Sunday, April 12, 2009

Backchanneling Basics #8 - Chatmaker is another free option for setting up a backchannel in your classroom. In their FAQ's, they even specifically mention "teachers to operate an online classroom with their students" (see this link). And while free is a good option and Chatmaker is incredibly easy to set up (there is NO registration of any kind for the moderator), there a few things that prevent it from being a go-to app for me.

First, I have concerns about the ads. Most of the ads are dating or sexual in nature, which is not something I think most of us want to be exposing our students to. Next, it is unknown how much of a chat is saved for later reference. I'm not sure if you loose chat history as soon as it scrolls off the screen or if everything is saved. Further, on the surface, there is no way to save the chat history (excepting perhaps copying and pasting the entire chat).

There are also two other unknowns as well with the service. I'm not sure if anyone has the ability to delete the content or not. From my tests and experiences in the room, there doesn't seem to be, but I'm not positive. How many simultaneous users can there be? Again, I'm not sure. When trying to access help from within the chat as I tried to research these questions, a new window pops open, but nothing ever loads. I get the same response in both Safari and Firefox. Neither do the FAQs address these issues.

On the bright side, participants are invited to the chat via a URL, so you could simply provide a link off of your teacher web page. Also, that means that only folks with the URL will be able to access the chat, so that does keep your kids safe, private and secure. The fact that both Safari and Firefox are supported is another great asset to Chatmaker as is the ability to have more than one room set up at a time (each room simply has its own URL).

Back on the downside, no user password is required, so there is that lack of an extra layer of security. Users do not have to register either, which, like with many services, could allow for impersonation within the room. Finally, this is an unmoderated room, so any of the participants could post anything without first having it vetted.

So, there's Chatmaker for you. In many ways, it seems like a lot of the other services. I have two or three more services coming in the next weeks, so you know as much about what is out there as you can before you make a decision about a direction to go.


jhtechguy said...

Hey Scott I caught your discussion about back channeling on IDEAL classroom live 2.0 and had a few questions and micromobs and wiffitti. Have you used either one of these? If so can you share any potential problems and or positives about either?

Anonymous said...

I haven't experimented with either micromobs ( or wiffitti ( I'll try to find some time to look at these services and report back with a blog post.