Why Chat?

Whoever is doing most of the talking or most of the typing is doing most of the learning (and the more people listening the better).

Class discussions provide excellent opportunities for people to listen, think and speak. They have a few problems though. First, only one person can speak at once. Second, some people are too shy to speak.

Chatting solves these two problems. It is as natural to our students as picking up the phone is to us (for many, chatting is actually more natural). While chatting, students can all talk and listen at once. Many students who are nervous about speaking, have no trouble typing their thoughts. Once your students are used to using this technology in the classroom, it becomes a great resource when you need to be absent for a day. Instructions can be emailed to the students, and a substitute could sit in to supervise the class and open up our laptop cart. The students can then work all period.

Sample Assignment for a first In-Class Chat

These directions were emailed to a group of Justin Reich’s students with the subject: Abraham In Class Chat

The leader from each group should invite the other members into a chat. From this point forward NO TALKING, ONLY TYPING.

Each person will then in turn ask one of their discussion questions. You will be given 15 minutes to discuss. The goal is to discuss questions as deeply and thoroughly as possible. I’d rather read an in-depth examination of two questions than brief discussions of six. GO DEEP!

You will get a 5 point grade for this exercise. While I will raise the standards later, for now the grade will be mostly based on the following:

  1. Do you stay on topic?
  2. Do you carefully read and respond to each other?
  3. Do you ensure that you finish each question before moving on?

In the future, I will also expect you to actively challenge one another and to incorporate evidence from the source material.

When you are finished, the leader should copy and paste the chat into an email and send it to turninreich.


A sample chatting exercise on the Bhagavad-Gita

Pablo Toribio-09 [10:11:31 AM]: Why is Arjuna is reluctant to fight?
Jess Lippincott-09 [10:11:54 AM]: because he doesn’t want to kill all of those people
Pablo Toribio-09 [10:11:55 AM]: Arjuna is reluctant to fight because he believes those people are his family.
Jess Lippincott-09 [10:12:02 AM]: and his teachers
Vinesha Collymore-09 [10:12:07 AM]: yeah
Jess Lippincott-09 [10:12:09 AM]: and his great uncles
Vinesha Collymore-09 [10:12:22 AM]: his family, he didnt want to kill them
Jess Lippincott-09 [10:12:29 AM]: right
Vinesha Collymore-09 [10:12:39 AM]: he felt like he was close to these people
Jess Lippincott-09 [10:13:12 AM]: yeah, and he thought it would be cruel and unnecesary to kill them
Vinesha Collymore-09 [10:13:17 AM]: yeah
Jess Lippincott-09 [10:13:28 AM]: +, he says he doesnt want a kingdom
Jess Lippincott-09 [10:13:30 AM]: right
Vinesha Collymore-09 [10:13:32 AM]: he became overcome with grief
Pablo Toribio-09 [10:14:04 AM]: “Then Arjuna saw in both armies fathers, grandfathers, sons, grandsons; father of wives, uncles, masters;brothers companions, and friends. When Arjuna thus saw his kinsmen face to face i both lines of the battle, he was overcome by grief and despair and thus he spoke with a sinking heart. “
Jess Lippincott-09 [10:14:20 AM]: right
Vinesha Collymore-09 [10:14:44 AM]: so that’s our conclusion for number 1
Jess Lippincott-09 [10:14:49 AM]: then “I have no wish for victory Krishna, nor for a kingdom, nor for its pleasures”

Basic Guidelines for Chat Groups

  1. Have students work in groups of 3-5
  2. Give students clear expectations for grades
  3. Require students to email you their work
  4. Encourage students to challenge each other and to draw from the sources you are using
  5. I usually give students a few questions I want them to work on, and I usually have them come up with a few on their own.

Chat Tools

Tiny Chat
A free online chat platform that allows teachers to quickly and easily create chat rooms to use with their students, to could serve as a back channel (online discussion that takes place during a film, lecture or reading) or a live synchronous chat outside of school. A chat room can be created without and account by simply clicking on theCreate a Room button on the middle of the page. Once a new chat room is created, it will have a unique URL that can be shared with students, allowing them to enter into the chat and participate in the discussion. A unique feature of tiny chat is that it allows participants to use video cameras or webcams as they participate in the chat.

Neat Chat
Smilar to Tiny chat, Neat Chat allows educators to quickly and easily create chat rooms to use with their students as a back channel discussion platform, office hours outside of school to assist with specific projects, or as an exam review session. Unlike Tiny Chat, Neat Chat does not allow video within the chat room. Setting up a room with Neat Chat is simple, type in your user name (anything you prefer) into the empty box to create the new room. Once the room is created, there is a unique URL assigned to the room which can be shared with students. Unique Features of Neat Chat include: the Chat Room creator can become the room administrator; Chat discussion can be printed as a pdf file; Documents can be uploaded to the chat room.

Another free tool that allows chat rooms to be created instantly, the set up is quick and easy, but the rooms are public, so try another tool if you need privacy. It does include an archive option that leads to a print option. Also, rooms can be named, given a specific time frame (ex. 2 hours, 1 month, 1 year), and include twitter # discussions.

Like Todaysmeet, it is a simple and quick public chat tool to create a chat room instantly. The chat room is deleted when the chat is done, so it’s convenient for quick, impromptu chats. Todaysmeet gives you several options for how long you’d like to keep the room open.

Google Moderator
Students can post questions or comments to the moderated discussion. Once comments are posted, students can vote for the idea or comment on a post. Comments can then be sorted based on the number of votes it received. Comments can be posted anonymously or require a Google account.

Google Docs
This Google App enables synchronous editing by multiple users on one document and features a built-in chat box for online discussion.

  • By default, a Google Doc is private
  • This can be changed by clicking “Share”
  • Make the document Public if desired
  • Allow anyone to edit if desired
  • Distribute the URL

Learn more about working with Google Apps on EdTechTeacher.org Google Apps for Education page.

Note: We’ve recommended Chatzy in past years, but you can no longer create multiple accounts from the same (IP) address.