Several years ago, I was introduced to Cover It Live, a great live blogging platform. The teachers who showed me how to use the tool were using CIL to conduct Socratic Seminar discussions. I took the idea and loosened it up a bit. My favorite way to use CIL is for a general classroom discussion, usually about a topic student know little about.
For those that have never used or heard of Cover It Live, here is a quick run down. Basically, it serves as a chatroom. That is the easiest way to think about it. However, this room is set up and moderated by the teacher who has full control of allowing comments, asking questions, posting polls, and even posting pictures and videos.
Using the tool can be daunting at first. I remember the first time I ever tried it with a class. I was sweating like I had just ran a 5K race, and I felt about the same when the session was over. Since then, I have used the tool in almost all of the classes that I have worked with. Every session is a little stressful. Reading posts and approving them in a timely manner seems to be the hardest part, but believe me, this activity is definitely worth the effort.
Cover It Live is an excellent way to get students engaged in a topic of study. I usually use the tool as a means of introducing a new topic of study in a class. Last week, I held a CIL session with a 7th grade class that was beginning a unit on climate change. We started by defining the topic and then spent an hour looking for good links to various parts of the topic and sharing them with the class. As with any tool, overuse will kill the excitement level in students, but when occasionally used, classes love it.
Here are a few pointers to help make Cover It Live run smoother in the classroom:
1. Prepare questions beforehand. This is especially important for the first few times a teacher runs a session. It is stressful enough without having to worry about what question is going to be posted next.
2. Give students specific rules before the session begins. A few of the rules I lay out in definite terms are that students have to register with their first name (real first name), and they need to stay on task. If rules are broken, their comments will not be share with the class.
3. Prepare Quick Poles before the session starts. Again, this is a lifesaver.
4. Don’t preapprove all comments during the first few sessions, if ever. I never preapprove comments at all. I like to read what the students are posting, and approving them myself keeps students from messing around. The minute someone is given “preapproved” status, not so funny things start to happen, even with the best of classes.
5. Use private messages. When students start messing around, a quick private message will often shut the goofy stuff down quickly.
6. Show students how the platform works. Teachers often incorrectly assume that all of the students are right at home in a chat room. The truth is that, for many of them, this is just as scary as it is for the teacher.
7. Post session links on a blog. This makes the headache of getting to the session painless for students and the teacher.
8. Ditch the grades. I know many teachers that use the platform and then count how many times each student participated in order to give a grade. This is one of those activities where students just need to have fun without worry of a grade. Honestly, those students who don’t normally participate in a class discussion thrive with this activity. The nature of the activity makes it highly engaging for all students.
9. Practice before the first class session. The best way to see how the platform works is to test it with another teacher first. This will make sure you know how to use all the functions. With a practice run under the belt, the first live session with a class full of eager students runs much smoother.
10. Have fun! This is a fun activity. Go with the flow and let your students teach one another while you sit back and watch.