If your looking to integrate more technology into your classroom, you might want to consider setting up a backchannel that your students can use.

What is a backchannel?

A backchannel is a secondary discussion that complements the primary teaching activity. It has its origins with Twitter and conferences where the audience participates with the presenters. The same concepts can be used in the classroom.  

What does a backchannel provide?

  • A backchannel provides the class with a transcript of thoughts and reflections, this is a valuable resources that can be used at a later date to demonstrate understanding of topics.
  • It gives the teacher a place to teach students how to be a good digital citizen.
  • An online backchannel can be used to share links and resources.

What types of activities can I use in the backchannel?

  • Reflect on class movies, as the students are watching the movies they can discuss the plot and themes.
  • Role playing, the students or teachers can pretend to be someone, answering questions and providing facts.
  • Fact checking during student presentations, as students are presenting, the other class members can fact check the content of the presenter.

What tools can I use for backchanneling?

The most common backchannel is Twitter, however the problem with Twitter is that the teacher can't control the content of the tweet. Swear words, spam and other inappropriate content can enter your discussions.

For education use, a controlled environment is best, your tool should have some of the following features:

  • Teacher moderation - the teacher should be able to remove content
  • Locking controls - the teacher should be able to pause the discussion and remove students from adding new content.
  • Embedded media - items like videos, photo's etc should be able to added to the discussion with ease.
  • Simple entry for students, you should be able to provide a url and then the students just add a name, it should be that simple.
  • Real-time - Any delay in the delivery of the message slows down the discussion.
  • Profanity filter - A good quality tool will remove common swear words.
  • Tools for students to flag high quality messages so the teacher can focus the discussion.
  • Search - On of the goals of the backchannel is to provide a record of discussion, search is a large part of that.
  • A really advanced backchannel tool will allow the teacher to send messages directly to the students.

If your still interested in backchanneling, you should take a look at BackChannel Chat, its a tool specifically designed for educational backchanneling.

If you have any suggestions or feedback, please let me know.

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Tags: BackChannel, classroom, educational, tools


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