Friday 5: Using Chat and Instant Messaging in the Classroom

My students have found me online. I haven’t decided
if this is a good thing, or not, quite yet, but it definitely has me to
thinking about using chat and instant messaging to communicate with

In my sixth grade computer science class, our discussion about instant messaging started when a student asked me about my user name for a class wiki project. I explained that I use the same user name (elemenous)
for all my accounts, including the AOL Instant Messaging service (AIM),
and my students perked up immediately. They were surprised that a
teacher, of all people, actually used AIM, and I bet one class that
many more teachers use an instant messaging service than they realized.
I also explained that I use chat regularly to communicate with other
teachers around the world, and that it’s been wonderful tool for
exchanging files and learning from other educators.

So, since
this discussion, the number of kids instant messaging me after school
has jumped from 1 kid last week to about 8 kids last night. I think I
had 4 different chat windows open on my computer, and it was difficult
for me to multitask. I noticed that the conversations are markedly
different than the ones I have with adults. When I chat with an adult,
I usually am pinging them for a specific reason such as tech help or to
share a resource. With kids, however, it seems as if they are sort
aimlessly IMing
each other and me. This is a social tool for them, and they must be
chatting with lots of other people because often our conversations go
dead as if they were busy elsewhere. Sixth graders, IMHO, have not
learned the fine art of  carrying on an online conversation.
Interestingly enough, though, one of my students told me that most of
the grade-level "drama" happens within instant messaging conversations
after school. One kid said he’s learned to hit certain keys to quit IMing
quickly when his mother approaches as he’s not supposed to be online
during homework time. Another kid said his mother took away his
keyboard because she thought his computer habits were too distracting
for him. (I’m making a mental note of this tactic for when my children
hit middle school.) It’s fascinating to see how important this tool has
become to kids; I feel like I’ve been let into the club a bit as they
have been reaching out to me via IMing.

Generally, I think using instant messaging and chat rooms
in the context of learning is not something most teachers want to
incorporate into their curricula; it’s a matter of digital natives
versus digital immigrants. We immigrants have been slow to realize that
this tool is wildly popular amongst adolescents, and that if we frame
its use properly, chatting via instant messaging or inchat rooms might
actually empower learning. So this week, I’ve compiled a slew of
related articles that might help you understand this phenomenon.

Take care and have a great weekend,

Lucy Gray

1)   Strategies For Using Chat
Academic Distance Learning Center, Webster University, Saint Louis, Missouri

2)    Let’s Chat: Chat Rooms in Elementary School

3)   Educause | Resources | Resource Center Abstract

4)   PC World – Internet Tips: A Grown-Up’s Guide to Instant Messaging

5)   Moving at the Speed of Creativity>Blog Archive> The Case for Instant Messaging in the Classroom

6)   Experimental College at Tufts | Instant Messaging: R U Online! RU? | By Robert Farmer

7)     Spiral Notebook > IM in the Mood for Chat

8)     Apple – Education – iChat AV and iSight in the Classroom: Lesson Plans

9)     iChatCollaboration.pdf from Goochland County Public Schools


1 Comment

Filed under Apple, Ed Tech Resources, Friday 5, Innovation, Lessons & Projects, students, Video, web 2.0

One response to “Friday 5: Using Chat and Instant Messaging in the Classroom

  1. I use a Meebo, instant messaging, on my class blogs, evoca voicemail, yackpack walkietalkie, and plain email. The kids love the Meebo, and although I had to remove the widget from the 7th grade site because of hooligans, the responsible have already put me in their IMs. My MSers love to chat, while the HSers just ask quick questions so they can get back to World of Warcraft. They haven’t found me on Skype yet, but it’s only a matter of time…..

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