"Chatting it Up Online: Students Talk to a Favorite Author," by Pamela Livingson
In Pamela Livingston's article, she recounts her class's use of and benefit from an internet chat in which her students prepared questions for one of their favorite authors and were able to have them quickly answered during the chat. Upon reading the article, I could not help but think what a great idea it was because, as a future English teacher, I feel that one of the best ways to get students excited about writing is to have them talk to writers themselves. Some schools are fortunate enough to be visited by authors, but these visits can be difficult to arrange; other schools resort to mailing their questions to authors, but this is not the most expedient process, especially if we consider that it is meant to get students fired up to write, yet their own letter writing brings slow returns. So an internet chat seems like a great compromise and a good way to integrate technology into the classroom. However, Livingston's narrative provided a lot of food for thought about this tool beyond simply its usefulness--a lot of planning and preparation must go into the chat in order to make sure that all goes smoothly, from having students prepare appropriate questions, to ensuring the computers will function properly, and even enforcing and/or teaching students proper internet etiquette. All things considered, I think the work that goes into integrating a chat into the lesson is well worth it.
Q1: Beyond the benefits that Livington listed, such as expediency and interaction, what could my future students stand to gain by the use of author internet chat in the classroom?
A1: I think that for one, simply having the students develop questions for the author would be incredibly beneficial. It is possible that any questions they have for a published author will reflect their own curiosities and needs as writers themselves, so in posing questions they will better understand their own strengths and interests. The author's answers of course will support that benefit. With it being a live chat, I feel that it adds an element of urgency to the discussion in that with the students talking almost directly to an author, they will more than likely be more inclined to take it seriously. With letter writing, the recipient is distant and so the discourse is not very engaging, but with the chat there is a lot more active involvement and therefore a lot more opportunity for interest and thoughtful participation. Lastly, if an author is willing to take the time out to chat with students about writing, that indicates to the students how important writing itself is to the point where even professionals are willing to take the time to encourage future authors.
Q2: Livingston's approach of asking the questions her class had posed and then giving the answers to the class later seemed a little bit disconnected. Would this approach be the best to use with an author chat?
A2: I understand that Livingston's class was young, so their ability to actively interact with the author would have been tricky. And I also understand that many of the students were not able to stay for the entire chat. However, it seems that, in being the primary active participant in the chat, Livingston took away some of the benefit from her students. If her objective was merely to get her students' questions answered, then the chat functioned perfectly. Yet if the objective is also to give students a chance to interact with the author, her approach fails somewhat because the students' participation, after writing their questions, seems rather passive. With a high school classroom, I feel that there could be more opportunity for the students to be more actively involved with the chat. I probably would not want them writing questions directly because, even though their typing skills probably exceed those of Livingston's elementary schoolers, high school students can be quite unpredictable and possibly try to push the boundaries of what's appropriate. However, if all students were consciously reading and following the chat as it was happening, that would allow perhaps for new questions to open up, either to ask the author during the chat, or to pose for class discussion afterwards.