[Note: If the topic of Web 2.0 tools bores you, will you at least scroll down to the bottom of the post and read that? I'd appreciate it very much!]
Have you ever been in a meeting and couldn't stop passing notes back and forth between friends also at the meeting/conference/class? Those side-conversations are what's known as the "back channel" of a presentation, and there's a Web 2.0 tool to help bring note-passing to the 21st century. I learned about it at a education conference last summer, and lately, Mrs.K and I have been using it in our literature class with 6th graders.
What I love about TodaysMeet is its simplicity; it takes less than a minute to set up a page, and no one needs to join beyond typing a username and clicking "Say!" Right now in Lit class, we are listening to an audio book called Crispin. While the story is playing, we project our TodaysMeet web page onto the front board, where we can all see what's being said. There are 10-15 iPod Touches in the room, and the kids share them, taking turns entering their responses to the story. Their contributions pop up on the large screen immediately.
In a typical class period in which the teacher is reading a book aloud, students learn about how to read fluently and that reading can be an enjoyable activity. Read-alouds are not really the time/place for lengthy discussion. Talking too much during read-alouds messes up the continuity of the story. Yes, kids are having thoughts, making predictions, wondering, etc. but they aren't sharing them unless called upon. The beautiful thing about TodaysMeet is that everyone can contribute their thoughts or ask questions in real time without interrupting the flow of the primary activity. Whereas in the past, only a handful of kids would ask questions, etc. about stories we read, using TodaysMeet, now they all do, and the best part is that they are also answering each other's questions via the backchannel, unprompted by us. Participants can also participate via tweet.
Here's a snapshot of one of our TodaysMeet pages from last week:
Our students receive a grade for participation (and no, spelling doesn't count). I love this, because even shy kids can contribute, and so many more students participate than just the typical "eager beavers."
So, yes, we do allow "passing notes" in class, via iPod Touches, cell phones, and our projector. Today's classroom is a different world! :)
***It just occurred to me that TodaysMeet would be a great tool for getting some advice from you about a trip I'm planning with Kyle in June. Please go to the meeting room that I set up to collect input on this question:
Kyle and I are planning our trip to CA in mid-June. SanFransisco and Oceanside. What should we do while we're there?
All you have to do is type in your name and click on "Say" and then type a message in (there is no "joining" process beyond that). If you use Twitter, you can also participate by sending a tweet using the hashtag #mrs4444trip. This way, I can collect your ideas without getting a lot of emails to read; instead, the ideas will all be in one place. If you want a response, be sure to use a name I recognize :) You're also welcome to just pop in to say "Hi. Look at me! I'm using a cool Web 2.0 tool!" or just check it out. Thanks!