It was all set. School was running an exam schedule, so we were getting out at 12:25. A group of students had arranged to meet with me around 1:00 to review a bit for their exam the following morning – we had it planned for over two weeks. Then, a snowstorm dropped in seemingly out of nowhere. The district dismissed early, all students had to leave the school building by 12:50 effectively ending our review session before it could even get started. A few frantic students caught me on the way out asking if I was going to be able to stay, which of course none of us would be able to do. I told them I would try to think of something, to email me any questions later that evening if they had them, and made my way home as the snow was beginning to fall.
On the way I thought of something that a professor had shown us in a technology class I had taken this past summer – a site called TodaysMeet which enables you to create a temporary online chat room which expires in a preset length of time (as short as a few hours up to one year). I’d never used it before with students, but figured I’d give it a go. I created a room, set it to expire in one week, and copied the unique URL to share with my students. Fortunately, as I mentioned once before, many of my students are signed up for online texting through Remind101.com, so I was able to send out a quick text letting them know the web address of the room I had created and asking them to join me for a chat. A few minutes later I had about eight students asking me questions, and over the course of an hour we actually covered quite a bit of material. I was able to answer all their questions, share some links to items that provided more depth for review, and basically accomplish everything that we would have had we actually been able to meet in person. One of the great features of TodaysMeet is the option for all users to access a transcript of the entire chat, which meant that students were able to take the information we discussed with them once the chat was finished.
One of the great advantages that technology provides is the ability to easily move learning opportunities beyond the traditional classroom setting. Being able to communicate and share information with one another is one of the most important skills that students need to develop throughout their schooling. Online applications like Remind101 and TodaysMeet are excellent ways to facilitate this development. In this particular case, a weather situation that traditionally would have been a barrier to communication was easily overcome.