Jason Graham, from Indonesia, and I will moderate and co-organise the virtual element of the Flat Classroom Conference, Yokohama, Japan from 8-10th March. A mix of tools will be needed to connect the virtual and face to face participants to enable collaboration and to provide platforms for the creation of outcomes. Julie Lindsay discovered the BackchannelChat tool and suggested we look at this as a possible option for connecting and collaborating.
Testing tools is important before launching for full scale use. How the Backchannel chat was tested:-
- Julie, Jason and I tested the tool initially.
- I used it with my year 11 and 12 class – (locally)
- Jason and I then tested it with younger students – his grade one class at Bandung International School, Indonesia and my year 3/4 IT class, at Hawkesdale P12 College, Australia. (globally)
It was a great hit with both the older and younger students. Students are highly engaged using chat, especially when two countries are involved in simultaneous time. The year 3/4 class involves a number of students with behaviour challenges.
There is a free version with more limited features but is the one we used for classroom use. A premium version provides functions for saving, moderation, editing etc. Both versions will allow the url or embed code of eg online photos, slidehares, youtube videos and the actual image, video, presentation etc appears in the chat. Great for classes and resource sharing.
Here is how the chat with Indonesia looked:-
Prior to synchronous connection:-
- as a class we discussed netiquette and protocols for appropriate behaviour in chatrooms or backchannels eg bad language, putdowns, spamming text, shouting with all caps.
- discussed how we would enter the chatroom and what our introduction would be.
During the linkup:-
- how would I share the link to the backchannel with these young students? Even keying in my blog address is still a challenge and retrieving from a shared folder still difficult for the younger students. Decided to use moo url shortener as it is simplified and I can choose the extension name. However, as I was in such a hurry, we just used the default letters. All students were able to logon with this. Each of my students logged on individually using a netbook. Jason’s class shared a netbook between two students.
- The two classes introduced themselves to each other using videoconferencing with skype.
- A quick virtual tour of each classroom was enjoyed using the web camera.
- Students then sat at their netbooks and answered the questions that either Jason or I asked of them eg What is your favourite food, animal and subject?
- Skype was kept open throughout for quick communication and enabling instant communication and a view of the engagement in each classroom.
The students loved the chat, talking to people who live far away and asking them questions. Below are some comments back from my students on what they learned (remembering that this class is mono-culture or white caucasian):-
- Even though they are different they have good hearts
- It is summer here and it has been warm, but they said it was cooler than us for them
- The talk the same as us. I thought they would talk different
- how alike they actually are to us
- Their class was made up of students from different countries (compared to our class which is all white Caucasian) as theirs is an International School
- As they are so close to us, I thought they would be the same time.
- They were 4 hours behind
- To be nice to the other students
- The time is different in Asia
- Indonesia is a different country
- They looked quite different to what we look like
- How to use a chatroom
- They are different – different tables, setup in the classroom etc
- People eat things that I do not like
- They have the same technology
The backchannel flowed smoothly with no time lags despite there being 32 synchronous logons. The younger students simply used text but next time we would try to share images. The tool was impressive and it will certainly be used in my classes again.
Have you used a chatroom or backchannel with the young? What are your impressions?