As technology sneaks its way into more and more classrooms, teachers find themselves looking for different ways to encourage students to engage with the class. One of the lesser appreciated ways is through creating backchannels. A backchannel is any alternative to the main conversation that is happening in the class.
My first experience with a backchannel was in my Master’s program, though I didn’t realize it at the time. I decided to pursue my Master’s online, and my school ran everything through Adobe Connect in a synchronous platform. Adobe Connect allows for a chat room option, so during classroom presentations we were constantly making comments and adding to the conversation without interrupting the pacing of our classes. It was a truly outstanding experience.
It wasn’t until last year at the CUE conference when I realized this could be put into place in a live setting. That’s where some particularly savvy presenters used TodaysMeet* to run their own backchannel during their presentation. The possibilities started to come roaring to life.
Unfortunately, at the time I was in administration and I let TodaysMeet slip away from me, like so many other great ideas.
Now that I’m back in the classroom, I’m happy to have “rediscovered” how amazing such a simple service can be. Let’s take a look.
Why Would I Use a Backchannel?
Knowing that backchannels exist is one thing, but it’s important to think about the possibilities of using them in the classroom to truly enhance the educational experience.
How many students do you have that don’t like to speak up, but blow your mind time and time again when they turn in a paper or assignment? Just because your students aren’t verbal doesn’t mean they don’t have things to day. At a fundamental level, I’m introverted and shy, but give me the right medium and I’ll chew your ear off.
How many of our students could benefit from letting their voices be heard in a format that they’re more comfortable with? That idea alone is worth trying out TodaysMeet.
Are there other uses?
Because backchannels are written and recorded, you can use them for all sorts of assessments and on the fly activities. Here are just a few I came up with:
- Comprehension Checks
- 1-Question Quizzes
- Story Building
- Vocabulary Enhancement
- Sentence development
- Exit Slips
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As with much of the technology presented at EdTech.tv, the only real limitation is your imagination. I suggest opening up your own page in class and seeing how the students use it. Adapt and adjust as necessary. You may find that a backchannel was just what you were looking for.
*TRIVIA : If you’re wondering about the missing apostrophe like I was, the answer is that the developer decided to make it one word “TodaysMeet” to help teachers search for resources related to it without getting all sorts of other search results coming up that might use the words “Today’s” & “Meet”