Janet Graham and Ted Hodgson discovered back in 2004 that encouraging students to chat online about mathematics in the classroom increased their understanding of mathematics vocabulary which they described in their Learning & Leading with Technology article “Speaking Math: using chat in the multicultural math classroom”.
Last Thursday I was also trying to chat to further my own education but was stymied by the school network. The May 1st COETAIL Big Marker session occurred during the International Labor Day holiday in Romania so I was able to use my home cable internet connection to do both audio and video chatting with my new MacBook Air and it worked fine. No such luck with the school network on May 10th. I have access to 3 different school SSID’s and none of them had the required network ports for audio chat open. In the end I used my iPhone 4S’s ability to create a mobile hotspot using its 3G connection to attempt to join the online conversation but I had only limited success as the 3G bandwidth could not keep up with the audio feed.
In the name of school network safety and stability, ports have been closed and websites filtered so that students and teachers cannot access Facebook, YouTube and audio and video chat. The pendulum between security versus access has swung so far towards paranoia that it is limiting both students’ and teachers’ abilities to use the Internet as an educational tool. I realize that opening ports to allow video chat may paralyze our school network due to bandwidth limitations but audio chat is less data intensive and can easily be monitored by the teacher in the classroom.
So concerning cyber safety lets keep in mind what The Kinks sang “So much to aim for, so much to try for. You are blowing it all with paranoia”