Several years ago, I used Chatzy.com to conduct an after-reading discussion on Poe's The Raven. I found using a chatroom to be more effective than a traditional verbal conversation. Quiet kids were more willing to participate, and even the kids who were not typing were actively reading the discussion as it unfolded in front of them. Imagine my disappointment late last week when I discovered Chatzy to now be blocked by my school's filtering software.
So the hunt for a new chat service began. The following sites came from Twitter, my Delicious account, and some creative searching on Google. I'm loosely defining them as chat sites, but they cover everything from chatting and back channeling to video chat and microblogging. I made this quick reference chart to give a very general overview of features for each site, and I also wrote a quick blurb about each. Of course, I omitted much, so I leave it to you, reader, to explore these sites to your heart's content. Enjoy!
Stinto.net is a German site. While the chat platform itself is in English, the help, about, and blog pages are not. This means that unless you are bilingual, Stinto does not offer any user support. This is the site I actually chose to replace my beloved Chatzy, and so far it has worked flawlessly with my students.
Tinychat is one of the more popular back channeling sites. Because of this, it is probably the most likely of the sites on this list to be blocked by your school’s filtering software. It has recently integrated a full-functioning video chat feature, which means incredible potential for use in schools, but also incredible potential that one of the rooms featured on the main page of the site will feature something distasteful or obscene.
Todaysmeet does not list the chat participants. This makes it impossible to know if a student is present in the chat but not participating, or if even worse, if an unwanted guest is silently listening in to the conversation. On the plus side, it's possibly one of the most stylish sites on this list. If you want something that looks and behaves "2.0," Todaysmeet is it.
Cover it Live is technically a “live blogging” platform, but I thought I would include it in this list because it allows viewers to submit comments to the moderating user. I could see this working in a more teacher-centered discussion. Cover it Live is designed to be embedded into a website, so this is ideal for use on a class blog or homepage.
Chatzy is ad-supported, but they can be removed and additional features unlocked for a $9 fee. This site also includes a private messaging option which can be turned on and off by the administrator (the person who created the chat).
Etherpad includes a collaborative workspace that is updated in real time for all users to interact with. This is a major advantage, however Etherpad only allows 16 users to be logged in to a pad at a time, which is a deal breaker if you’re working with a large number of students.
Edmodo is education’s answer to Twitter. It includes the same microblogging functionality as well as a few other features such as file sharing and scheduling. It takes some setting up though, so if you’re looking for a chat site that is quick and easy, this isn’t for you.
Tokbox is pretty overwhelming. Video messaging, instant messaging, video conferencing, etc. If you're a teacher looking to integrate long distance learning into your class for no money, this is an excellent avenue to explore.
Chatmaker is a bare bones chat site. It gets the job done, and does it well. The deal breaker for me was the Google-generated text ads. Most of them were suggestive, if not downright inappropriate for students. (Here's a screenshot of what I'm talking about.)
Shout 'em is another site, similar to Edmodo that allows a user to create their own microblogging network. The difference, however, is that Shout 'em can be specifically customized – everything from settings and functionality, all the way to design and color scheme.
Save to delicious Saved by 0 users