KakaoTalk is a free instant messaging app for smartphones, tablets, and the PC. There are many such apps to choose from, but Kakao, being Korean, is ubiquitous here. It is also popular around the world – it is localized in twelve different languages and has over 90 million users. KakaoTalk is tied to both your phone number and a user ID. Simply adding a person to your phone’s contact list adds them to Kakao if they also use the service.
(See below to learn how to quickly add a whole class of students to Kakao.)
Ninety nine percent of my students use Kakao. Since all students use it, it makes sense to harness it in and out of the classroom. Some of its features include instant messaging, group messaging, photo and video sharing, polling, and VoIP free calls. Aside from free calls, I have used all these features to transform Kakao into a powerful edtech tool.
Here is a list of 9 ways I use KakaoTalk. Can you think of any more? Sound off in the comments below.
Cancelled class? Upcoming test? Paper due next week? Changed room? You can use Kakao to send important announcements and reminders to students.
2. Homework and Quizzes
Many of my homework assignments are detailed on course homepages. Many of my quizzes are based on Google Forms. It’s quite easy to send these links to students so that they can easily access them anywhere, anytime. If you want them to complete an online quiz in class, just grab the link and Kakao it to them! As a bonus, if you forget to assign homework, you can always send a message after class. I did this a number of times throughout the semester. The students surprisingly didn’t seem to mind.
3. Link and Resource Sharing
Want to give them a little help with a grammar point? Share the link. Want to share a related website, blog post or video? Give them the link. Want to share a cool story or song? Give them the link. With Kakao, it’s easy to push content to students’ phones. This is also one way in which you can extend learning beyond the classroom. Link real-world media to classroom content. You can even make it part of their homework (see number two above)!
4. Student Contact
Sometimes you want to contact a student individually. Calling is too personal. Email is sometimes not checked. You can send a text message, or use Kakao. Next to each message’s time stamp is a small number that tells you how many people have read the message. If you are only talking to one student, you will see a 1, indicating they didn’t read it yet, or nothing, indicating they have read it. That’s pretty handy information.
5. Q & A
Sometimes students have questions about assignments, homework, or even course content. I always recommend that they ask in Kakao because it is likely other students have the same question. If it is a question of a personal nature (such as messages related to absences or grades), I suggest they ask with a private message. However, most of the time it is a relevant and important question, one which the whole class is usually thankful for. Bonus: they can ask also ask in their native language and receive answers from other students.
The polling option is relatively new. It allows you to set up a question which is asked to all the students. These questions come with multiple choice options, including a free choice option. If you want their opinion about a lesson, or to vote on some classroom issue, polling is where it can be done. I polled students on who was using gFlash+ or Quizlet, and even what they would like to work on in a class between units falling right before a holiday. Non-bonus: I allowed the free choice option and got several “nothing” responses to the latter question.
7. Scavenger Hunts
One of the activities I did last year was a scavenger hunt. I hope to write a detailed blog post about this in the future. Students, in teams of 3-4, would start at their designated question and follow answers to other questions. The answer to major questions had to be Kakaoed to me. I would then Kakao back with feedback (if they were wrong), a clue, or the location of their next question. It went on like this until a team completed all the questions and solved the puzzle. It was a little difficult to manage on the phone, but now with KakaoTalk for the PC, it will be a breeze. Bonus: students can also submit videos for conversation-based questions
This isn’t really something I did, nor was it related to learning, but I did notice students using the group to organize an end of semester outing. I thought this was really cool. They could get together, eat, drink, and probably make fun of me. In a way, KakaoTalk helped them form a community outside the classroom. Ideally, they could also use this to schedule study sessions or schedule a meetup for practicing English. Ideally.
How to Add Students to Kakao Talk Quickly
- First, gather all the students names and phone numbers. Hopefully you used a Google form to get all this at the begining of the semester.
- If you have an iOS device (iPod, iPhone, iPad), the quickest way is to go to iCloud.com, login, choose Contacts, and add the students one by one. Just copy the name, then copy the phone number. A class of 20 students takes less than 5 minutes. My record is 20 students in 2 minutes.
- If you have an Android, you can import them to gMail or try this app. I don’t have an Android phone, so I don’t know the best method.
- Be sure to give your students a unique name so they are better organized on your phone. For example, if a student in my advanced English 102 class is named 김바보, I will name him “SS A102 김바보” so that I know exactly who he is and what class he belongs. Plus, all students are organized under SS and by class on my phone. They are very easy to find.
- After adding contacts to your phone, open Kakao. They should sync automatically.
- Create a group. Under “Chats” click the + sign, then select your students. If you followed my naming protocol, they should be easily found under SS + class.
- After adding them, send a welcome message. Then, click on the drop down arrow, choose Settings and rename the group. Also, turn off notifications because you will get a lot of messages.
- Finally, make sure students know some good chat etiquette: no texting after midnight!