Using a Chat Room in the Classroom

While in Bangkok visiting Kim Cofino from Always Learning and Chrissy Hellyer from Teaching Sagittarian, I attended a session of CoTaIL (Certificate of Technology and Information Literacy) that is being taught at their school (International School of Bangkok). Jeff Utecht, from The Thingking Stick and co-teacher of the course,  had asked me to share with their class participants my recent experience with chatrooms in the classroom.

st-presenting-at-isb2-byteachingsagittarian
image by teachingsagittarian

I started out the session by creating a chat room on tinychat.com. With no preparation and little instructions, I asked the participants to use the chatroom to summarize what they were hearing.  I was hoping to be able to document a change in usage and focus of the chatroom as the presentation progressed.  As the primary focus of the session taught by Jeff and Chad Bates was “Digital Footprint”, I tried to tie in the use of a chatroom as yet another way of documenting your and your students’ learning. A way to be able to go back and reflect on conversations, questions and threads.

How do we teach with a tool that our students use exclusively (until now)  in a social setting? How to we guide and prepare them to use it on an academic stage and leaving a (positive!) digital footprint behind?

After the session was over, I was eager to go through the chat log to see what kind of thoughts were documented, what transformation (if any) had taken place in the mind of the participants, what kind of thoughts were “circulating” in the back channel while I was giving the presentation?

Well, as the technology gods must have wanted it, the chat log mysteriously only saved about 3 minutes of the about 40 minutes participants were using the chat.  So here is a snapshot of what went on during the presentation. No conclusive, since the majority of the log is missing but still insightful nonetheless. …

(5:13 am) breedlove – @teresa what about mandating students read the log of the chat and reflect on that?
(5:13 am) bedridden – Can someone move the camera so I can see the smart board?
(5:13 am) Karen – Application: Feedback on an oral presentation in real time.  Useful as we don’t always video tape presentions.
(5:13 am) Ida – I’m having a hard time writing while looking at Silvia and trying to digest everything she’s saying!
(5:13 am) Margherite – So could we have kids in different countries chatting at the same time?
(5:13 am) Stargirl – @carole @gaby…students can then check in and check others
(5:13 am) Teresa – @Jon: Yes, I like that idea.
(5:14 am) teachwatts – it seems like we all stop chatting when someone asks a question
(5:14 am) Chrissy – @Jon I like that idea too
(5:14 am) Andy – Sorry, but this really hits me as verbal diarrhea… people just throw so many thoughts out without filtering their thoughts. Does this lead to deep understanding?
(5:14 am) Kim – @margherite we have adults in this chatroom outside of thailand right now
(5:14 am) Karen – Question: Could you repeat your whole presentation when we’re done chatting.  I enjoyed chatting but I feel I missed a lot of your presentation.
(5:15 am) teachwatts – shouldn’t we give the same respect to the teacher?
(5:15 am) breedlove – @ andy that is ironic
(5:15 am) Teresa – @Andy: Love your question
(5:15 am) Chrissy – @Andy as the novelty wears off – most definitely
(5:15 am) Margherite – What’s Jono’s idea. I can’t find it
(5:15 am) bedridden – 1
(5:16 am) Guest66623 – Focused
(5:16 am) Chrissy – @margherite what about mandating students read the log of the chat and reflect on that?
(5:16 am) Diane – What Jeff is talking abou is what we’ve been doing…checking it out!
(5:16 am) mj – good point @jutecht
(5:16 am) Carole – How about access to computers….?
(5:16 am) breedlove – /msg Margherite the idea was to have the students read the log and reflect on that
(5:16 am) beachbum – @carole…good question

Since the presentation a few of the participants have reflected on their own blogs about the possibilities that a chatroom might bring to their classroom and what it might mean to  student learning.

Jono in his post Chatological Etiquette

I understand that this kind of set-up is second nature to a lot of kids, and that they often spend time chatting in this format. I can see how this may certainly be a big advantage to kids who find speaking up in class very difficult. With this, they can find a voice and have time to compose their thoughts and make comments without the fear of “looking stupid”.

Mary Belloney jumped right in and used tinychat with her elementary school students. She reflects on her blog post “Have you experimented with TinyChat?

We have a lot of work to do when it come to chatroom etiquette but it was a great experience. I discovered that I need to break it into smaller groups as the slower typers didn’t have a chance to respond. As a class we are going to look at the transcript and see how we can work to make our chat more learning focused. I’ll update you the next time we use it!

I believe that using a chatroom can be a powerful opportunity to use a tool, that students find motivating and engaging, turning it from a social into an academic focus AND teach at the same time about:

  • auditory skills
  • writing skills
  • online safety
  • digital footprint
  • collaborative work

It is up to us to harness these opporunities and be creative when implementing them with the ultimate goal of TEACHING our students. No matter what grade level, subject or skills.

Here are some ideas of chat integration:

Have you used a chatroom with your students? How are you integrating? What has been your experience? Would you do it again? How are you tweaking your lessons?