Internet Relay Chat
Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a real-time application that permits synchronous conversation among users around the world. This popular tool creates channels that users can log on to and then chat away. The conversations are seen--because you have to type rather than talk--simultaneously by anyone who is on that channel and can be responded to by anyone as well. You can issue a command to see what channels are active at any given moment. As channel names generally reflect the topic of conversation, you can steer clear of those that would not interest you. It is also possible to create a private channel for a closed classroom discussion. Software for IRC is available through the Internet as either shareware or freeware.