Day 11 - Chat by the Campfire Published 2006-12-24 under ,

Yesterday, I mentioned my friend Mr. French who teaches pre-calculus and calculus (regular and AP). He like so many teachers is extremely dedicated to his students. The night before a major test, Jo makes himself available via IM (chat) so that students can ask questions. This got me thinking about the power of instant messaging. It is a preferred method of communicating among kids. As group members of a project are working at their desk, they can collaborate via IM.

My biggest reservation about including chat (IM) as a collaboration tool has been the inability to record the conversation. As you should know by know, I feel that the power of the online collaboration tools is to help make the process of collaboration more visible to a teacher. Thus, for me to endorse IM as a collaboration tool, teachers would need to be able to "replay" the conversations.

CampfireEnter 37 Signals' Campfire, "a web-based group chat tool that lets you set up password-protected chat rooms in just seconds". When you setup an account with Campfire, you create a URL for your chats. You can create multiple rooms to help organize your chats and only those that you want to invite can participate in chats. One of the great feature is the ability to upload files while chatting. If you upload an image file, it previews in the chat window. This is a fantastic tool for math and science courses where equations are often discussed. But the feature that I like the most is repository of chat transcripts. A teacher (or student) can look up chats based on person and/or day. One can also search the transcripts.

The service is free but it only allows four simultaneous people chatting at one time. You can have more people registered with your chat area, but only four can be active across all of your rooms at one time. This is a bit restrictive if you are running a review session for all of your kids. But it would work if the chat area was only for a small group project. You can also upgrade your service to one of the premium plans (that costs money!).

I am just starting with Campfire and it is working well for one of my projects where synchronous communication is necessary. I am also experimenting with Google Talk which allows both synchronous and asynchronous communication both in IM format and voice. You can also review past conversations. One restriction is that conversations are one on one, not within groups.

I would love to hear what you are using for this type of communication.

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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

> I would love to hear
> what you are using for
> this type of
> communication.

Thanks for a very informative article. I use Moodle. It saves transcripts of chats and creates a history of instant messages.

If you do not know Moodle, check it out at http://moodle.org. It is great open source software.

Regards,
Art Lader
http://www.4germanteachers.com

google said...

> I would love to hear
> what you are using for
> this type of
> communication.

Thanks for a very informative article. I use Moodle. It saves transcripts of chats and creates a history of instant messages.

If you do not know Moodle, check it out at http://moodle.org. It is great open source software.

Regards,
Art Lader
http://www.4germanteachers.com

rob banning said...

Art,

Installing Moodle has been on my "todo" list for ever. I have seen its general LMS / CMS stuff but I was not aware of its ability to save chats.

Thanks for the info!

ROB