Using #Slack 4 Teaching

I’ve been holding an informal call each Wed. at 9am EST to talk to teachers about using Slack as their educational LMS. See more and further, join our Slack4ELT sandbox “class space” here.

There is a lot to Slack. And it’s free. A great place for teachers to organize their curriculum and class and create what I like to refer to as a “knowledge” space. Too often teachers like one developer selling a bloated moodle to schools for lots of $ replied to me, think of Slack as “a fancy version of Whatsapp. Couldn’t be further from the case. Furthermore, why not use a communication platform (a better word for an LMS – learning management system) that students will also probably be using in their future careers?

Given my knowledge of #Slack, I’d like to put down a few simple things that I recommend teachers add and use on the platform when teaching. So here it goes ….

Video Calls. Slack itself allows teachers with a click of a button to instantly have voice or video calls privately with any student. It’s a great way to keep in touch with students virtually.

However, many teachers will want to hold synchronous group classes and Zoom seems to be the choice. But #Slack has many other options. Just install the app and add it to a class channel. Schedule a meeting with a simple /zoom (or the other name of the app) and all students will be notified and just click the link to join. Myself, I pay $5 a month for a G suite account and that allows me access to the full Enterprise version of Google Hangouts. It’s cool, instantaneous closed caption feature is great for language learning. When students speak it will instantly provide the subtitles/captions! More info. here.

Video Presentation. Teachers need to do a lot more asynchronous (not live) presentation of content. One great way is to make short videos to communicate your curriculum/content. Standuply video messaging is the way to go on Slack. Just /video and you’ll get a button to record up to 5 minutes for all students to listen to and see. Of course, also make your own teaching videos for students and host on Youtube (plays/embeds instantly in #Slack) too. Unfortunately, the free version of Standuply only gives 3 people the ability to post video messages – so your students won’t be able to use it.

Audio messaging. In language, speaking is a permanent focus. With the Voicemessages app – all students can easily leave audio messages instead of typing in text. It’s a great way for students to post to you the teacher in a DM and for you to assess their speaking fluency. Simply add the app to a channel and then /vm to get the audio recording ability built in.

Quizzes, Polls, Surveys. The Polly app is the way to go! Add the Polly app and then with a few clicks make a multiple choice, true / false, short or long answer question for students to answer. As many as you want and you’ll get analytics. You can even select for the students to reply with their accounts or anonymously. Use this for tests, comprehension quizzes, surveying students needs, getting feedback etc …

Translation. Dictionaries. With Slack, all communication is in English but your students will also want access to instant translation and dictionaries. Slack has some great tools for this. Try the Language Bot app. Students can instantly get translations into their native language of any English word, phrase or sentence.

Calendars. You are going to want to set up a calendar as a channel in Slack. Students can go there and see everything that is coming up the week ahead, the month ahead. You can easily link your existing Google Calendar or also just use the Event Bot app in Slack. As with everything in Slack – students will get seamless phone and desktop notification prior to all events.

Files. #Slack only has 5GBs of free storage space. Probably enough for any class but I recommend you use a file storage app with Slack. Like Google Drive, Dropbox etc … Install the app and you can instantly add to Slack anything in those places right into a conversation, assignment etc … Also note, when students submit assignments, they can just submit them to you directly by DM. Your own private file and communication space with each student.

HELP!!! Make sure to show all students their own assistant, the Slackbot. Kind of like Alexa – the Slackbot will point students to the answers for their questions about using Slack.

Other things I recommend you set up from Day 1.

  1. Welcome or Introduce Yourself channel. In this channel have students introduce themselves and say a few words to each other. Also, use the powerful Icebreakers app which will automatically prompt students with fun questions and help introduce them to the Slack team/class.
  2. Fun channel. Create a channel just for small talk and off class chatter. Add the Giphy app and students can speak through fun gifs or emojis. It’s a good way for students to get to know the functionality of Slack too.
  3. Get students to teach each other about Slack. Create a using Slack channel and have students share tips about using Slack. Like /here to message everyone in a channel/project or how to DM – direct message etc … You’ll be surprised how they’ll come up with loads of cool tips to help make teaching with Slack a breeze!

Note – The free version of Slack only allows you to install 10 apps. So choose these wisely. There is a Slack for Education program and schools can apply there for an 85% discount off of the paid version.

I do hope many educators make the jump into the social learning of #Slack. It’s not so hard and it’s free! I’m here to help if you or your organization needs some assistance. View here, my full overview presentation.

*** Slack is only for students 16 years of age or older. As per their TOS – terms of service.

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