahoo messenger, you can then add everyone else from the project to your 'friends list'. To do this you need to know their Yahoo ID, and to get one of these you do need to register with Yahoo. (I think that installing Yahoo Messenger also requires that you register a Yahoo ID because you can't use it without one.)

Many of you have already done this, but if you haven't try it sometime soon and then send me your Yahoo ID. My Yahoo ID is mikecogh. I will post a list of everyone's Yahoo ID when I have them all.

Once you have Yahoo messenger up and running let me know if you'd like to trial it, or perhaps you can put the word out to the group and see if others are interested in meeting you there.


On a non-Yahoo note, I will create a simple webpage with some personal details about us all, so can you send me a pic of yourself that I can add to this page? Ideally one that has already been reduced to mugshot size, but if you're not sure how to do this just send me the pic and I'll resize it. If you have a photo of yourself on the web somewhere point me to the page and I'll get it from there. If you would rather not send a pic of yourself send me an avatar or something that symbolises you. OK?


I'll be in touch later in the week with more information about some of the other tools we'll be using. Till then,

- Michael.

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