- Nancy Ruther, EdD
What's up with WhatsApp?
What Click teachers are doing with it in Virtual Exchange - more conversations, lower costs, better team work and more.
What is it?
WhatsApp is a great mobile application that can be used on Androids or iPhones alike. It is a communication tool that allows people to chat using text or video. Users can even record sound clips and send them for faster communication. Users can share documents, images and other media. There is a web version that allows people to use the application on the computer as well, making communication fast and easy.
So why use WhatsApp in Virtual Exchange?
It is free to download and use, and simply uses your phone's data when you are not connected to Wifi.
There are important cultural and economic differences between the way cell phone plans operate in the United States and other countries. In Europe, data costs are relatively low while sending text messages or making voice calls is quite expensive. In the United States, cell phone providers often charge more for data while calls and text messages are either included and unlimited or at a low cost.
WhatsApp allows students from across the world to communicate and connect with little to no extra cost for either person.
It provides a way to collaborate on projects but also connect on a personal level. It promotes a social bond through ease of conversation.
It's great for teachers, too! Teachers can download the app and communicate easily and instantly with each other. This is very important when you need answers quickly and can't depend on waiting for an email response.
Students can communicate freely and openly in realtime. If the teacher would like proof that the students are communicating, students can screenshot an exchange in the App or show the conversation to their teacher during class. Teachers can join groups if the students agree and invite them, but note that this may hinder their communication topics and frequency.
Students learn a (perhaps) new technology tool that is widely used around the globe.
It allows students to have a space to continue chatting with their partners beyond the scope of the classroom project and after the official collaboration ends.
What about security? Is it safe?
According to the WhatsApp website, "When end-to-end encrypted, your messages and calls are secured so only you and the person you're communicating with can read or listen to them, and nobody in between, not even WhatsApp."
What can we share through the app?
WhatsApp tells us you can "send PDFs, documents, spreadsheets, slideshows and more, without the hassle of email or file sharing apps. You can send documents up to 100 MB, so it's easy to get what you need over to who you want."
How to set it up:
Download WhatsApp from the app store on an Android, iPhone, or laptop/desktop computer.
Sign up for a free account. You will connect your normal cell phone number to the app.
Add a contact (either a classmate or your teaching partner).
Create a group: Go to the "chats" tab at the bottom of the screen. Now click "New Group" in the top right corner. Add your contact(s) to the group. Give it a name and a picture to distinguish it from other chats. Start communicating!
If you want to chat with one person individually, outside of the group, on the "chat" homepage, click the icon at the top right corner that has a box with a pencil in it. Add your contact and begin chatting.
Click the "Settings" button at the bottom right (with a picture of a gear).
Click the top box that has your username: You can edit your username and profile picture. If you don't feel comfortable sharing a picture, it is great to at least add an avatar to personalize your chats.
You can access "starred messages" which you previously marked as important. A great tool for referencing an important piece of a conversation.
Under "Account" then "Privacy", edit the settings to your preference.
** Notifications: it is highly recommended to turn on notifications for WhatsApp messages so you don't miss anything from your partner!
Other important features here include: Data and Storage Usage, Help, and WhatsApp Web/Desktop
Check out all the ways that WhatsApp is being used on their twitter page.