May 7, 2015
Tags: Chat, Google, Google Apps, Google Hangouts, Hangouts
Beginning today, Google Hangouts is enabled for all CCSD21.org users, students and staff. (Hangouts was originally opened as an option to staff only when it became mostly compliant with Google Vault.) Google has recently made Hangouts fully compliant with Google Vault, the service that School District 21 uses to necessarily archive email and chat messages. Additionally, all Hangouts are now archived by default. This ensures that School District 21 can maintain compliance with legal and policy best practices and that chat and email data is available to support student learning and growth as necessary.
Students can still only chat with other students and teachers within CCSD21 while staff members can chat with anyone from within or beyond the organization.
Benefits of chat over email
While chat features can prove to be a distraction for students and adults alike, chat has a number of benefits over email. Chat can be a synchronous or an asynchronous technology, allowing much more real-time conversation than does email. Additionally, despite the modern use of Conversation Threads in email inboxes, reviewing a conversation in chat, like Google Hangouts, allows the full breadth of the conversation to be transparent and easily read later on without any of the headers and footers that are part of a chain of emails back-and-forth.
Email was originally intended for short, quick questions and answers, but it has become a catch-all communications tool. Chat, on the other hand, retains that quick ask-and-answer feel and allows end-users to get the information needed and move on with their work while emails pile up and require significant time to respond, which draws one away from her or his actual projects and tasks.
Chat as a learning distraction
From time to time, some teachers have asked about turning chat off. Even if Hangouts were not turned on for students, this would not solve issues with off-topic student conversations and distractions from learning.
First, students have always passed notes in class when they are not engaged. Hangouts proves a better solution here because now all of the “notes” are permanently archived should the school need to go back and find them. Additionally, the solution to this problem is to provide relevant and engaging learning opportunities so that they are engaged.
Second, students and adults are really not much different with regards to being distracted by online opportunities for socializing. How many adults drive and text (or check their Facebook or Twitter status) at the same time? By addressing these issues as part of being a Self-Directed Learner and Respectful Citizen, students have learning opportunities to develop self-control and understanding of when engaging in off-topic chats is and is not appropriate.
Finally, the potential benefits of chat for supporting student learning are huge. Students can use chat to assist one another and get questions answered from their peers as they collaborate on solving problems and learning the curriculum. Teachers can shape this by leveraging Hangouts as a tool that is used in the classroom to support learning rather than one that is set aside for fear of being a distraction.
Topic: Instruction, Tech Tips
Each District 21 school is named after an American author, and learning and literacy is at the center of our Professional Learning Community. The Modern Pen provides a collaborative location in which District 21 teachers can come together to learn the skills that will enable their students to learn new skills and to understand concepts at an even different level than before.