At ISD we have a one-to-one ubiquitous, mobile and digital handheld and laptop program. We encourage use of these devices in the classroom and provide a wireless network for their access to the Intranet and server and to the Internet, and an IT support team to configure and support them. But that is just the hardware and infrastruture.
At ISD we also deliver the IB curriculum (PYP, MYP and DP) which focuses on student-centred learning, collaboration and interdisciplinary units of work. We encourage the learner to be an enquirer and to interact with other learners in the self-propelled, teacher facilitated constructivist environment. In essence, we want our students to communicate, embrace an holistic approach and value and understand multiculturalism in its many forms.
IM provides a collaborative tool that encourages active learning (student-to-student and student-to-teacher) and is already widely used by many people around the world. Perhaps this can then be used to support our curriculum objectives? However, on the negative side IM can be a security risk and threaten individual privacy.
As part of our ongoing discussion into the benefits and disadvantages of IM in education I recommend these resources as a starting point (some are a little older):
- Instant Messaging: Collaborative tool or educator's nightmare?
- Instant messaging in education
- Postings about IM from Ewan McIntosh on Edu.blogs.com
- IM: What parents need to know
- Library 2.0 use of IM (an interesting link to IM postings from Michael Stephens)
And in the classroom...
Internet chat has clear disadvantages for the classroom: it's not very safe if your students get propositioned by a stranger and they can easily fall off task if their pals start to ping them. However, it does have obvious uses in the Modern Languages class.
Video conferencing is expensive and horrifically difficult to organise with a partner school who (a) don't have broadband, (b) have worse technical support than you do (yes, it is possible) and (c) having spent three weeks experimenting to make sure it works with the class, the system then breaks down during the very lesson that you had planned it in. Doh!
With MSN, ad hoc meetings with foreign classmates can be organised at the drop of a hat. Log in while other work is being done and if MSN pings, go and answer it.
Live internet chat is also good for pushing those language skills to the limit. Try typing fast, and thinking of how to say what you want to say. It's really tricky. This is conceivably a shortfall but, after saving the discussion to disk, the teacher can then take the whole class through it to learn from any mistakes either correspondent has made (often the ones made by the French/German/Spanish/Italian student on the other end are very reassuring for learners: "they get it wrong, too".
So, what are we going to do about this tool that can never be fully blocked, will always be there in the laptop classroom and available for great educational uses under teacher direction? We haven't quite worked it out yet.....and I therefore welcome all contributions from educators currently integrating IM into their programs. What are you doing? What restrictions are you putting on the use of IM? What do the teachers in your school think about using IM?