Technology has given us the power to communicate with people on the other side of the globe, to connect with experts and learn about different cultures. These incredible communication tools MUST be used in today’s classrooms. If used correctly, these tools can allow students to explore worlds and meet people they would otherwise never encounter. As I explored these communication tools, my brains was popping in a million different directions with the endless possibilities to enhance my instruction and the student engagement.
Asynchronous vs Synchronous
I currently use a great deal of asynchronous communication in my classroom. I used email and my classroom website to communicate with parents on a regular basis. Students also had the opportunity to try kidblog this year. They greatly enjoyed posting questions and commenting on each others’ responses. I also tried out Remind 101 last school year which served as a great tool to remind families about upcoming events in the classroom. After learning about Thing 6, Communication, I realized that these forms of communication are a great start, but are really just the tip of the iceberg.
Synchronous communication gives us the ability to communicate with others in real time. I can barely even wrap my head around the possible ways this form of communication can be used in the classroom. I have yet to truly use Synchronous communication tools in my classroom. I am most eager to use Skype (or Google Hangout) and TodaysMeet (or Chatzy).
Using a BackChannel Chat gives students the ability to communicate and clarify during a lesson. It is sort of like a chat room where students can pose questions, post images, take notes and receive support from their fellow classmates when needed. Today’s Meet and Chatzy are two platforms that can be used for BackChannel Chatting. I could see myself using Today’s Meet to pose a question for students to discuss. I think this would encourage my more timid students to participate and have their thoughts heard.
Video chatting allows students to have face to face communication with anyone, anywhere! Students can communicate with same-age peers on the other side of the country or even the world. They can interview authors or experts in a field. What a powerful way to tie what we are learning in the classroom to real world application. Skype and Google Hangout are 2 platforms that can be used for video chatting. I am very comfortable using Skype for personal use. When I lived in Arizona, it was a great way to stay in touch with my family and friends back here in Michigan. Now that I have moved back to Michigan, I am able to stay in touch with all of my AZ friends. I am yet to try using it in the classroom. As I was learning about Thing 6, I immediately thought about setting up pen pals with one of the third grade classrooms at my old school in Arizona. I think Skyping with their pen pals would make it a very meaningful experience. I would also love the opportunity for my students to interview an author or expert. Not really sure where to start as far as finding someone for them to interview. Maybe it will come about naturally as the school year goes along and I discover authors or topics that are of particular interest to my students. I did find this AWESOME resource for how to organize a Skype interview by giving all the students jobs. Definitely something I will revisit when I am ready to try a Skype interview with my students.
Video Chatting also offers another way to communicate with parents. I could see myself using it to hold a conference with parents that can’t make it into school during conference week. It could also be a very powerful tool for students to share what they are doing at school with their families. If we had a special event during the school day, students could connect with their families that were unable to attend and have them watch the presentation that way.
Some of my 21T4T classmates and I arranged to try Google Hangout together. In all likelihood, this will be my method of video chatting with my students since we are getting Chrome Books next year. I have never used Google Hangout so I was anxious to try it out and glad I could find some fantastic people to give it a try with me. I even got to use Doodle (from Thing 5, Collaboration) to set up a day and time for our Hangout. What a great opportunity to put some of these new skills to use. Click here to view our Hangout.
Communication and Collaboration
Thing 5 and 6 are closely related. All the communication tools we learned about in Thing 6 allow students and teachers to easily collaborate. Students can use BackChannel Chat or Video Chatting to communicate outside of school so they can collaborate on homework or projects. Another way students can collaborate through a communication tool is by using ePals. I had never heard of ePals until this lesson and I was blown away by this program! I immediately signed up and am starting to think of ways I could use this with my students. EPals enables you to connect with another class anywhere in the world and collaborate on a project together. I am hoping to develop a project idea to post on ePals. Teachers can also use these tools to collaborate on assessments or planning if they can not be at the same place.
Thing 6, Communication, supports peer collaboration with cooperative learning (see above). It also allows for the teacher to communicate homework and practice to absent students. Students can also use BackChannel chatting for Summarizing and Note Taking during a lesson.