Synchronous Toolbox: Text Chats

Text messaging is an everyday form of communication. But it’s not just reserved for personal interactions on a cell phone. The text-chat is also a popular tool in the synchronous-learning toolbox.

In physical classrooms, since students are close together, many interactions occur naturally. If there’s an instruction a student doesn’t understand, for example, they might tap the person next to them to ask for clarification. The online-classroom doesn’t have this advantage. But text-chats can help.

Students can use the chat to ask questions without interrupting the lesson. They can also react to content being presented by other students by texting encouraging messages, compliments, or friendly emojis. Before you present a slideshow or short video, you can text the class one or two prediction questions, and have them text their predictions. Then, after the slideshow/video, they can discuss via chat whether or not their predictions were correct.

In a language learning class, you can send students text messages with spelling or grammar errors, and have them text back the corrected messages. You can also check students’ prior knowledge by texting questions like, “What’s an example of the Present Simple?” or “What adjectives can you use to describe food?”

The chat is especially helpful for shy students who prefer writing to speaking in front of a group. And since multiple speakers are often “talking” at the same time in a chat, attention is not drawn to any one individual.

Chats can also be used for warm-up questions to help with social-check-in. For example, you can text questions like, “What did you eat for breakfast this morning?” or “What did you do this weekend?”

The text-chat tool provides students with learning activities that can help increase student interaction, thereby creating a feeling of community even in the distance learning environment.

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