TodaysMeet, a free website, advertises its purpose is to help you “embrace the back channel and connect with your audience in realtime.” I use it as a multi-purpose chat room. I’ve used it for discussion purposes; I’ve also used it to conduct a meeting remotely.
As far as user-friendly websites, this is among the easiest for both you and your students to use with in a matter of minutes. In fact, I’ve set up chat rooms while my students are literally walking through the door.
Log on to https://todaysmeet.com/
You’ll see this screen:
Before you or your students can begin chatting, create a room with a name you can recall easily if you need to call up the chat at a later date. I simply use the initials of my class, period or course number if necessary, and the date. Next, I write it on the board, so my students can log in when they’re ready.
Then, choose a duration that you’d like the chat room accessible to you after the conference. I often choose one week, but longer works to. (I’ll discuss the purposes of keeping a chat open for longer periods).
Finally, click the Create Room tab. It’s really that easy!
When your students log in, ask them to log in with their own names. This is extremely important! You’ll see why in a bit. I require that they all say hello or something of that nature, so I know they are logged in properly before the discussion commences.
Let’s start with how I incorporate TodaysMeet into a discussion format. When students have completed an assigned reading, I use this method to get them thinking critically, discussing freely and autonomously (from me), in addition to listening to their peers. Ahead of time, I provide them with a seminar in Socratic questioning. I model what a Socratic seminar discussion looks like by setting up role play and coaching them through it.
Once they’re ready to go, I select about half to a third of the class to sit in a circle at the center of the room (fishbowl method) to orally discuss the previous night’s reading for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, those on the outside are instructed to log into the TodaysMeet channel to hold a parallel discussion to what’s going on in the fishbowl. For example, the outside circle may pose a follow-up question, agree or disagree, cite additional evidence, etc.
After the 20 minutes have passed, I put the back channel discussion up on the Smart Board (or if you don’t have one, you could get those from the fishbowl to log into the channel) for review. At this time, the whole class is invited to discuss as we scroll through the questions and comments. I provide about 20 minutes for this activity, as well. The discussion usually becomes very lively, and it’s very rare that students haven’t managed to cover nearly everything I would have had I been navigating the conversation.
For the next class’s discussion, I alternate who comes into the fishbowl versus who uses TodaysMeet, so all students have the opportunity to experience both kinds of conversations throughout the unit.
While it’s ideal to have a Smart Board to display the channel, I’ve found it’s a good idea to turn it off while the initial conversation is taking place. It tends to be a distraction. However, I do keep my IPad beside me, logged in myself, to monitor the conversation in real time.
Also, VERY IMPORTANT: in working out the kinks to this forum, I’ve learned the hard way that students need to use their own names for accountability. I had one student sign in as “Random Kid” who proceeded to protest the novel we were discussing in addition to using inappropriate language to get a rise out of his classmates. Now, I tell them ahead of time that their statement/questions could be controversial, but they need to be stated appropriately and they need to be owned by the speaker.
Snow days, while fun, can sometimes put a kink in a perfectly organized schedule. This past week, we had a snow day on a day it was imperative for myself and the other adviser of the National Honor Society meet with our officers to discuss the agenda for the next meeting. Solution: hold the meeting via TodaysMeet from home on the snow day. It worked perfectly. We set up a meeting time the day before, I gave them the URL to log into, and we held a very productive meeting for about 45 minutes from the comforts of our own home.
TodaysMeet is not only engaging for the students to use, it’s a very practical format to learn moving forward through the 21st century with so many companies working remotely, not to mention the host of online college courses that are available to students.
It’s been extremely easy to use since most students have smart phones. Some still prefer a lap top, tablet or notebook, which our school encourages them to bring to class; we do have these available for borrowing when the need arises.
Give it a try! And please, provide some feedback if you do. Additionally, I’d like to hear from any of you who have used TodaysMeet (successfully or otherwise) as well as any other chat room forums you do or do not recommend. Thanks.
Stay tuned for more Technology Think Tank topics!