TeachersFirst Edge - Chat/Microblogging

 

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ePals - ePals, Inc.

Grades
2 to 12
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ePals, a global community, offers students the chance to connect with other students around the world (200+ countries). This site is one of the largest worldwide communities for global...more
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ePals, a global community, offers students the chance to connect with other students around the world (200+ countries). This site is one of the largest worldwide communities for global collaboration. Don't worry about student email accounts as they are no longer needed! Don't worry about the language barrier either, there is a built-in language translation! This content-rich site offers a free "how to" webinar on the Support page on the bottom menu. The program offers teacher to teacher and teacher to student communications, pen pal exchanges, Classroom Collaborative Projects, Spark!Lab Invent It Challenges, and more. In addition, you can click on the Collaborative Projects link to find several ready to use projects (Self Driving Cars, Hamilton, Habitats, Maps, Natural Disasters, Water, and others).

tag(s): black history (90), collaboration (83), communication (135), disasters (34), environment (218), habitats (78), maps (209), natural disasters (15), water (98)

In the Classroom

Navigating this site is rather simple. Simply scroll through the slide show at the top to find your area of interest: Collaboration Projects, Spark!Lab Invent It Challenge, etc. Parts of this site require log-in. Registration does require an email address. A lot of safety features are already put into place at this site. To learn more about the safety features at this site, check out the ePals webinar on YouTube link on the FAQ page.

This site offers an amazing assortment of class activities and possibilities. Collaborate with schools in Africa (or 200 other countries) for a geography project. Have your students find ePals to correspond with and practice writing skills in English or in a language you are studying. Get additional ideas for projects, by visiting the "Projects" link or propose one of your own based on ideas from TeachersFirst suggestions you read in other reviews, lesson plans, and articles. After viewing one of the informative videos, challenge your students to study one of the topics available at this site and redefine their learning by creating their own videos using My Simpleshow, reviewed here. Use a tool such as TeachersTube, to share the video clips, reviewed here.

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Plurk - Plurk

Grades
9 to 12
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Plurk is a microblogging platform for quick 140 character "plurks" about what you are doing, thinking, or mentally asking. Plurks show as a timeline along with those of your friends....more
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Plurk is a microblogging platform for quick 140 character "plurks" about what you are doing, thinking, or mentally asking. Plurks show as a timeline along with those of your friends. Comments to plurks are attached to the original and conversations are easy to track and continue. Plurk brings interconnectivity between friends and is more like a social network than a blog. Registration with an email is required and managing login and password is necessary. Instant messaging and mobile blogging options are possible.

tag(s): chat (39), communication (135), microblogging (26)

In the Classroom

This site is not difficult to navigate. Left click on the timeline to drag it to earlier posts. Unread plurks and replies appear as a number beside each plurk and in the timeline. Along the top of the timeline are user controls. "My profile" contains your contact information and details. Upload a photo, customize the colors of your outline, or add a widget to your blog or site that contains your plurks. Use "My friends" to invite friends, create cliques that allow you to segregate who sees certain plurks, and blocking other users. "Alerts" contain friend requests sent to you. Click on "Interesting plurkers" to see plurks from everywhere which you can customize to gender, age, city, state, or country. Use "My account" to change privacy settings and set up instant messaging. Create your plurks below the timeline and use the dropdown to change your verb from "is" to "says," wishes," "feels," and many others. Hover over a person's picture or name to send a private plurk. Plurk messages can be edited but replies cannot. Pictures, images, and links can be added as well. Also below the timeline are tabs to see plurks from you and your friends, your plurks alone, and private plurks. View your Karma -- which increases with plurks and friends and unlocks new features. Use "Embed your Plurk widget" easily to your blog by simply entering your login information.

Create a written and signed classroom policy that outlines necessary privacy settings and actions that would be considered misuse. Check these regularly and take appropriate actions to enforce rules when needed. Students need to be guided in how to safely blog and share information. Students may come across questionable content if reading through the "interesting plurkers" tab. As with all social networking sites, students need to be aware of proper ways to communicate at school and at home. Teachers should be a part of all student groups to monitor use.

Students can use Plurk to discuss group work on a project, create study groups, ask for help, or communicate with those who can mentor their class or subject they are learning. Many students will find success with sending bits of information at a time and letting the conversations evolve from there. Literature teachers may want to require students to plurk their thoughts within small groups as they read chapters or acts of longer works for homework, generating discussion and active reading. Social studies teachers could assign a similar task as students read about history. Math teachers may want to encourage "plurking" as students work on longer, more complex problems. Those writing lab reports for science class may find that plurking will help them collaborate in interpreting data. Consider setting up a regular class "plurk time" in the evening on certain nights of the week or for snow days.

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Backchannel Chat - Live Chat for Classrooms - Backchannelchat.com

Grades
6 to 12
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Backchannel Chat is a real-time educational discussion tool. Mute or remove comments. The tool includes a profanity filter and also a web based transcript for viewing and assessing...more
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Backchannel Chat is a real-time educational discussion tool. Mute or remove comments. The tool includes a profanity filter and also a web based transcript for viewing and assessing participation and weaknesses. Set the chat to discontinue when you leave if desired. Begin a chat with your email, display name, and backchannel title to receive a link for others to participate (no need to wait for an email). Free memberships allow one (endless) chat with up to 30 participants and storage of the chat transcript for up to 3 months. Choose the settings options to set moderation, etc. Premium features require the paid version. Unfortunately, the checkbox to require the teacher to be present for the chat is a premium feature, but you can set it to require teacher moderation for all messages so students cannot conduct after hours "chat" without your control. THis is a device agnostic tool with free app versions that work on mobile devices.
This site includes advertising.

tag(s): chat (39), communication (135), microblogging (26)

In the Classroom

Create a name for your chat and share the URL with others. They join in simply by entering a name (or initials, to keep it safe) and clicking Join. Use backchannel chat on laptops during a video or student presentations. Pose questions for all to answer/discuss in the backchannel. Ask students to pose their own "I wonder if..." questions as they watch and listen. Keep every student engaged and THINKING as an active listener. The first time you use backchannel, you will want to establish some etiquette and accountability rules, such as respectful language and constructive criticism. Assign students to watch a news program or political show and have a backchannel chat during the broadcast. Revisit the chat on a projector in class the next day or copy/paste or put the link to the chat transcript on a class blog or wiki and have students respond further in blog posts or on the wiki discussion tab. The advantage of backchannel chat is that every student has a voice, no matter how shy.

In world language classes or even autistic support class, have students backchannel descriptions of what they see as classmates act out a scene from a video, using new language vocabulary and/or describing the feelings of the actors. In studying literature, collaborate with another class to have students role-play a chat between two characters or - in history class - between soldiers on two sides of the Civil War or different sides of the Scopes Money trial. Make brevity an impetus for well-focused thoughts and use instantaneous response as an incentive for engagement.

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