YackPack is a new social software product that allows users to record and send audio messages to friends inside privately formed groups.
While there are other products that provide avenues for collaboration over the web—most notably message boards, email, and instant messaging—YackPack is among the first products to allow users to post asynchronous voice messages.
YackPack was developed by B.J. Fogg, a psychologist well known for his study of computers as persuasive technology, and Director of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab.
Social Voice Messaging
The ability to interject voice into an online space is important because it provides opportunities for members of a community to convey the expression, emotion, and intimacy embedded in human speech.
These audio emails or voice messages also provide a way for members of a community to develop social bonds, place information in a situated context, and support constructivist learning environments.
So what are the educational applications?
- Many of the audio-based educational applications we have discussed for the iPod can easily translate to a YackPack group.
- The ability to integrate human speech into the curriculum becomes even more important in pure eLearning context where students and teachers don’t meet in a face-to-face setting.
- A language teacher can YackCast (verb conjugation, dialogue, etc) to an entire class. In turn, the students can respond to the teacher via a YackPack audio message.
- Teachers can use YackPack to provide feedback on the proper use of accents, pronunciation, or other nuances the student would be hard pressed to learn from a textbook.
- Students can form a YackPack to work on group or collaborative projects. Since each member of the group has their picture and profile in the group “people cloud,” it helps students build a unified team, even though they may be separated by geography.
- Teachers can use YackPack to provide encouragement and/or narrative feedback to online learning students. Whether it’s providing feedback on curriculum, or technical support, hearing the voice of the instructor may contribute to student support, self-regulation, and retention.
- The YackPack website has an example of a teacher who uses YackPack to teach his online students how read poetry. And in turn, the students read their poem and YackCast it back to their teacher and peers.
- YackPack can provide audio-based learning and collaboration opportunities for students with multiple intelligences, physical, cognitive, or other issues which might preclude them from participation in a traditional learning community.
YackPack: A Sure Winner
Dr. Fogg and the rest of the YackPack team have developed an impressive product, one that users will find many applications for both in and out of the online classroom.
The clean, easy-to-use interface will allow users to jump in and begin sending audio messages, without struggling to figure out how to use the technology. The combination of textual, visual, and auditory elements makes YackPack a powerful learning tool in online education.
As more people begin using YackPack, it will be interesting to see the ways in which people utilize the technology to meet their needs. Will people use YackPack on web-enabled mobile devices? Will a global community or network of YackCasters exchange ideas, hacks, and information?
Indeed, the future looks bright for YackPack. And who knows, in a few months we might be buzzing about the Yackosphere…