TodaysMeet or connecting all of your students in real time

We’ve all done it…watched a video with a class, or a clip from something and at the conclusion we’ve asked for feedback and questions, or we’ve prompted with our own questions.  The class comes up with a few things or so many things that everyone tries to speak at once, or gets frustrated because they wanted to remember something or had a question and now they’ve forgotten it, or sometimes you wonder if you’ve watched the same thing that they have watched.  I like to use “snippets” of videos to stimulate conversation or questions or to fast forward awareness of a topic.  So many times students interrupt the video with questions that they have, or something interests them and they comment out loud, making it difficult for the surrounding students to hear…or taking the attention of those students to a different place.

Somewhere in my wanderings through social media last winter I came across a site called TodaysMeet.  Notice below where it says “helps you embrace the “backchannel” and connect with your audience in realtime.  At that point in time, I didn’t know the term “backchannel”, but I now understand that it refers to everything that is going on in the classroom that is not coming from the presenter/instructor.

This was so easy to use, and so exciting!  Each student had a laptop, and logged into the TodaysMeet room that I had created. I told my class that we were going to watch a series of clips and they were to do the following things:

1.  Comment, in Spanish, on things for which they had the vocabulary or things that interested them.

2.  Ask questions about words they wanted to know, or things that they were seeing that interested them.
To say that they were intrigued is stating it mildly.  Of course, I quickly discovered that I also had to include in the directions (for the next class), that all comments had to be directly related to what we were viewing.  This because students began saying things like: “Hola,  Janie….me gusta tu camisa” or “Mira, Tom, piensas que “so and so” es un scrub (a not so endearing term the boys liked to use to describe each other).  When the class was done, I could print out the class conversation and directly address their specific questions and comments.

I took it a step further with my Spanish IV class when showing them several clips about México.  I did this at the very beginning of our indepth study of México at the beginning of May ( you guessed it…a few days before cinco de mayo). I showed parts of an assortment of clips, such as México, Mi Ciudad, Bienvenido a México, México City, the biggest city in the world and I told them to comment on what they knew, what questions they had, and what most interested them.  After class I printed out the class conversation, and from their comments and questions I developed an exploration guide of the things that had interested them…not necessarily the things that I would have chosen for them, although they did include many of those things, too.  Their questions fell into roughly three categories:  La Ciudad de México, la geografía de México and la cultura de México (sports, dance, music, flag, etc.).  They divided into groups and together decided who was going to be responsible for the various questions that they had created and they collaborated to create a México wikispace.  They didn’t complain that it was boring, because the questions had come from them.  They didn’t whine about how much they needed to do, because again, they had created the content.  Were there problems?  Of course.  Some wrote over what someone else had written on the wikispace and panicked because they thought their work was lost (never the case on wikispaces), someone forgot their password, a few didn’t complete their assigned part.  Overall, though, I was pleased.

TodaysMeet is easy to use, with one simple step you create a room, and then you choose how long you would like the conversation to be available, anywhere from 2 hours to one year (I chose one day).  It involves every student and feedback is immediate.  I could read what they were posting as they were posting, monitor the content, respond as necessary in real time, or wait and collect everything for the following class.  While it is not a tool that I would use frequently, it is definitely one that I will use about once a term.

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