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article imageHow chat software can complement teacher communication

By Daniel Taibleson     Aug 2, 2013 in Technology
Your English class has finished reading “Heart of Darkness,” and you would like to show the film “Apocalypse Now.” In a traditional classroom, teachers might stop the film in various places to have discussions about the adaptation.
Or, perhaps the instructor would give students a worksheet to record notes and questions they would go over after the film. But what if you could have the conversation while watching the film?
By setting up chat rooms and backchannels in your classroom, you can ensure your students are engaged with what they are viewing. Integrating them into your class curriculum can instantly open up your classroom from four walls to the limits of the Internet.
The Possibilities of In-Class Chatting
Chat services such as AIM and Yahoo have been around for more than 10 years, but chat software specifically geared for classroom use can be set up by class, small groups or even larger groups (perhaps a teacher has three sections of U.S. history, and wants all three classes in a chat room together.)
In the example of chatting during a film, teachers can monitor the chat by putting out questions for students to answer, while also clearing up confusion or misconceptions. This can be done while viewing news reports, films, slideshows, etc. Students who are reluctant to put a voice to their questions or observations may be more likely to type out a response.
Many students are already familiar with the type of technology that chat rooms use. Twitter, for instance, can act as a giant chat board via hashtags. Facebook also offers a chat option. Students will likely be quick to adapt to the technology.
Chat rooms also offer the opportunity to produce vast amounts of content. While not a formal type of writing, chat is a legitimate way to collaborate and brainstorm about bigger ideas. Students can utilize chat while they are reading in groups, as well to keep the noise level down, but keep the conversation going by pointing out quotes to each other, asking about difficult vocabulary, etc.
Video chat can also be beneficial in class. Using video chat software such as Skype, for instance, opens up possibilities to have guest speakers who may not be able to physically be there. Students who are absent can also Skype in if they want to hear a lecture or work on a group project.
Extending Class Time with Chat
Using chat with your students also offers a way to extend your class time and draw out discussion points from students who may not contribute in a whole class setting.
During in-class discussions, only one person can talk at a time, and some students are too shy to contribute. Using chat outside the classroom can alleviate these issues. With chat, you don’t have to wait your turn. You can type a thought when you think of it, and students tend to contribute more when the entire class isn’t staring at them.
Chat can also be a good way to have online “office hours” for your students. If you have a class chat room, students can log on at a set time to get homework help, ask questions about class content, or bring up any other concerns. Chat also allows students to ask other classmates questions. Ss the teacher, you can see these conversations, see where comprehension is failing, and address those issues in class.
Video chat can also be utilized outside the classroom for office "visits." This can be done one-on-one or with multiple users at a time. Video chatting can also be used for interview-style projects and activities. Foreign language students can record dialogues, history students can interview war vets for projects, and science students can talk to scientists about research in areas of interest.
Video chat is a great tool for connecting with parents and getting them involved in the classroom, as well. Imagine parents being able to join a class video chat to be able to see what the class is like in action, rather than having to ask their child about what is going on in school. Video chat can also replace the traditional parent teacher conference, giving parents the option of talking with their children’s teachers from work or home if they are unable to drive to school for an appointment.
Your students are already using chat technology in their personal lives. Why not tap into this technology to transform your class from the traditional four walls into the borderless word that your students are actually living in? Share your thoughts about chat in the classroom in the comments.
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