This post first appeared on Free Technology for Teachers.
After a few months with iPads in my classroom, the experience that I began to cherish the most with my students was the creative process that began with storyboarding. It was during this process that deep critical thinking, analysis, evaluation and other higher order thinking skills were being challenged, enhanced and developed. Through these conversations, students were able to ask questions and have conversations about what should and shouldn’t be included in the final product and why. Simultaneously, it was through this process that I became the facilitator in the classroom. As I worked with students, both individually and in groups – and as students began working more with one another – our classroom community bond strengthened.
In this creative process, one of the greatest challenges that we encountered was not being able to have multiple screens open to easily go back and forth between web pages, media and other files. When collaborating, we used a variety of methods from Google Docs to annotation apps with shared folders, but could never really find anything spectacular that would redefine the creative process experience for us. I craved a tool that would allow us to go back and forth as well as allow one of us to write ideas and have others be able to see and interact with those ideas. A tool that would allow me to connect with my group, share my thoughts, gather feedback when the idea struck, and not just what I thought of during the 45 minute period. A few days ago my wish became a reality with the release of ViewChat.
ViewChat is a free collaborative app designed to allow you to easily share content with one another. What makes this app particularly special is the text, chat, and voice features available while you are reviewing documents or any other content. The simple and easy to use interface allows you to drag and drop photos, PDFs, Office and iWork files, videos, web pages and emails for everyone to view. From there, ViewChat allows users to open multiple tabs so that you can switch back and forth between content. You can even have a blank whiteboard to sketch-note and use the interactive features to allow others to contribute. Furthermore, ViewChat connects to all major cloud accounts allowing you to bring and send content from and to the cloud.
To begin using ViewChat you must create an account and have an Internet connection. Once that’s done, you can invite other people and begin creating groups for different discussions.
If you like the sound of this so far, it gets better. Not only can you share and view content while chatting or talking using voice, you can annotate the content as well! The wide variety of annotation tools such as text, sticky notes, pen and highlighter, all of which are customizable and will provide you with everything you need to interact with the content together. Video calls allow up to 4 people, audio calls allow up to 20 people, and there is no limit to the number of people that you can have in a text chat.
When you are done with your discussion, again you have a variety of options for what you can do. You can export the notes to your cloud account, print or email them, save them to a folder in your library or – best of all – you can even open them in another app! Before you send it off anywhere, ViewChat will ask you how you would like your annotations to be sent. You can choose to embed the annotation, flatten them, or send yourself the content with no annotations.
ViewChat brings a new method of saving content to the iPad – Merge PDF. After having collaborated on multiple file types you can choose which ones you would like to save and then you can merge them into one PDF file right from your iPad!
The tutorial below highlights all of the features available with ViewChat.
ViewChat in the Classroom
With the variety of tools and options provided by ViewChat, the ways in which it can be used are really only limited to your imagination! Here are a few ways that I would love to use it in the classroom.
Oftentimes students are working on projects that span longer than the class period. ViewChat is a great way to allow the conversation to be ongoing. It can begin in the classroom with students sharing, annotating, sketching and discussing content which can then be continued on at home. During this time, you as the teacher can do a “Screenshot Check” to have groups share ideas with the whole class about what they are discussing. With ViewChat, you can even collaborate on projects with students from other classes, truly expanding the way in which students traditionally worked on projects. With the wide variety of tools available, the obstacles to meeting after school and working together are eliminated. Best of all, teachers are empowered as facilitators in their classrooms and can now be a part of these discussions, guiding students and providing support when needed.
ViewChat can also act as a backchannel in the classroom. The ability to have multiple tabs open allows students to compare and contrast work. Because they are all active participants in the chat, they can even add content into the chat to enhance the conversation!
Transferring Files when App Smashing
One of the greatest difficulties we often encounter on the iPad is sharing media files. With ViewChat students can easily share media files in addition to many other files types directly into the chat and save it to the camera roll. This is a great tool to facilitate the app-smashing process!
ViewChat Beyond the Classroom
I always love apps that allow parents to be a part of the exciting process. ViewChat provides a great opportunity to model how technology is being used to enhance children’s learning experiences.
Students are always empowered when they can share their learning. Once your students become proficient in how to use ViewChat, they can share this great tool with their parents and others. There’s lots of ways ViewChat can be used in a number of other professions. Imagine learning about this unique collaborative tool that can serve as your mobile conference call facilitator!
A Helping Hand
Whether it’s a younger sibling, son/daughter, cousin or friend, we can all recall a moment where someone asked us for help with their homework, help researching for a project, or a quick edit of a written paper. While there are other tools that can help facilitate this process, the collaborative and interactive nature of ViewChat changes the experience and allows you – the helper – to have a rich set of tools to allow you to truly guide as the other learns.
What really draws me to ViewChat is the spontaneity that can arise during the discussion. Instead of just saying, “there’s this great site that….” Or “I’ll send everyone a link after…” you can just open it right up in that moment and begin annotating and discussing ideas. The variety of options that ViewChat provides is quite generous indeed! ViewChat merges the power of content, instant messaging, and conferencing to redefine the way in which we communicate and collaborate using mobile devices.