Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Instant Chat in the classroom

I wrote a post here about how my class responded to their first day on our Ning Network. Today I want to share a quick story about how my students used the instant chat function.

When first given access to the Ning and the instant chat, most students spammed the chat with emoticons and one-liners like "hi" and "haha".

In my school, we have 40 students that make up two grade six classes. Twenty of them are mine, and the other twenty are in a neighboring classroom that is joined by a doorway. My colleague, Richard, and I were having our students place photos of themselves as their profile pictures on the Ning. Many students were quick to proclaim that they were stuck and could not figure out how to upload their pictures.

I asked them what they could do to get unstuck. Their first answer was typically: "I could ask you for help." Which I promptly but politely declined. I said that I would help them but I couldn't be their first solution. Some turned to a neighbor or wandered around the room searching for someone who might help, while others sat there perplexed.

I sat down at my computer for a moment; I wanted to check the Ning to see if some profile pictures had found their way online when I noticed something new.

Jamie, a student in my class, had posted on the instant chat something no one else had done yet: "I'm stuck! I don't know how to upload a pic. Help!" Not a moment later, Derick, a student in Richard's class, replied: "I'll be right over."

I looked up to see Derick walk through the doorway, from his classroom to ours, and head straight for Jamie. He was there to help.

In the physical world, our two classes are housed in two different rooms - separated by a load bearing wall. In the virtual world, we are one community of learners where load bearing walls need not exist. The Ning is providing our students with an opportunity to use the virtual chat room to invite students through the physical door.


  1. Hi,
    Thanks for sharing. I truly believe that true educational reform where teachers and students are collaborating and learning from each other will take place as technology is introduced. Kids maybe tech savy , but need teachers to help them ' construct modern knowledge ' and learning.

    Internet safety - Nancy Willard ' from Sylvia Martinez GenYes blog - says that we have to be pro-active in changing the way kids think of the internet - as a learning or a social tool.
    'We will NOT be able to effectively prepare students for their education, career, and civic responsibilities in the 21st Century if the technical services directors in schools throughout this country continue their heavy handed filtering.

    It is essential to shift how the Internet is being managed from a primary reliance on filtering to more effective monitoring - in an environment where education - not social - use of the Internet is expected, and supported with effective professional and curriculum development.'

  2. Great post & about a topic I happily see frequently. Teaching ICT to 5 through to 12 year olds, the best learning/teaching that takes place has very little to do with me. I encourage the students (even the 5 year olds) to also see themselves as teachers and to turn to each other to seek help in the computer lab. Watching a student who has just discovered something share that new discovery by teaching it to another student is just magic!

  3. Interesting post, I like the idea of using a virtual chat in the classroom. It seems like more and more kids in today’s society spend their spear time on facebook and if a classroom chat could give them the same effect as social networking, then I’m sure they would be fully interested.

  4. I love this approach to problem solving, especially with technology. The students going through the education system do not know a world without the internet or social networking. They seem to inherently have the skills to solve these issues, they just need to coaching to find these skills and employ them.

    Even at a young age students learn to be independent on the computer/device. With my grade 3's last year it was a rough start. They aren't use to solving their own issues with technology (any many other things). After months working through problem solving and troubleshooting not only did I notice I was no longer the first responder for technology, social problems were being solved before getting to me.


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