Imagine you have a secure online classroom environment to use with your face-to-face K-12 students. It has many features including a chat room. The chat may be opened or closed at any time you desire, or it may be left open all the time. It always keeps transcripts and students must be logged in to the class as themselves to participate.
Would you use the chat?
If you would, how would you use it? What other tools or methods would you incorporate into your use of the chat?
If you would not use it, why? What tools would you use instead?

Feel free to include real examples or hypothetical ones.

Tags: chat, 2.0, TappedIn, blended, blended learning, classroom, environment, learning, online, online learning environment, More…teaching methods

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We are using Blackboard in many of our schools. One early implementation of the "virtual classroom" protected chat tool was a 6th grade teacher who had a deaf boy in his class. He taught his kids how to use the chat from his classroom, and then set up every Tues-Thurs night for chatting with the deaf classmate. The teacher did not always attend since the students knew he captured a transcript, so they followed classroom norms and usually had good social interactions.

Unfortunately I did not receive any of the transcripts, but for the year the deaf student was in this class, everyone benefited from this use!

I have several high school teachers (Chemistry, Social Studies) who use it the night before high-stakes testing to entertain questions from kids logging on. Everyone has the benefit of seeing the types of questions and answers given in preparation and the teachers get a good picture of areas of difficulty for their students.
Oh yes, I also like to use chat to study for tests as well, or just to check in to see what they know (or actually and more accurately, what they don't know). The chat has a lower-stakes feeling than a quiz and I get instant results. I tell them to hold their answers, then I post the question, giving them time to think. then I type in "go" or some such thing and I get to see right away who's on board. MANY times we'll have disagreeing answers, so I have them do quick and dirty research on the 'net to provide a supporting link to show what the correct answer is!

It really makes these pop quizzes fun. They begin to see who can post first, and sometimes I reward for more complete answers. I can have the questions on a document, then just copy/paste them as fast as I want them to run! Sometimes, they have to post entire paragraphs!

OH, and this method of communication has REALLY improved students' spelling AND sentence structure--they're allowed to use their abbreviations, but I don't always, especially when chatting kids who have spelling or sentence structure difficulties. They're reading and really need to have a good role model.

I'm a 100% beliver of chat in schools!
We have this feature, always on. It's quite fascinating. We've actually used it "live"--in real life, all sitting together in the classroom. This allowed us to comment on various ways to form our language (ie, short responses or long, with pronouns or names, etc.)
The class and I established a specific form of use: "Learning Session." We were testing our finding a sort of class away from home, not just chatter and rambling. A learning session is like a carefully guided live forum.
Originally, I pushed this feature (and Moodle in general) as part of our emergency preparedness, so that school could continue if the building were actually closes (such as for avian flu or some other disaster). That was a great motivator for something much more important and profound than emergency use, by the way.
Most generally our class Moodle chat gets used by a couple of kids at a time (up to five, maybe). From home, they can talk about what's going on, or get homework questions answered.
Records are kept of every chat. Sometimes we look at them in class on the SmartBoard. Lots to discuss, lots to learn, just reviewing how a talk went! The kids think it's fun.
We used Vyew a little bit, but for right now, it seemed a hurdle over which my students were not willing to jump. The Web 2.0 is new to them and they are just not as adventurous and willing to fail as I am. I guess it comes with age.
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Hi Teacher K,

I believe there is a lot of value in synchronous discussions, especially to create a more active learning environment and to promote a free fluency in our students writing and thinking. I am at the community college level, so I think the challenges you face at the K-12 would be a bit different, but here is a guide I have prepared on using online "chats" for class discussion:

http://www.accd.edu/sac/english/lirvin/LessonMaps/chat.htm

I hope it is helpful.

Cheers,

Lennie
I do have a secure online classroom for my students, at Tapped In and we use it daily. Tapped In provides a secure environment which my students access during class, in the evenings, and even on the weekends and over holidays.

One of the things I really like about TI is that I receive a transcript of every chat (whether during class time or outside of it), including any private messages they send one another. I don't read *every* transcript, but I do skim selected ones, just to keep tabs on what's going on. The students know I receive the transcripts, and that helps them stay on task.

Tapped In also offers asynch conversations via threaded discussions, and the ability to collaborate with other classes from around the world. This year, we have worked with a high school English class in Taiwan and a middle school class in South Dakota.

It is a great place for us to have guest speakers, whether we are talking about "the evils of PowerPoint" or Vygotsky's "Zone of Proximal Development" with Dr. Lowell, or the value of social networking and Safe Online Practices with Jeff Cooper.

When students are absent, they make a point of logging on during classtime so they don't miss anything, and if I have to be out of school, I meet them online and class continues as usual. (I've even used it to check in with the sub, to make certain all is going well.)

We have been so successful with this that during NECC 2006 two Tapped In members (Jeff Cooper and David Weksler) did a workshop titled "Enhancing Porfessional Practice with Tapped In" and two students participated from their homes! Imagine the impact of having the opportunity to have your voice heard by attendees at a national conference!

When I first introduce my students to the Tapped In environment they do get a little silly, but they are middle school kids...I just expect it, and let them get it out of their systems. The knowledge that what they are doing and saying in the online environment empowers them in such a way that they very quickly put on their "professional faces" and conduct themselves appropriately.

We share files, continue discussions over several weeks, add photos that are relevant, and explore new links together. I have the ability to contain them in our classroom (which I do at first) or allow them to visit other public rooms on the protected K-12 campus (I take them on a tour and then allow them to visit the NASA room, the NOAA room, etc. on their own time).

Tapped In is a free resource for sustained online professional development, and a resource I value highly. Feel free to contact me if you would like more information about joining! (Sorry, had to give the obligatory plug :) )
I have been searching for a tool to use live chatting in my classroom, and I logged into Tapped In and Moodle, but I can't figure out how to set up a private room for only my students. Do all of them have to have log-ins? Any help would be great. Ginger you have some great ideas!!

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