Besides making the simple amount of participation more equitable, other advantages of digital discourse became readily apparent:
- Because students could think and even revise their questions and observations before hitting send, the responses can be a bit more thoughtful. However, responders can also be "trigger-happy" and the quality can be just the opposite, so culture and expectations are key here.
- Digital opportunities opened up asynchronous as well as "real-time" opportunities to talk, expanding discussion beyond the four walls of the classroom.
- Dominating personalities in real life become more flattened -- quiet students could sound as "loud" as their more outgoing peers.
- Students more naturally talk directly to each other, rather than through the teacher.
- In a real time online discussion, everyone can "talk at once," something not possible without shouting and chaos in real life.
- Digital discourses can often be easily archived or exported.
- Since a digital discourse creates a physical artifact, it can be formatively assessed, whether with informal feedback or with rubrics that indicate how students are meeting mastery of speaking and listening standards.
YoTeach! does offer some very helpful features.
- By checkmarking "Avoid Search," the room will not show up in public searches, and gives you a bit more privacy. I highly recommend this!
- "Enable Admin Features" is also highly recommended. By creating a password for you (unique to the room you are about to create), you will be able to do some moderation features such as mute or remove a student, get student participation statistics, switch from a chat to a voting mode (perhaps as part of a reflection at the end of the day, where students indicate the most insightful or important contributions), and more. The only way you can make sure a room can be deleted is if you enable admin features from the beginning; otherwise, the room and its history will linger indefinitely.
- "Room Entry Password" is another security feature to protect your students. Without a password, anyone with the chat room's URL can join.
- In the chat room itself, participants can do more than just text responses. You can also share pictures with annotations, or use a mini-whiteboard feature to "draw."
- You can export a transcript of the chat as a PDF.
Richard Byrne, edtech extraordinaire behind Free Technology For Teachers and Practical Edtech, did a great screencast video overview of YoTeach! (5:15):
- Create a backchannel chat while watching a video. The opportunities for students to post questions and insights, as well as the teacher probing and clarifying, can create a rich, engaging experience beyond just passive viewing.
- Create a virtual after-hours office, where you help students during a scheduled time slot. Even better would be student leaders running the chatroom doing the same function.
- Conduct the equivalent of a "Twitter Chat" at a certain time after class on a particular topic. This could be a remediation opportunity, enrichment, or even a flipped learning experience of content that will directly lead to work in class the next day.