Thursday, February 11, 2010

(insert squeal of delight here)

Is it August 24 yet?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Backchannel Chat with TodaysMeet

I'm working on incorporating more technology tools into my teaching. The Free Technology For Teachers blog has been invaluable-- I find something new to try on a weekly basis, if not more often. Recently I used backchannel chat with TodaysMeet, one of the few sites that can be used for private chat that isn't blocked by my school district. I had the students conduct a chat while viewing a video (Rick Steves' Iran) and learned a few things:
  • Providing a few minutes of "play" time was essential. They were able to get their "OMG THIS IS SO COOL!!1!1!"s out before we started the actual content.  
  • Also essential:  very clear rules about appropriate vs. inappropriate chat.  One unforeseen wrinkle was that my students are obviously used to ragging each other while chatting-- I had to add a "No insults" guideline.
  • 24 kids + one chat room = chaos.  I wound up asking them to restrict themselves to 10 comments during the video.
  • An effective teacher pauses video content frequently to process with students.  This way, we didn't have to keep pausing, although I did once or twice when the situation warranted it. 
  • Connected to the above: I had to be much more engaged as a teacher than I generally am during a video.  The kids were not only answering the questions I posted on the board, they were asking me how things were spelled, explanations for things they were confused about, etc. 
  • The kids were also much more engaged.  In Kagan Cooperative Learning (the love of my teaching life), teachers are instructed to ask themselves, "What percent of the students are overtly active at once?"  A quick scan of the room showed maybe 1/4 to 1/2 of them in the process of typing a response at any given time.  They were keeping track of the chat, watching the video, and thinking about their own responses.  They most definitely worked harder than the typical video-with-a-worksheet (even more than a really good video with a really good worksheet)-- and they liked it more. 

TodaysMeet could be used across classrooms, with multiple classes logging into the same chat room.  I'm not secure enough to have students backchannel chat while I'm conducting a lesson at this point.  I feel like I need to be able to monitor the chat carefully while it's happening.  For in-class video viewing, though, I think it's going to be my new go-to activity.