Instant feedback with Chatzy

At the AIS ICT Integration Conference, Jeff Utecht had audience members participating in a variety of ways, using Twitter, Google Docs and a chatroom. In the 3 minute discussion breaks, he checked in on what was being posted on these spaces and was able to determine if there was anything that he needed to address further. It got me thinking.

I’ve listened to many speakers talk about feedback this year and I’ve sat through sessions where people are using clicker systems to gauge audience reaction. Personally, I don’t like clickers. I find them impersonal and responding to set questions isn’t my idea of providing quality feedback. I’ve thought quite a bit about how I give feedback in my classroom. I work very hard at creating a classroom environment where students feel comfortable sharing their ideas and I try to encourage input from everyone. We spend a lot of time discussing concepts and I think I’m pretty good at encouraging participation and making my students feel that their opinions are valued. But you know, you can always do better. Jeff’s session made me contemplate using some new ideas to assist with feedback.

An opportunity presented itself last week. We were watching a video debate about the wearing of the Burqa. I set up a Chatzy room and shared the link via email with my students. They logged in and as we listened to the debate, they typed in what they were thinking. To be honest with you, I didn’t think it was going to be worthwhile. I thought the kids might not take it seriously and just post silly chit chat. I was very pleasantly surprised when I checked the chat and saw them posting their opinions and questioning one another. It helped guide the discussion after we’d finished listening and provided some students with more of a voice in the classroom. It certainly made me think that this is something I would do again.

Two days later I was home sick and had to leave work for the class. I thought it might be an ideal opportunity to see how I could use Chatzy to provide students with help even though I wasn’t physically there. I set the room up and emailed the students with the link and let them know I’d be in the room during the duration of the lesson. Some of them logged in and asked questions and I was able to provide clarification.

It was worth doing. I kept in touch with what was happening in class and the students knew that I was interested in what they were doing despite me not being physically present. My voice had left me and that’s why I wasn’t there. If I was suffering from something like the flu I wouldn’t be doing something like this, but I was incapacitated in a way that made it possible for me to still participate. I don’t expect to see teachers drop everything for their students when they are sick, but I can see this being really useful if you have to run a virtual school situation due to inclement weather or something like that.

Food for thought. I do think we need to be open to new ideas, to find ways to connect with our students in ways that might encourage those who don’t share so readily to find ways to participate. I need to be open to new ways of providing feedback to make me more effective at what I do.  Teaching isn’t a static profession; it’s dynamic, constantly evolving as we respond to societal change and students who perhaps function differently and are adept at new methods of communication. If you can, give something like this a try. I’m going to be adding it to my repertoire of practice and tap into some thinking on the fly!