Chats in Microsoft Teams are truly amazing. Many of my articles have a How-to feel to them. As I describe ways to utilize an Ed-Tech tool, I provide screenshots, directions, steps and the like. Today’s post is less How and more Why and What For. Let’s spend Day 122 of 365 Ideas for Microsoft 365 examining uses for Chatting in Microsoft Teams.
First of all, there are many places to chat inside of Teams. If you are in a Teams Meeting, there is the Meeting Chat. Teams now allows Meeting owners to leave Chat on, on just during the Meeting, and off. If “On just during the Meeting” sounds confusing, hang on; we’ll get to that. Chat in Teams is rich. Really rich. Check this out to find out options for replying to conversations in a Teams channel and this one for how that compares to what you can do in Google Classroom. In summary, besides rich text formatting (bold, italics, underline, cross out, bullets, numbering, alignment, etc.) you can also add a poll, hyperlinks, attachments, and my favorite, paste images.
If this is a channel meeting, then anything you post in the chat inside the meeting is also posted in the threaded conversation about the meeting in the Teams channel. And vice versa. I often keep the Teams window open on one screen and the Teams meeting on a different screen, and monitor and reply to the chat in the non-meeting window to save real estate on the meeting screen.
For non-channel meetings that you start from the calendar, or from the Chat tab on the left-hand rail, or from Outlook, the meeting chat will be in that Chat tab on the left in addition to inside the meeting window. And that’s what the setting to only allow chat during the meeting is all about. That would mean your students can chat during the meeting, but they won’t be able to access the chat after the meeting.
Channel Chats (The Posts tab)
Another place you can chat is in any channel, under the Posts tab. If you are using channels to organize content (or groups) than any conversation in that channel should be about the topic of that channel. Everything in Teams is designed to be organized and threaded like that. Remember that everyone that has access to that channel sees what you post in the chat. Using @mention just draws attention to your post by notifying whoever you @mention, whether an individual or the whole team.
If you really want to chat with an individual, use the chat tab on the left handrail and search for that person or persons. This is where the record of all your non-channel conversations and meetings is kept.
Conversations in files
One other place you can chat is the conversation attached to documents and other files shared in the Team. That functions similarly to the meeting chat in that anything you type in the conversation area of the document appears in the threaded conversation under the Posts tab, and anything you type or add in that threaded conversation under the posts tab also appears in the conversation area when you open the document. (More on that tomorrow!)
The many uses of Chats
With so many places to chat, and so many features for chat, think of all the uses of chat in Teams! Use chat so students can have class discussions, with or without also talking aloud. Use the chat as a backchannel. This is obviously great for students who are shy about literally speaking up. It’s also great for students with slower processing. Consider this scenario. You are having a discussion. It goes well for a few minutes, and then you move on. Then a students that processes slower has something to share. Since you’ve moved on, if they share verbally, it seems off topic. We’re not talking about that anymore. But if they type in a response you can go back and revisit it (when you decide to.)
Questions and feedback
Chats are a place for students to ask questions. You can answer them yourself, or allow students to answer each other. You an share exemplars, whether they are your own, or previous students’ work, at the beginning of a process, or students can share work samples with their classmates as they progress through an assignment. Take advantage of @forms to create quick polls on the fly or attach pre-made surveys or quick-check quizzes. For an even faster check, just ask for thumbs up/thumbs down. (I like to have students add the “Yes” emoji or the “Sad” emoji.) If you don’t want a long string of emojis, post a short question and tell students to hover over your question and instead of an actual reply, just give feedback. This also works with thumbs up/sad face. A tally of responses appears and if you hover over the tally you can see who responded which way.
More on private chats
I work in a mostly Google district, and teachers have ways to communicate whole group in Google Classroom and in the chat in Google Meet, but I often get asked how they can chat privately with one student or a small group. There’s other apps that do that in Google, that we have turned off, but with Microsoft Teams you don’t need a separate app. Just click on that chat tab on the left rail and say what you need to say, privately. Or, since you can have private channels for small groups, use the Posts tab in a group’s private channel to communicate with just that small group.
What is a picture worth?
Another task that is time-consuming in Classroom/Meet is to share a screenshot with students. This is incredibly handy when giving directions or trouble-shooting. Instead of opening a Google Doc, pasting the screenshot, getting a share link to the Doc and pasting that link into the chat in Meet or Classroom, just paste the actual image into the chat in Teams. Students can see a thumbnail and click on the image to enlarge (or even download). In Meet/Classroom they can’t see the thumbnail, and have to click on the link to open the Doc to even know what was posted.
Apps and Files
Posts are also a good way to share other apps. We’ve already mentioned adding Forms to a post. You can also add a Stream video to a post. Any time you add a new tab to a channel, whether for a website, or to post an assignment, or a Nearpod lesson, Quizlet set, Word, Excel PowerPoint or OneNote, you generally have the option to also Post in the chat. That puts it right in the feed and give students one more place to click. But it also gives them a place to comment or ask questions. Tabs are great- easy to find, timely. (Only make tabs for what you will use today; delete them when you’re done to make room for what’s next.) But nobody can comment on the tab. Since everything in Teams is threaded, when you also add a post, anyone can click reply and the questions and comment are automatically in context.
Spread some love
And let’s end on a real high note. Praise is another type of message you can post in the chat. Choose from 12 categories like Courage, Thank you, Leadership and Awesome, add a personal note, and either post for all to see in the Channel or keep it on the low down using the Chat on the left rail. Either way, give honor where honor is due.
Looking for more? How about the Remote Learning with Microsoft Teams Course Sign up to learn how to go from a complete novice in Teams to using Teams for your complete solution for remote learning.
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All the Microsoft Tools You Need to Transform Your Classroom: 75 Ideas for using Microsoft Office 365 for Education available on amazon in both Kindle and paperback.