What are LInC Chats Like?

This page has some general information about what Fermilab LInC class chats are like and what to expect when you come to "online class".

The chat schedule is created each week based on attendees' needs and requests and what comes up that week. It does not have one "fixed" arrangement, but will be fluid depending on what is going on that week with people's projects (much like a face-to-face class would be). We will be having chats on each scheduled day even if the topics for the later chats are not set or posted yet.

Each week, please check the chat schedule to see what room to join for each part ("session") of the chat. In general, we will be using rooms named: linc1 linc2 linc3 linc4 linc5 - So it will save you time to configure these rooms in advance in Gaim so you don't have to re-do it each week. Room linc1 is reserved for people to visit if they are lost and not sure where they need to be. A facilitator will be there to help you find your way. Transcripts of each chat will be linked onto the chat schedule each week for each room.

Each week also come to chat with your chat window open on one half of your computer screen and your browser window open on the other half of your computer screen so you can chat and view a web page at the same time. Your browser window should be open to the class home page. You'll be able to get to most needed LInC pages within a click or two from this page. You'll also want to bring a printed copy of the pre-chat e-mail message about that chat.

The chat is from 4:00-6:15 PM PST, 5:00-7:15 PM MST, 6:00-8:15 PM CST, or 7:00-9:15 PM EST. That time may be divided up into 1-4 parts ("sessions") on different topics. For example: If there is a chat with two sessions, you may be discussing "technology integration" from 6:00 to 7:10 pm in one room and then discuss "student direction" from 7:10 to 8:15 in another room. The two sessions do not have to be of equal length. The first one could be 1 1/2 hours with the second one being 45 min. It will depend on the topics and how the discussions are going. If there were 4 sessions, they might each be around 35 min long. Your facilitator will let you know when it is time to switch rooms for a new topic. Please do not switch rooms until your facilitator lets you know it is time to switch. (Otherwise you may be interrupting your colleagues in a chat that is finishing up!)

You will not be with the same participants or facilitators in every chat session. You will be grouped in chats based on people with similar interests, concerns, or people that have different perspectives to offer each other. This will give you the chance to hear from and learn from most of the other participants in the course at one time or another. In general, the groupings will not be based on who was at the education center vs who was at the training room. You will be in chats with your primary facilitator periodically.

Periodically during the class we will ask you to post requests for topics that will help you as you implement and improve your project with your students. We really do use your postings to set the topics and groupings for the chats. We try to get everyone in a session on one of their top choices when possible. If someone does not post a topic preference, they may end up in a room with a topic they have no interest in.

We need to organize these chat topics a week or a few days ahead of time, because otherwise we could have one facilitator moderating a chat on "thing A" which 20 people are interested in and then have hardly anyone in the other rooms. 20 people can make for a chaotic and unproductive chat. At the other extreme, a discussion with too few people limits the variety of perspectives and can be hard to sustain. So if you post preferences ahead of time, we can see if there are 20 people interested in one topic and schedule 3 small group discussions on it that should be more meaningful.

There will be two to four chat rooms going on at the same time each week. (You will only be at one of them at a time.) These rooms may be discussing the same topics (i.e. the whole class is discussing the same topics in small groups) or different rooms may be discussing completely different topics. There will usually be between 4-12 participants in each chat room for a session. Most often it will be 4-7 participants. It depends on the topics, how many people are interested in each topic, and how many chat rooms we have running at the time.

There will be a moderator in each chat room to facilitate the discussion. But the main focus will be you discussing with and learning from each other as you implement your projects with your students and improve them (and other curriculum) for next year. There will be different kinds of chats for different purposes.

In some chats, the facilitator will be presenting some new information/assignments and answers directly. But more often, their mission will be to provide thought-provoking questions or task and let the conversation and sharing take off. They will start the chat with the topic/goal for the session, moderate if the discussion becomes unfocussed or someone becomes unfriendly, and may summarize key insights people have made and provide announcements/reminders for the next week at the end of the chat.

In some chats, they will ask for a "synthesizer" to post the conclusions, results, or highlights of the chat to the bulletin board so people who were in other rooms can benefit from each room's work. This is not meant to be busy-work! It is meant to be useful to other participants. It should not be a full or partial transcript of the chat, but a higher level presentation of key ideas. The chat transcript might be 8 pages long whereas the synthesis will be more like a couple paragraphs or a top ten list.

We look forward to chatting with you and hearing ideas from you and your colleagues from across country as you collaborate on creating and field-testing your technology-supported engaged learning projects.