Cell Phones & SMS
Cell phones offer new potential for learning, if well-managed. They can send short text messages (SMS), images, and browse the Web. Users can also send files from their phone to be published on a Web page. Imagine students gathering survey data outside of class - now instead of purchasing new tools students' cell phones may enable efficient data transfer and analysis.
Web as Environment
Chat - IRC
IRC - Internet Relay Chat - allows users to set up a channel for having discussions online, in real-time, with only those who have been invited and logged in. Teachers can use IRC to extend the walls of the classroom to a virtual space where students and teachers can discuss issues, answer questions, or work in cooperative groups.
Using Internet relay chat to focus practice while studying the French Revolution
Klaus Hugo teaches Advanced Placement history. Last year, his school received new technology resources. Now every teacher has e-mail as well as the ability to post content to district-sponsored Web pages. Hugo would like to migrate his notes and much of his course content to the Web eventually, but for now he wants his class Web site to allow students to review assignments.
Hugo also envisions using the Web to provide parents with information that will facilitate appropriate student support at home, and hopes that better communication will improve success with homework and practice.
Hugo's new unit on the French Revolution was going to be complex. The reading he planned was challenging, even for advanced students. He would need to teach strategies for critically reading the text and provide additional support for students. He needed a way to introduce the content without overwhelming students, as well as keeping parents informed about their student's work. Central to Hugo's effort was the need to focus on content in depth.
Hugo used technology to accomplish two goals. First, he created a highlight box on his class Web site to communicate directly with parents. Here, he answered questions he received via e-mail or phone, and kept parents informed about reasonable expectations for students. He also explained his goals for using new technologies with students as part of their regular homework.
Second, he used a chat room for students to ask specific questions regarding their reading and homework. In his AP European History class, many resources that students had to write about involved primary-source documents that were challenging to read and understand. By facilitating a continued discussion using technology, he was able to provide more focused practice sessions.
Hugo guided and incorporated the homework practice and review sessions by using an Internet Relay Chat (IRC). IRC is a networked environment where users sign into a particular chat room. Hugo decided to set up his own chat room. His goals were to open new avenues of discussion for his students, and facilitate a learning community that could extend the school day in an engaging way.
He set up particular times when the chat room would be open. Hugo could control who was able to enter the room. He chose two times a week to open the chat room. The first was for 90 minutes after school when he knew students would be online (in the library, other classrooms, at home). The second time was a specific evening each week for about an hour. This way, students would have multiple opportunities to log in and ask questions.
Hugo explained to parents why it was beneficial for their students to spend homework time in an online chat session. He explained that he had set up the chat room to ensure privacy and control access. He also published the times when the chat room would be open. Hugo wanted to maximize the learning potential of the homework, without adding additional pressure for his students. This way, when students had questions after school they could turn to the teacher online instead of asking parents to supply needed help.
Students who accessed the chat room asked questions and were more engaged in their work. Fewer students turned in late homework or missed assignments. This not only helped them meet instructional goals, but eased some of the tensions with parents.
Most important, this exercise helped focus students on writing. The IRC provides an engaging option to extend the opportunities for learning, creating additional time to discuss and review document analysis.