Today’s Meet is a pretty amazing web tool!  Officially, it’s called a backchannel, but think super-safe temporary chat room for your class.  Let me set up the scenario for you….First, get each student or pair of students on a computer.  Go to the lab or get some laptops, tablets…whatever you can do get them all connected.

In TodaysMeet, as the teacher, you create a ‘room’.  You can name it whatever you want.  I’m going to suggest “Winter Break” because it was one of my all-time favorite experiences with TodaysMeet.  Once you name the room, you can set how long you want that room to be “open”, or accepting posts.  Let’s choose “one hour” for this activity.  See how easy this is so far?

TodaysMeet home screen….free & super easy!

At the next screen, you just type your name and hit ‘join’.  Then, you can post a question for the class to answer. My little teacher tip for this is for you to be the only one who posts in all capital letters.  You’ll see why in a moment.  At this point, you’ll want to share the URL (or room’s address) with your students.  (The address will be  Post this on your whiteboard for students to copy & type, or put a quick hyperlink on your personal teacher webpage so kids can just click on it…whatever works for you!  Students will see your question in the chat room box.  Remember how you typed in all caps?  It makes it visually easy for kids to find the questions posted by the teacher!  To respond, the students do the same thing you did:  type their name, click ‘join’, and type an answer in the box.  Here’s a screenshot of a question I posted and the answers of three students:

You can see how the newest answers appear at the top.  This chat room is ‘live’, so as each student adds a comment, all kids in the class can see the newest posts!  They LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this!  Also, note that each child’s name appears with their post.  This is critical for that accountability piece – let your students know that their comments should be serious and appropriate, and that you are able to keep and print a transcript of the entire chat room session!  If you ever want to do a TodaysMeet in which your students can feel free to post anonymously, I suggest that you still require them to join using a student ID number or some other private identifier by which you will would still know who posted.

Remember how I set my room for one hour?  Well, there’s an option to shut it down early when you’re done with the session.  I always do this.  I don’t want students going home, or even to another class, where they can continue to post to a thread that I’m not monitoring at the time.  Save or print the session transcript if you want, or you can even copy the embed code to embed the whole thread in your blog or webpage, but then go ahead & close the room.

Room Tools

Room Tools[/caption]

As you can see, there are some other cool features in the “Room Tools” section.  You can set it for projector view (I always do, and have the live session projected on the SmartBoard or whiteboard).  You can show speaker colors, and you can even create a QR code of your TodaysMeet session!

One of the first times I ever used TodaysMeet was to pose that question about winter break.  You know that first day that they come back after the winter holiday, and how every student wants to tell you – and each other – about every gift he/she got and all of the exciting things their families did?  Well, this was an AMAZING way to handle that – in about 15 minutes of TodaysMeet time, every child got to ‘talk’ at once, see what all the other kids had to say, share their stories with me simultaneously, comment on each others’ posts (“I got an Xbox, too!”) and everyone had a great time!  As the posts rolled in, I read them on the whiteboard and did some verbal commenting (“I love that Santa brought you books to read, Jimmy.”) and threw in some new question posts in capital letters (“WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE GIFT THAT YOU GAVE TO SOMEONE ELSE?”)  Even the shiest of the shy kids was an active participant in this TodaysMeet discussion, and it always seems to work for me as a way to bring students ‘out of their shells’.

Soooo….besides a silly winter break question…let’s think of some other educational purposes!  What if every student had a laptop while you showed a documentary or educational film?  You post thoughtful questions throughout the movie, and students react or share their thoughts.  If students were to have read a Social Studies chapter for homework, start the day with recall questions based on that homework!  Even the children who might not have done the reading will now be exposed to the content by seeing the answers of their peers.  If the class finishes reading a section of a book, you can post really cleverly-designed tiered questions that focus on recall, sequencing, inference…whatever your focus skills are!   For Science or STEM class, have students share their hypotheses – save the transcript – and revisit it after the experiment!  There are just a ton of very cool things that you can do with TodaysMeet!  How will YOU use it with your class?

*Note:  You can use this straight from the web without signing up.  If you DO sign up for a free account, there are some bonus features such as the ability to manage several rooms at once, delete inappropriate or off-topic comments, etc.  Definitely worth it!