Backchanneling is a learning strategy you can use to keep students effectively engaged in a lesson.  Similar to a chatroom, students have a continuing “chat” alongside various formats (lecture, video).  After reading various blogs by a primary, intermediate and high-school teacher, I noticed the comments regarding the value of the process were similar.  As students backchannel, they collaborate, communicate, and connect to each other and their thinking.  Students who are reluctant hand-raisers are more apt to participate.

TodaysMeet is a free and secure site you can set up for your students to meet and backchannel.  It’s easy to monitor and sign up.  A major concern of any teacher (myself included) is that students would just chat and not focus on the lesson.  Before we began, my students understood that all comments posted were visible to me along with their username and time.  They were reminded of the appropriate use of technology and the importance of staying on topic.  We discuss this routinely throughout the year as they use Google Apps, wiki sites and blog comments, so I trusted they were ready.

When signing up for a meeting in TodaysMeet, you’re asked to provide a class name (I used TCPS) and then given a url.  I posted the url on our class wiki for easy access.  After the meeting, the transcript is available to print if needed, and it stays posted for however long you specify (up to a year maximum).

Before logging in, students were given the following instructions:  “While viewing the science video, post comments on what surprised you and questions you have.”  Students entered their TS#, typed hello, and jumped in.  Maximum message is 140 characters.

As the conversation continued, students collaborated by helping each other with answers to questions.  They connected their learning to other subject areas.

I was surprised that air was a fluid. ts02 at 9:11 AM, 29 Mar 2010 via web

So this also causes earthquakes? ts19 at 9:15 AM, 29 Mar 2010 via web

Its convection. ts28 at 9:15 AM, 29 Mar 2010 via web

That’s like our geography.ts41 at 9:15 AM, 29 Mar 2010 via web

How does such a little substance like fluid, move the earth to create earthquakes? TS30 at 9:16 AM, 29 Mar 2010 via web

Well earthquakes involve magma because they start way down in the earth’s crust. Magma is fluid. ts43 at 9:17 AM, 29 Mar 2010 via web

When the video was finished, I asked students to post their thoughts on the process of backchanneling.

Backchanneling helped because if I had a question during anything, people can share opinions or answers. ts36 at 9:30 AM, 29 Mar 2010 via web

Back channeling let us all contribute our thinking, without being loud. We got to see other’s opinion, and it let us help each other. Ts29 at 9:30 AM, 29 Mar 2010 via web

Backchanneling was helpful because some of the people in the class said things that I didn’t even think about. Ts45 at 9:29 AM, 29 Mar 2010 via web

Backchanneling was helpful because it shared questions and things that surprised people that I might have forgotten or not even have thought. ts14 at 9:29 AM, 29 Mar 2010 via web

Back channeling is the best.  It helps me to say what I think during the movie so I don’t forget. ts11 at 9:28 AM, 29 Mar 2010 via web

Backchanneling provides insight to the teacher for next-step lesson planning.  Transcripts posted on a wiki could be reviewed by students who miss class.  As well, the conversation could be continued.  Comments from my own students show that backchanneling is another example of the importance of collaborative learning and the engagement factor of technology.


2 thoughts on “Backchanneling

  1. Super post! Thank you so much! I had been debating whether to bring backchanneling into my classroom this year and if so, what tool to use. Your post was so helpful! I love that you included actual student comments. I needed that!

  2. Thank you for your excellent post! I have also found that backchannelling allows me to determine if the students are engaged, or are they just zoned out. Their comments during a video let me know if they are listening.

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