One of the great finds that came out of the ISTE 2014 Conference in Atlanta this past summer was 81Dash, which is a chat room that was built by an educator FOR educators to use in the classroom. It’s more complex to set up than, TodaysMeet , which is blocked for our students AND can only be used by those 13 and older. However, in spite of needing the teacher and students to have accounts, it’s a very nice tool to hold discussions in the classroom.
The creators of 81Dash have made it easy to add students. Once you create a free account and set up your “room”, they provide you with a spreadsheet template that you can download and populate to create your student accounts. You upload the completed spreadsheet to create the accounts. Doing so avoids the need to have emails for students.
So, what does 81Dash look like? When you first login, the top left panel is where you create your “room”. Rooms can have different term limits for how long they’ll remain open. These range from one day to a year.
The top right panel is where you can find your existing rooms and also create new ones. Each room has its own options panel where you can perform the following tasks:
- Room Information – details about the room
- Delete the room
- Lock the room – which keeps students from using it when you aren’t able to monitor it
- Users – who has joined the room
- Upload Users – When you click this option, you are given a link to download the Spreadsheet Template that you can use to create and upload student accounts. Uploaded users DO NOT NEED EMAIL ADDRESSES!!!
Your students will need the link to your room AND they must login to join. Like Twitter, the oldest posts will be at the bottom of the conversation stream and newest ones will appear at the top.
- User can “mention” another user by using the “@” in front of their username. If you mention someone, it will appear in a special area at the bottom right of the recipient’s screen. Although you can mention someone, your message will not appear directly under theirs like a discussion board.
- #tags can be used to mark a post with a certain topic. Although they aren’t clickable, there is a search feature, which means you can search by #tag.
- There is 160 character limit to posts.
- Teachers can delete posts.
- Files can also be uploaded.
- All chats can be downloaded as a transcript.
Notes can be added to a room by individual users, which can be downloaded as a PDF. These notes are PRIVATE to the individual user.
If you use 81Dash with your students, I’d love to hear about it. Post your experience as a comment below!