The backchannel is the conversation that goes on alongside the primary activity, presentation, or discussion in your classroom. Victor Yngve first used the phrase “back channel” in 1970, in a linguistic context, referring to how people communicate back and forth alongside a conversation. I (Cathy) have recently started using TodaysMeet as a backchannel chat platform to help me redirect the constant distractions or backchannel discussions in the classroom, especially, the digital ones. Have you ever been frustrated by the frequent use of digital devices (i.e. digital phones, computers, tablets) in your classroom that are not related to your lesson? This tool may help. I use TodaysMeet to help me harness the backchannel and redirect it onto a platform that can enable new activities and discussions. My students are invited, through a link, into a “room” much like a chat room. I then project this “room” onto my screen for all to see. As I progress through my lesson, questions and comments about the lesson are posted by the students through their own computers or other devices.
Below are a list of benefits from using backchannel tools in your classroom.
- Shy/introverted students are given a place to ask questions and contribute to conversations.
- Students who process information by asking a lot of questions can ask an unlimited amount of questions without dominating the classroom conversation. Everyone can see their questions and you can choose when to address their questions.
- Gauge students’ interest in and or prior knowledge of a topic.
- Extend your classroom conversations beyond the time in your school’s schedule. If you have started a backchannel during a classroom conversation and it’s going well you don’t have to worry about running out of time because you can have students continue the dialogue later in the day.
- Gauge the effectiveness of an activity in real time, by having students share questions and comments during an activity
- Conduct formative assessment by asking students about their understanding of a topic and gauging the responses
Other backchannel platforms include: Socrative, Padlet, and BluePulse. And, yes, tweeting on the same hash tag, during an event, is also a form of backchannelling. To obtain a comprehensive guide on harnessing the backchannel, follow the URL below: http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2013/09/backchannels.html#.VRAXx-E01q8