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My first attempt at online video chat with students

 Last night, as part of my new “Your Homework is Due Tonight” movement, my students and I (and two adult volunteers!) discussed Siddhartha on my class website using Tinychat.

It certainly was fun. Students popped up on my screen, we said hello, and we waved. There was lots of waving. I was happy: My goal of extending learning time was coming true!

But things got messy once we began the discussion. The system would kick people off randomly. There was serious audio lag. All of the technical difficulties meant we spent most of the time frustrated (in an amused way) and little of the time talking about the book.

It’s possible, of course, that our problems had nothing to do with Tinychat. Maybe they resulted from slow Internet connections or old computers. Still, it got annoying.

One group noticed these problems early and decided to conduct their discussion entirely in the text chat box. This wasn’t as fun but led to the best conversation by far.

At the end of the chat, I told students to comment about their experience. To my surprise, despite all the problems, my students liked it. One student wrote, “I’m pretty excited about this project. I have really high hopes for it.” Another wrote,  “I don’t know why it didn’t work, but I know once everything is good, it will be awesome. This will push me to read 100x more.”

Given that enthusiasm, I want to continue this project, but I need something better for next Sunday. We can’t do Tinychat again. The problem is, There aren’t too many options out there. (Do you know of any?)

I might end up ditching the video and audio aspects and going entirely text-based, maybe with Chatroll. That might lead to a better discussion, but it won’t be as fun. 

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