Friday, April 11, 2008

CoverItLive in the Classroom

I got a chance to test out another chat room like utility tool this past week: it was CoverItLive. CoverItLive is considered a live blogging tool. However, recently, an option has been added to embed HTML code on any kind website. I had an activity I wanted to run with my level two English class. (I've blogged about my experiences with them before here and here.) I've been using with my Advanced Placement class, which is an un-moderated solution. However, I had particular concerns about opening up an un-moderated chat room for any kind of post to go up with this group. So, when I heard that one of the technology coaches in my district had played with the ability to embed this tool on a wiki, I decided to go ahead and give the moderated CoverItLive a go for a chat room like activity.

I was wrapping up my project on The Crucible and had a movie that takes a CSI type approach to looking at how science might explain the events that happened in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. I wanted to have the kids watch this movie. However, I did not want them to be passive participants in the activity. That is and has been one of my complaints about showing movies in the classroom. So I set up the chat room using CoverItLive and introduced the students to what I wanted them to do, what they could write about, and what were acceptable posts in the chat room.

We started watching the documentary, and the comments started to fly. I did receive a number of different comments that were not at all appropriate, but as a result of the moderated piece to the puzzle, I was able to keep all of the inappropriate and off color comments out of the chat room. (Additionally, moderators have the ability to privately message participants, so I used this function to warn students and try to guide them to more appropriate contributions.) This increased the quality of the discussion.

What was cool was the kids could pose questions they had about what they were watching, and they could answer each other's questions as well. We had quite a discussion in the room as you can see from some of the sample posts I've included below.
At the end of the activity, it was incredibly apparent that kids had enjoyed themselves. In fact, having a couple extra minutes at the end of class, I asked them to let tell me what their comments were on the activity, and here, at the left, are some of those comments I received.

I would highly recommend the CoverItLive moderated discussion room feature for any educator who wants to increase the conversations between students in the classroom but who has concerns about what might be said or shared that might not necessarily be appropriate for public consumption. It takes a lot of energy and focus on the instructor's part to moderate a chat room such as this, but the benefits, as can be seen from my kids' comments, greatly outweigh, in my opinion, any negatives.