What is the "backchannel":
The backchannel is a digital conversation that runs concurrently in a face-to-face interaction. For example, adults might turn to Twitter to join a digital conversation while watching a presidential debate or an awards ceremony. Where as, we might ask our students to engage in a literature discussion while listening to a read aloud or analyze information during a geography lecture. A range of tools can be used to facilitate this exchange. When working with students, Schoology, Padlet, and Today's Meet are all quick and easy tools which can be used to hold backchannel discussions in order to engage all your students in digital conversations that increase engagement, provide spaces for DOK questioning, and build a digital footprint of thinking and learning.
Why would I use the backchannel with students?
Click on a grade level to read how real life teachers engage their students in the backchannel in order to: increase processing time, give a voice to all students, engage in collaborative writing environments, practice increased listening skills, allow students thoughts to develop over time, and to make thinking visible.
Tool: Padlet Example: backchanneling while reading a non-fiction text
Tool: Today's Meet Example: backchanneling during a read aloud
Tool: Today's Meet & Google Docs Example: collaborate and curate
Tool: Today's Meet Example: Socratic seminar and the backchannel
Will utilizing a backchannel conversation bring down comprehension?
Listening and writing about related topics is different than multi-tasking.
"...[C]ognitive psychologists make a distinction between task switching and parallel processing. Task switching involves the rapid alternation between two or more tasks. In contrast, parallel processing involves the simultaneous performance of two or more [related] tasks." (Carriera et al., 2009)
Will students be inappropriate online?
Providing our students with authentic writing opportunities allow them to practice digital citizenship skills. Just like any classroom routine, setting up clear expectations and rules is an important step. Consider this rubric created for backchannel contributions.
Teachers should always be a presence in student discussions, whether as a contributor, or posting the backchannel chat on the board for all to see.
Not all students need to be on a device; consider designating roles. In a Socratic Seminar model, some students are engaged in a face-to-face discussion while others are on devices for the backchannel.
Looking for more?
Visit our Jeffco Educational Tech webpage for additional resources or support from an Ed Tech Specialist in getting started.