Snippets from a backchannel

Tonight, graduate students/in-service teachers had the opportunity to experience and interact in a backchannel.  Instead of sharing their entire transcript, here are some comments/questions/ideas for application from their discussion.  Many thanks to all participants for their willingness to step out of comfort zones and experiment with me (as well as to their innovating professor for seeing merit in bringing them the experience)!


  • “can’t trust some kids on this thing. they’ll surf instead”
  • “This is perfect for my a.d.d.”
  • “Don’t have the tech to do this whole class…but I could see doing something similar on sticky notes then posting where everyone can see”
  • “Listening, typing, and watching a presentation is overwhelming to me. Is this a sign I can’t multi-task? Or just old?”
  • “Strength- stream of consciousness type situation will get real reactions”
  • “strength: it’s fun”
  • “I can’t multi task what so ever. I am having a hard time paying attention with this chatting going on :p”
  • “This might take a lot of modeling for younger students too.”
  • “This would be great for the shy kids who have questions but are afraid to raise their hands. They could pop a question up under a pen name.”
  • “It might work for one ADHD student I have he always blurts out, this would be a great way for him to say his thoughts.”
  • “This would be great for that new school in [school division]. But all the kids have Ipads and it would be more available to access”

Questions:  With my two cents in blue.

  • “Man. What if kids started cursing on this thing?”  There are absolute risks to unmediated, synchronous chats.  On the TodaysMeet platform, there is no moderating ability.  Others may have it though.  I love TodaysMeet for ease of use, but it’s not the best tool for all audiences.
  • “Let’s ask Laura about shutting down a particular user who is abusing the platform”  While you may lose some of the “real-time” quality, it might be worth it to have moderating power, depending on your group.  You can have kids respond with comments to a blog post and approve comments first (WordPress has that ability) – or investigate other platforms – maybe even a course management system (Blackboard, Edmodo, etc.) that has accountability features in tying speech to an account.
  • “I am wondering if my ADHD kids could handle this?”  It’s an excellent question and would depend on the child.  For some, it might be another competing stimulus in an already “loud” environment.  For others, it might be an opportunity to participate and “move” productively and constructively.  Try and see.
  • “Is this free?”  Yes.  Can’t beat free.  Many others are too – Twitter, Chatzy, etc.
  • “but does anything really disappear once it’s online?”  You’re right.  And you’re one of those Matrix fans, aren’t you? 😉  Kidding.  It’s a good point, but is anything ever erased from memory that’s said orally?  I try not to make the medium the enemy, but it’s wise to think about digital citizenship issues – and what a great opportunity to teach these concepts to our kids!  We leave digital footprints.  Would you be proud of this if someone unintended could read it?  How about in 20 years?  Would you be embarrassed if your parents saw it?
  • “I wonder if the firewall would accept this program?”  Always try ahead of time, keep your tech folks informed and have a plan B, maybe even a plan C and D.
  • “could we get a list of these back-channeling sites posted to blackboard?”  I’ve only personally used a few:  TodaysMeet, Twitter, Chatzy, and chat functions on programs like AIM, iChat, Skype, etc.  I’m happy to share a handout that I created for professional presentations on the topic.  It’ll have a full reference list in case you want to read more scholarly material on the matter.  Also, here’s a Google Doc with some other resources – including some articles from professional literature about uses in K-12 classrooms.

Ideas for application:

  • “I see great uses for parent night – great way to show technology and get voice from them”
  • “Could be cool for an exit slip type thing…probably for kids older than my first graders though”
  • “that’s a cool idea but my third graders type one finger at a time. maybe it would be a good tool for developing key board skills” and another student added a resource “Dance Mat Typing is a great site for keyboarding skill – especially for younger students.”
  • “would be fun to do a running creative writing activity. small group – each add the next story line.”
  • “I love the idea about using this as a small group writing assignment where each person has a part in the story!!!”
  • “In elementary school, parents can chime in to say messages to their child if a big test like SOL is taking place”
  • “I like idea for critiquing during debate, etc. for high school”
  • “It would really work for an activity called “sentence aerobics” where 1 student writes a sentence and they add a new one, “working it out””

2 thoughts on “Snippets from a backchannel

  1. Well done for getting the target users to have hands-on experience!

    It occurs to me that your results could be organised in a SWOT quadrant.

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