Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Social Networking Possibilities

Recently I have had conversations at school and within my Professional Learning Network (PLN) regarding the use of social networking services such as Skype and iChat. I have tried to carefully listen to both sides of the discussion...

Pro: Imagine the possibilities for students to connect to peers across the country and world to learn from each other. Personally, I would like to have students practice fluency, interviewing skills, and just plain structured socialization practice. I am sure there are many more in which people could name...

Con: How is this technology secure? How can it be filtered to protect our students? Is the bandwidth adequate for such an endeavor? Will students abuse the technology when they are at home by chatting without parent permission or knowledge that they have set up their own accounts? Many things to consider and quite valid...

So, what am I to do? That is where this post comes in to play. I would like to hear what you think about using video chat with students. Chime in!


SherryC said...

I teach 8th grade in a high poverty school. I am just not brave enough to have my students chat. I can barely get them to be appropriate in the class. I see the value in it and maybe if I had other students I would be more open to trying it. I try to be pretty forward thinking, but I am a bit too grounded in reality. I will be most interested in hearing how others are making it work!

Thanks for giving me something new to think about!

Jo McLeay said...

Gotta keep parents in the loop, so let them know what you're doing in class. But I agree with your arguments for. I think students are more appropriate when they know that what they're doing is cutting edge and their responses will ensure whether it continues or not. I don't know that you would do it all the time but I would do it.

Ginger Lewman (GingerTPLC) said...

At Turning Point Learning Center, we use chat and Skype in our 1:1 classrooms.

1. Kids rely on one another for homework reminders and help.
2. Kids get great typing practice w/o me having to give them that practice time in school.
3. We use the chats as a way to quiz quickly. I put out the question, provide wait (and typing) time, then have them all post at once. Then I can see who "gets" it and what I need to remediate. And they get a nice, quick, fun review.
4. We encourage parents to be on chat. Kids communicate with parents during the day. So do I! very quick and easy.
5. We're a PBL school, which means that our classrooms can get LOUD if we're not careful. Kids working in groups chat one another to communicate at times.
6. We use chat to quickly transfer files and links back and forth from computer to computer. VERY handy!
7. We don't have snow days here. Kids know that when school is cancelled due to weather, they all log on at a certain time, we talk, I give assignments, and we all work online at the same time to get the work done. I can see they're online and I can see the work they've completed in the time allotted.
8. Kids use chat to communicate with their groups when they're at home sick. Working with PBL, every group member is needed, so kids know to log on during essential group time of the period and don't get us all sick, but can still help the group.
9. Kids chat in to us when they're on vacation too.
10. We use chat to communicate to other schools on collaborative projects. It puts a face/name/personality to each of the collaborators.
11. All the teachers have the kids on chat and sometimes we'll talk in the evenings when we're doing homework. It's a more realistic relationship for those more needy kids.

Kids sometimes do chat one another inappropriately. How we deal:
1. teach kids to save inappropriate chats and share with an adult to save their own butts.
2. Do NOT flame back or you'll look dumb in your saved chat.
3. Do NOT add people you don't know in real life (IRL). I have the ability to look at their chat lists and question ANY name I don't know.
4. Kids lose chat if they behave improperly, which, as you see with the above uses, is a PAIN and embarrassing when they they have to tell their peers they've been blocked from chat.
5. We keep parents involved at home. If the kid's not getting homework done, parents are reminded to "keep the kid with the laptop in EYESIGHT all the times" (which they should be doing anyway).

At first, all kids are overjoyed and overly excited with chat. But after the first quarter, they settle down and realize it's just a tool we use like, say, a pencil. "Whoop-dee-doo! You got to use a PENCIL!"

It's important to stay involved both at school and at home for the successful use of chat. Oh, and we have signed forms from all parents.

(sorry if this is too long. you asked for feedback)

Lee Ann Spillane: said...

I agree with Jo, I think students act differently when they know that their behavior affects if or when they will be able to have such chats. I tried connecting with another high school class via skype this fall. The teacher and I are friends and we thought we could have the students skype to chat about books they are reading. We've done our introductory call where we introduce the project to the whole class, but the connection was rough. The students in our classes had never seen such a thing, so they were excited about it, but also wanted to perform. I think creating more structure for students, or preparing more for the chat would eliminate some of their posturing in the background. The students were definitely engaged, but it's hard to channel the excitement around one computer--will definitely need to take turns and use small groups, I think.