Technology Think Tank: Using Todaysmeet for a Socratic Seminar and MORE!

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.

TTT todaysmeet logo

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.

TTT HOW TO

Log on to https://todaysmeet.com/

You’ll see this screen:

TTT Todays Meet Home 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).

TTT Todays Meet Demo Skitch

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.

TTT Possible uses

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.

tech todays meet

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.

TTT Socratic Seminar

TTT Pitfalls

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.

TTT Additional Uses

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.

TTT Todays Meet Mtg Skitch

TTT Last Words

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.

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Stay tuned for more Technology Think Tank topics!

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Technology Think Tank: Apps and Other Tech Tools for the High School Classroom

Think Tank Poster copy

Let’s face it! Technology can be overwhelming. BUT, it’s here to stay, AND it’s useful in the classroom.

I’ve been on the technology team for my school since it’s inception (for about six years, now); we’ve actually just scaled back the frequency of our meetings because we feel our school has finally caught up to 21st century standards regarding the infusion of technology in the classroom.

I don’t know all there is to know about the infinite implementations of technology (apps, websites, devices, etc.), but I do know a great deal. I’ve tried many of them. I’ve quit several others. I’ve become frustrated with the organizational piece and have ironed a technology management protocol that seems to work for me and my students.

Over the next few months, I plan on featuring one technology tool in a series called Technology Think Tank by offering suggestions for implementation, reflecting on my experiences, providing advice, and, finally, by eliciting feedback, suggestions, as well as additional uses from my readers.

I’m all about teacher collaboration because collective knowledge, experience and ideas are empowering tools to propel education forward. And, if we don’t keep up, we’re sure to get lost in the technology time warp.

The following are Apps and/or sites I use on a fairly regular basis, if not daily. You can look forward to learning more about the management of them, in addition to how and for what purposes I use them to not only make my teaching easier but to enrich the learning of my students by engaging them in a variety of ways.

Here’s what’s coming:

TTT IPAD

RandomKid Profoundly Proves Holden’s Relevance

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I’ve been teaching The Catcher in the Rye for years. I believe every American should read, if nothing more, these three classics: The Adventures of Huck Finn, The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye. Over the past years, the enthusiasm for Catcher has waned. Students complain it isn’t relevant, the language is dated, Holden is nothing more than a whiner; students, today, claim they are more mature and self directed…

They just don’t see themselves in Holden. I beg to differ.

RK student quote 1

In an effort to get students to delve deep into thinking about Holden’s characterization (as we approach Holden from a psychological perspective, later on, and go on to compare him to one of the characters in The Breakfast Club), I host Socratic Seminars.

RK Breakfast Club

This is how it works. For homework, the class is given a reading assignment and they must write questions gleaned from it and important quotes in a Double Entry Notebook format. In class the next day, I divide the number of students in half. Half form a circle at the center of the room for a fishbowl discussion, while the other have form a larger circle on the outside. These students sign into a class chat room, hosted by Today’s Meet, where they hold a parallel discussion to what’s going on orally in the fishbowl.

For the last 10 minutes of class, I post the discussion thread from Today’s Meet up on the Smartboard to open the discussion to the whole class. On a normal day, the discussion becomes lively, even heated sometimes. While students on the whole often have difficulty connecting to Holden in an explicit way, they demonstrate just how connected they are (even if they can’t see it, at the time, themselves) by the way the discussion evolves.

On this particular day, I instruct the class to sign on using their own names (so I can give them credit for their questions and comments: I’m taking notes throughout the lesson, making observations, noting the levels of thinking they demonstrate with their questions and responses to contribute to a cumulative grade at the end of the novel) as I always do.

Only, today, one wise guy signs in as RandomKid. When I ask who it is, he or she (I’ll use he for the purpose of this story) responds:

RK Its Me copy

I laugh it off and ask him to sign in as himself, which he does; only, unbeknownst to me and the rest of the class, at the time, he doesn’t sign off as RandomKid. He must be using two monikers/screens simultaneously because I can account for everyone in the chat room plus RandomKid. A stir ensues because the class just wants to begin, so we do. I’m thinking RandomKid doesn’t realize I’m monitoring the discussion on my IPad because he continues to post. I’m thinking he does so for the element of surprise during the last ten minutes when I share the thread with the whole class. What he doesn’t anticipate is that I’m seeing the nature of his comments escalate because he, apparently, isn’t getting the attention or response from the students he was hoping for within the chat room.

Here are his posts:

RK posts copy

I stop the discussion in a grandiose fashion when he uses the “F” word. Not only does it go against my classroom policy, it goes against the school’s policy and the responsible use policy for technology. I tell them if “they” are too immature to participate in this forum, they can read silently for the remainder of class.  Needless to say, I’m angry, the students in the fishbowl have no idea what’s going on, and those in the chat room are upset that we have to cut short the discussion. After several pleas for RandomKid to come forward (from both me and his classmates), so the whole class doesn’t have to deal with the fallout of this incident, he, to this day, has not. I’m not surprised, but I am saddened.

Hindsight has allowed me to look at this from a different perspective, and I’d like to share, here, the letter I’d write to RandomKid if I could:

Catcher

Dear RandomKid,

While you think you may have been acting rebelliously to get a laugh out of your classmates, put me on the spot, or even express your frustrations with this class, this novel or school in general, what you have done is demonstrate what a modern-day Holden Caulfield would do.

He’d pretend he’s someone he isn’t. He’d mask himself under the guise of a screen name and run, if the case may be. He’d protest the rules of society without having the confidence to express his thoughts as himself. You call him a liar, well so are you if you can’t come forward to own your actions. He’d call people phony behind their backs or talk behind doors about what an injustice it is that there are penalties he’d be held accountable for (such as no longer being allowed to use a chat room or being expelled from school).

RK student quote 2

You see, RandomKid, this is part of your development. It’s an aspect of coming of age and teen angst, all the things we discuss in class, that you are so adamant you are far removed from. You question authority. You defy it, even. You think you’d like to live in world in absent of rules, where you wouldn’t have to attend school or take this class or read this seemingly irrelevant book.

The truth is that if you admitted to seeing yourself in Holden, you’d have to face pieces of yourself that you don’t like very much. Perhaps, it’s your apathy for life in general or your utter disdain for all things that equate to authority. But, what I think, RandomKid, is that you’re scared. I think you’re afraid to grow up, just like Holden– afraid to lose your innocence because, let’s face it, it’s a scary prospect. It’s difficult to feel confused about who you are and all things this life represents that you couldn’t possibly understand. It’s far easier to think you’ve got it figured out, to pretend you are mature and have direction because, after all, if you could fool yourself, you could fool everyone else, right?

As your teacher and as a person who cares about what you think and feel, moreover, as a survivor of your stage in life when all things are uncertain, I’m here to tell you, you will survive. You will grow from even this (seemingly insignificant) immature act of posing as RandomKid.

Growing up isn’t about not making mistakes; in fact, it’s just the opposite. It’s about trying personas on to see what fits (I hope yours as RandomKid isn’t the one that does).  Making mistakes isn’t what defines you as a person, recognizing them demonstrates your true character. Having the ability to look inside, authentically, and communicate honestly is what growing up is all about. It’s from taking an incident like this and not just feeling wronged, somehow, but learning from it. I’ll leave you with these words from Catcher:

RK catcher quote

Thank you, RandomKid, for reminding me of one such lesson; moreover,  when you see a lesson coming back at you, you’ll recognize it, confidently, appreciatively, to acknowledge it as such, and realize you really were never just a random kid, in the first place.

Sincerely,

Your Teacher

RK BC Quote