Ideas for Using a Free and Simple Chatting Tool (TinyChat) for Instructional Purposes?

While following my edublogger colleagues at the NECC conference in Twitter using the search term edc09 I discovered a great tool they were using http://TinyChat.com. This tool allows you to easily (I’m talking 5 seconds) set up your chatroom with a unique url where others can instantly visit you and join the conversation. You can also instantly notify your Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace followers. Once in the room you can lead a conversation about a selected topic. You can also easily share your screen, speak via a microphone, and share video. No one needs to subscribe or download. It’s instant. Additionally, you can record and save all chats.

My mind was swirling with ideas of how this easy tool could be used for instruction. Ideas from those in my chatroom include: 1) using it for virtual office hours 2) using it for a weekly virtual discussion on topics of interest 3) using it as a homework study group for students in your class 4) set up a channel for accountable chat by students when watching instructional video with focusing questions.

I am wondering how others may see this tool can be used to enhance teaching, learning, or professional development. I look forward to seeing your ideas.

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If you start a chatroom using Tiny Chat, how do you delete your room when you want to change your topic? I don't want to start another room. I just want to delete the one I have? Also, the link you provided to your chatroom doesn't seem to work. Any information would be helpful.

Mel J. Janousek
Hi Mel J,

You can change the topic of your room whenever you'd like. When you log off your room is deleted. I discovered the link doesn't work, because once you log off it is no longer active.
Another cool site for chatting / planning is etherpad.com - you set up a room similar to the tiny chat but it is saved in cyberspace so you can connect again and read the conversation from the previous session, you can also save copies if you've had a particularily good conversation. I started exploring this site with my grade threes and we had a lot of fun with it. You can also name your own page and send the url to others to connect to...my mind is buzzing with the possibilities for next year!
Thanks Kathy. Can you share some of the possibilities your mind is buzzing with?
Cool idea. I think the other players in the space are Friend Feed (which allows you to create rooms) and Meebo.

I was in a chat for the YouTube Debates with progressive activists. For another one of the debates we had a wiki and project management area with Basecamp (i know they charge businesses but I wonder if they offer free/cheap spaces for nonprofits and educational institutions). We brought links from in news coverage into the wiki along with relevant coverage on each of the candidates. Each person was either assigned a candidate (ie Hillary, Obama, or ????) or they were assigned a news outlet (Fox, CNN, ABC, etc....)

I think chat has a unique ability to add to a one way event. For instance a video or mass media event (documentary, PBS special, or news event....or even a movie or TV show). Great tool for critical media literacy.
I haven't done this personally, but I've seen similar services used very successfully for activities similar to your #4. Instead of video though, previous readings were discussed, but still based on focus questions. A key was that everyone had to take turns voicing an opinion about each focus question (so there's no domination of the conversation). Groups were also kept to a maximum of 4 people (too many people caused confusion when only text was available - no facial cues or gestures to quickly negotiate whose turn it is to speak and comments can easily get lost in the fast pace, then ignored). A big strength of this technique is it seems to get students who are usually more hesitant to speak up in class to participate a lot more - I imagine because they have time to think about their answers and can read over what they write before pressing Send.
Hi Lisa ...

I used a similar tool last term for a College class in Organizational Behaviour. I had assigned a term project (they did things like organize a fundraiser, design a game, etc). I requested that each project team meet at least once 'online'. The idea was that I (we) would be able to read through the chat transcript and examine the group dynamics as they relate to many of our course topics, which include things like teamwork and team formation, leadership, communications, conflict, decision making, motivation, etc.

That examination proved to be a challenge for me, but I think the concept was a good one and I'm going to try it again, probably with more meetings. The students got a GREAT kick out of it.
THANK YOU!! I just emailed someone asking the very thing! How can I keep a discussion limited to my class or professional development group. I just set one up and tested it...I think it is just what I was looking for!
Great. If she/you have anything to share about how it worked and/or ideas, please let me know.
I just tried TinyChat with limited success. The user (my husband, across the room) was prompted to enter a name and when he did, it created his own room. There didn't seem to be a way just to enter my chat room other than as a guest. Also, the screen sharing flickered way too much to be useful. Was it just our connection at this time? Any suggestions?
Hi Cindy ... I tried the same spousal experiment ... my wife was next to me on the laptop. It worked fine.

The only thing I can think of is this ... when your husband tried to run TinyChat, did he enter (on his Internet Explorer - or other browser - address line) the address of the chat room that YOU had already created? Or did he just go to www.TinyChat.com?

For example, I went to www.TinyChat.com, and created a room called Rob. Then I got my wife to go to www.TinyChat.com/Rob. She did NOT go to www.TinyChat.com. See what I mean?

As for the flicker, I didn't get that, but I did not try the 'screen sharing'. (Is that just a premium service? I didn't see it on the menu.)

I have to say, I really like this service, from what I've seen.
Another chat service you might want to try out is ClackPoint. It does a whole lot more than chat too, with support for audio and video, PDF sharing and collaborative note editing. You can even embed them into your own website. If you'd like to see an example, I set up a prototype at http://elhsdeutsch.blogspot.com/.

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