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Chatting To Learn

by Aviva Dunsiger

Last year, I taught a Grade 1/2 class, and for the first time in my teaching career, I started using Nintendo DS’ with my students. I read numerous blog posts and tweets about other teachers that used these devices in the classroom, and I was intrigued. I bought three second-hand DS’, and we used them in a variety of ways. Students used them the most for Pictochat. They used these devices in a purposeful way to work with words, write in different forms, and explore word choice. They were engaged and learning.

 This year, I thought that I could do the same thing with my Grade 6 students. They also need to work on spelling using familiar and unfamiliar words, writing using various forms, and exploring word choice and voice. Why not use a highly motivating tool to engage them in writing? I was so excited to give this a try! When I started literacy centres back in September, Pictochat was one of the Word Work and one of the Work on Writing options. I even got involved in these Pictochat discussions to try and move the conversation along and have students engage in some meaningful writing. This didn’t work though. The students couldn’t get past the game. They just wanted to text with each other. Learning was limited, and I was feeling frustrated.

I decided to put the Nintendo DS’ away. Instead I set-up Today’sMeet rooms, Twitter chats, Edmodo groups, and blogging groups to get the students communicating with each other, but in a more purposeful way. I could modelled this communication with the use of my computer and the projector. Together we looked at comments others made and critiqued them later: pushing the learning forward for everyone. These chat room experiences worked for me, but the gaming ones did not. Maybe the additional modelling helped and maybe a different tool (i.e., a computer versus a DS) made a difference. I can’t help but wonder if it’s more than this though.


How have you used chat rooms in the classroom with your students? What do you do to ensure that a chat room advances learning in the classroom environment?


Aviva Dunsiger taught Junior Kindergarten to Grade 2 for 11 years before moving to Grade 6 this year. She’s passionate about using technology in the classroom to support student learning, and she’s presented on this topic numerous times both online and offline.

She enjoys maintaining her blog, Living Avivaloca: My Many Musings on Life and Learning. Aviva’s reflective writing about her professional practice inspires communication between educators, administrators and parents.  




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  • http://bigideasineducation.wordpress.com Deborah McCallum

    I really appreciated reading about your ‘trial-and-error’ work with the Nintendo DS’s. I appreciated hearing about your experiences in being unable to get the kids past the ‘game’, and the fact that they just wanted to ‘text’. I think that as Educators we really need to use Technology in a purposeful way, and help students to hone their critical thinking skills! Thanks for sharing!

    • http://adunsiger.com Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca)

      Thanks for the reply, Deborah! I absolutely agree with you as well. Technology can be a wonderful tool, but I want to ensure that it’s being used for learning. If it’s not, maybe it’s better to choose a different tool. Have you had any similar experiences before? I’d love to hear about them.