Thursday, April 16, 2015

Crowdsourcing | Students as Contributors with #RemindChat

It's an ongoing challenge to find the right balance between the students doing the heavy lifting and the teacher delivering prescribed content. It takes confidence to let go and risk the plan completely falling apart.

The trick has been prompting student contributions in a variety of ways and filling in the gaps with direct answers or questions to dig for more. 

But the light bulb went off when I noticed Remind's new Chat tool was available on my app. 

#RemindChat to Gather Sources 

I couldn't wait to try Chat because kids like communicating through text messages. I was extra curious to see how they would take to texting images and other resources for a lesson, but I wasn't prepared for what happened next. 


I asked my students to search "mercantilism" on Google Images and text me an image that sparks their interest. The Remind app was displayed on the big screen via my mirrored iPad.

In about 45 seconds, I had a screenshot of a Wikipedia entry, a painting of a colonial harbor, a cartoon portraying the colony / mother country relationship, a variety of maps, a couple different graphic organizers, and a Family Guy meme that was actually a nice one-sentence summary.


My eyes wide open, pacing back and forth in excitement, I realized that this simple task produced better content than the slide presentation that I had planned. It was a game changer. Now, the slide presentations I make can be produced with student contributions after the lesson. Click here for the slides I made from the Chat activity.

Without being too specific, the students shared what they liked and the diversity of the class supported our need to analyze a variety of sources.

What's more, this activity destroys ideas that there are too many standards in the curriculum because it addresses (don't say covers) at least five standards in one activity. 

Reteaching on the Spot

After what I knew would be an easy quiz on the causes and effects of the Spanish-American War, I had my suspicions that students would score well without being able to explain certain events.


Flubaroo only took a minute to mark the quizzes that were submitted through Google Forms, and just as I suspected, the class average was 14 out of 15.

I asked the students if they knew the answers to a few but wouldn't be able to explain why. They immediately replied yes with almost a sigh of relief.


No worries. I had them open the quiz again and search Google Images for a few of the trouble spots. The room felt relaxed and confident as each student contribution was explained by the students sharing, and we ended the lesson cycle how we began – with Remind.

Hold that Thought, Or Not

The potential of #RemindChat is huge, so I'm curious to see how it plays out with some of the other activities we've done this year. 

I've been trying to incorporate a back channel discussion for a couple years. Until now, Today's Meet has been the winner. It has a character limit, like Twitter, so I'm wondering if Chat's lack of character limit appeals to my students.

Come to think of it, using Chat is not really a backchannel because all of the texts go right to me. It's more like a pipeline, sending me content for class discussion in a format that some students prefer. And that's just what students did. As I asked questions and requested fact checking, the students' messages added content and clarity to our lesson without interruption of a speaker's thought.

What's Next?

Chat will replace Today's Meet for current events homework. We'll probably still use Today's Meet to catalog the work because we can download the stream at the end of the year to PDF and publish our work history.

We will also use it for exit tickets (3-2-1), reflecting on learning, and summarizing notes. Students can write a one-sentence summary, or more, and send it to me. I can respond with feedback, and the summaries can be used as a review at the start of the next class. For classes that make collaborative notes on an application like Google Docs, this sort of activity is crucial because it's an individual formative assessment.

The big idea that keeps me super excited about all of this is the ability to switch from prescriptive approach to content selection to student contributions.