TRC Group Chat Rooms

    Group Chat Rooms
    Online chat can provide an opportunity for meaningful collaboration.  Chat is a synchronous technology, a live collaborative tool. Participants must be logged on to the Internet at the same time.  Eventually, we hope to have a statewide database which will make it easy to initiate a chat with educators with common interest.  For now, we will use group chat rooms accessed by invitation or a web link. When you join a group chat room, you may find yourself chatting with up to 20 or more people at the same time.  Obviously, this could be chaotic without a plan and process. We plan to have group chat meetings which are leader led, with chat being used for participant queries or comments upon invitation.

    The Function
    Imagine, a teacher group which has been formed as a result of a professional development experience. These educators  would like to maintain contact with the content expert who delivered the training for ongoing mentoring as they implement the ideas or curriculum presented. (mentoring)   The content expert could send out online study materials and then offer to take questions in a group chat room at a specified time.  Because chat would primarily be between participants and the content expert, it could easily be made a productive experience.  

    The Software
    There are many chat tools to select from.  Our initial test will be using the AOL  chat infrastructure.  The system is free, cross platform, and supports easy definition of permanent group chat rooms.  We may test more than one of these systems over time.  Macintosh users already have the software installed, it is called iChat.  Windows users will need to download the free application AIM from AOL.  Regardless of platform, a free account with a unique username will need to be created through AOL.   Mac users who have a dot Mac or Me.com  email can optionally use this account for AOL chat.    

    Initial Setup for AOL Chat (if you are not already using AOL for chat)
    Joining a TRC Group Chat Room
    Once you have a AOL user account and a client, joining a group chat room is as simple as clicking on a web link or typing a keystroke in your Chat application.  Our plan is to create some permanent group chat rooms and others on the fly as needed for specific projects.  Generally,  you will enter a chat room by schedule, as the likely hood of finding someone logged in at random is small.  You will receive an email specifying a web page link or Chat Room Name associated with a Group chat  opportunity. \

    Mac Users Using iChat
    Click the following link:

    Windows Users Using the AIM Client Application
    1. Choose AIM Menu > Chat > Buddy Chat  (or type ALT C)
    2. Enter the Room name  (for our test use:  trcgroup2
    3. Does not make sense, but you have to enter a screen name in the top:  i.e.  keithm
    You should arrive a the group chat room.

    My Local Network Blocks AIM Chat
    Chat applications often use standard ports (network doors) that can be blocked by firewall settings.  Luckily, both the AIM application and iChat on the Mac allow you to change that port to Port 80, the standard port for web pages.  If you discover your network will not allow you to use Chat, follow these steps to change your application to port 80:

    Switch AIM on Windows to Port 80 if required
      1. Edit menu > Settings
      2. In Connection Tab change the port to 80
      3. Uncheck SSL if required
      4. Test, if still not working, come back to this sreen and change server from kdc.usa.aol.com to slogin.oscar.aol.com
    Switch iChat to Port 80 on a Mac if required
      1. Switch to offline status using iChat menu > My Status > Offline
      2. Select Accounts Tab > Server Settings
      3. Change Port to 80 and make sure SSL is unchecked
      4. Choose iChat menu > Status > Available
      5. Now try accessing a chat room

    How Can Do That at a Regional Level?
    Just use the following format for a HTML link, substituting your text for the all caps:

    <a href="aim:gochat?RoomName=GROUPNAME" target="_blank">LINK NAME</a>

    Note that the group name must be very  unique or you might wind up in some corporations group room.  For example region19  is not unique enough, but region19westtexas would be pretty safe.  There is no action required to create the AOL chat room.  Just the act of going there using this html creates the room on the fly. One could also create the room directly from the Chat client.