In our district, academic conversations is a major focus. Students often lack the skills and or confidence to hold an academic conversation. Any tool that can make students more comfortable communicating is welcomed. Once students become more comfortable communicating, we are a step closer towards getting them engaged in academic conversations.
Students nowadays are adept at texting, instant messaging and "Facetiming". With that in mind, why don't we put those skills to work for us? We can use these skills as way of getting students started with academic conversations.
Students may feel uncomfortable, at first, speaking, but they may be comfortable texting. If we can get them to have an academic conversation via text, it can increase their level of comfort to eventually have a verbal academic conversation.
Some of my ELA 7 teachers have begun having students start academic conversations using Google Hangouts. We started them with the instant message/texting function of the app. After some practice, we paired them with other students on the other side of the room and they used the video chat function to have an academic conversation. Recently, two ELA 7 teachers paired students with students from the other class and they used the video chat to have an academic conversation.
Early returns are promising and we are looking to involve more teachers and subjects. Many students who normally won't speak academically in class are fully participating when using Google Hangouts. Hangouts has become a method of engagement.