The Weekly Chat in My Classroom


By Teacher Explorer 2007, Jeff Sipper

My classroom usage of the Chat has undergone a subtle evolution from my initial usage in 2006 to this year’s expedition in 2009.

During GoNorth! 2006, I would always use the introduction to the Chat Topic from the curriculum module because I believed and still do that this was a way for students to focus on the topic.  Typically, this lasted about 1/2 hour, and preferably a day before the actual chat. This is time well spent because it gives students and myself the time needed to process the questions put forth in the curriculum guide. Then we would proceed to join the live chat on a weekly basis as a whole class.  Depending on the subject matter, and of course class dynamics, student engagement might have diminished each of the subsequent weeks as a whole class depending on the topic.

Fast forward, to GoNorth! in 2009 and this model is the similar except that I've made the decision to have the class join as a whole once at the beginning of each module.  After the initial whole group chat, I then open it up to small groups to participate in subsequent chats. There has been a definite interest by small groups to continue with the topic and this dynamic part of the program creates a personalized connection to the program. We then hitch up the team (whole class at the beginning of each new module or month as in this year’s case and move to the small group). A bonus is that students from last year stop by so that they can again participate in the chat and that alone lets me know of the powerful value of this feature of GoNorth! at

Experience from past GoNorth! programs, and now 2009, brings particular appreciation for the video version of WPHO posted to begin each module.  This video format introduces the module's topic in a very thorough and engaging manner.  We proceed to use the curriculum guide to review for the topic and write possible questions to be used in the chat keeping in mind that our questions may change depending upon the direction of the chat.

So, why do I use the chat in GoNorth! ?  There are several reasons that quickly come to mind.  First, the chat adds another element to the program that helps draw students in, sometimes students that I would not expect.  Next, this is a live piece of the program and further integrates experiences from just following an expedition to  participating in it.  Finally, and most important in my mind, is that it validates students questions and ideas from experts and gives them the opportunity to join in with the world right from their classroom. Students can see how their ideas either compare or contrast with that of those participating in the chat.