Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Switch Facebook into Study Mode!

Turns out to be (we like it or not) that 90% of social media activity happens on Facebook.  So, the idea of us teachers infiltrating into our students´ virtual world of social streaming must have Facebook in it; again, either we like it or not.

So there was this team of college geniuses from the old state of Texas in the US who came up with this brilliant idea.  They created this wonderful app that switches Facebook into study mode!  So, you go to Hoot, get started and, yep, just like any other application, you must allow it into your Facebook.  Now, do not fret, your Facebook will not stay like that forever (funny that some students were scared about it.).  Once you have installed it, you will have an icon on the left margin of your FB homepage. The idea of the name is after those all-nighter-puller avid coffee-drinkers who stay all night and are stuck in that Physics exercise (or Calculus...). 

But what is so great about it?  Well, once you are in, the app allows you to search study rooms where people are studying the same subject you are.  If you do not find what you are looking for, you can create your own study room and invite your Facebook friends into it.  Actually, you do not need to be FB friends with people to have them join in to study with you.  So, if you are studying Theoretical Physics for example, you could have Stephen Hawkins himself studying there with you...because he...probably...is...not...one...of...your...FB...friends, is he?  Ok, cool, so you create your room and you will be prompted to this chat room that allows up to 8 people with webcam and audio at the same time, pretty much like the Google+ hangout, to interact.  I am guessing the guys at hoot.me do not enjoy the comparison...am just saying.  So there you are on your own chat room studying with your friends with your vids and text-chatting.   

What? No difference between this and MSN Messenger or Skype?  Oh, hold that thought and prepare yourself to be blown away.  You see, I am a HS Physics and Chemistry teacher and sometimes I hold study conferences with my students ´cause I´m a 24/7 teacher (right....with two kids and a wife...).  Ok, maybe not 24/7 but I like to be there for my students whenever they need me.  So at occassions we agree on getting online to get some assessment.  Problem always was when it came to typing chemical equations, any other mathematical equations with superscripts, or greek symbols.  The guys at the hoot.me developed what they dub "smart chat".  Using special characters, you can write integrals, superscripts, chemical equations, greek letters, derivates, etc.  You have to go and give it a try.  Seriously, it´s crazy!

I have been using the app with my students and they love it.  This is a developing brand and as such it is working on new features.  Some of them include:  increasing the number of webcams that can interact at the same time to 20 (take that Google+!), adding a flashing notification when the chat has activity, a time history for every chat post, and some other I guess the guys are holding for the surprise.  Teachers will be able to create special groups for their students as well, and some other enhancements I´ve been waiting for (They promised them in two weeks!).  

So, I invite you to go and give it a try.  One of the things you will probably learn about the developers of the app once you´re in is the following:  they never sleep!  No kidding, I´ve hooted myself sometimes and no matter what time it is, they´re there live!  I guess they honor the name of their creation themselves.  But that just tells you about how supportive they are.  They usually get into the app and meddle into your chat room just to check that everything is all right. They are truly hard working college students and with a commitment to bring you a quality product.  

I recently delivered a workshop to fellow educators about innovative tools.  Of course, I presented hoot.me to them as a way to integrate Facebook.  Hoot´s CEO Michael Koetting and CTO Sid Upadhyay allowed themselves into my workshops through the following video:  


A Hoot.me shout out back to you guys!  Thank you so much for the support. :)
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