I want to dedicate a post to the use of HipChat in the computing classroom. HipChat is a free group chat and IM resource which allows large groups to collaborate. I think the technology has a lot of potential uses in all different types of classrooms.
How have I used it? While I was at Scripps, we kept two instances of HipChat running – one for students and one for administrators. All students and instructors were included as members of the student chat. In that chat, people could post their questions and receive quick answers on-the-fly. It also allowed for the more advanced students to have a way to peer-tutor even while the instructor was lecturing. Also, HipChat was an easy way for the instructor to share bash or Python code in realtime… They can just copy and paste it to the chat, and then anyone in the chat can have the text. I’m (pretty sure) that HipChat even kept the correct indentation for Python code, which was essential for beginner programmers, who might not otherwise be able to figure out the correct indentation quickly. We also used the chat room to answer our “minute card” questions; at the end of each lesson, students would write a question on an index card, and I would answer them in the chatroom. Chat conventions were as follows:
- If you are asking someone a question or responding to a specific person’s question, tag that individual in the chat with @username.
- Minute questions are marked by the tag “Q:” and students can search the transcript by using CTRL-F to search.
- The transcript can be searched for any tags in general using CTRL-F.
Here is the transcript from the second day at the workshop.
We also used the admin chatroom pretty extensively to coordinate logistical details about the Software Carpentry workshop. We even had Software Carpentry originator Greg Wilson attending our chatroom from Toronto to answer any questions that other instructors could not. When it is necessary to coordinate a large team of instructors and TA’s all working at the same time, HipChat proved to be a good resource.
Where else would I use HipChat? Below are some scenarios where I think HipChat would be to me as an instructor or a TA:
- Teaching an online class and holding a discussion forum in the chatroom
- Attending an instructor’s lecture as a TA and hosting a HipChat instance to answer questions or elaborate on the lecture (while the professor is still teaching)
- Possibly an unmonitored conversation between students that runs realtime during a professor’s lecture, where students can peer tutor without interrupting a lecture (ie, the TA monitoring is not necessary)
- Posting course code or links so they are available for all students to copy-and-paste
HipChat could use some of the following features to make it more useful for the instructors:
- Attendance monitoring
- A better way to download a transcript of the conversation (since one of the TAs at Scripps had to write a parser so we could distribute our HipChat transcript as an html file)
- An option for sub-chats or sub-conversations
- Enhanced “tagging” features; the @ symbol should identify anywhere that a person is tagged in the conversation without having to use text search features manually
- An option for a “talking stick,” where the instructor can designate whose turn it is to talk at certain points in a conversation to control the traffic flow
- An ability to see the history of the conversation; latecomers only see what is posted after they join the chat (unless they read the static transcript)