Friday, December 4, 2009

Try TodaysMeet for Back-channel Chat Without Distraction

TodaysMeet is a free chat service that can be used for holding a back-channel discussion with students and colleagues. If you're not sure what a back-channel chat with students would look like, I encourage you to read Silvia Tolisano's post about using back-channels with elementary school students. Silvia's blog is where I first learned about TodaysMeet.

TodaysMeet is completely free to use. Setting up a chat area in TodaysMeet is very simple. To set up your chat area just select a name for your room (that name becomes the url for your chat area), how long you want your room to exist, and select an optional Twitter hashtag for your chat area. To invite people to your chat area send them the url.

What makes TodaysMeet different from services like Tiny Chat is that TodaysMeet doesn't have a public gallery of chat rooms containing questionable content. TodaysMeet also doesn't place inappropriate advertising on your chat area.

Applications for Education
I had been thinking about about trying back-channel chat in my classroom since the summer, but after reading Silvia's post and after my school's wireless network finally started handling the traffic load I've recently started experimenting with the use of back-channel chats with my 11th and 12th grade students. What I've done is post my slideshows (which are basically lecture outlines) on the classroom blog two days (we only meet every other day) prior to discussing that content in class. Then in class we discuss the content of the slideshows and I add "spice" to the slideshow content. While this discussion is going on, my students write questions and comments as they pop into their heads. So far this has enabled more students to ask more questions and share more comments than if they all had to raise their hands and wait to be called on. I've done this in limited doses so far, but I'm confident that this does increase my students' engagement during class discussion.