Success with Backchannel Chat will depend on how it's facilitated. Any class discussion, whether large or small, could begin virtually before holding a traditional, out-loud discussion in class -- this might actually be the site's most practical use. Students are much more likely to participate in a chat discussion than in a similar discussion out loud in class. Once they're engaged in a topic -- and once they've seen their classmates opinions -- many students are more comfortable speaking in front of the group.
Teachers could also assign note-taking discussions for students to engage in after, or perhaps even during, video activities or presentations. Teachers will want to provide lots of structure for this type of activity. As many students struggle to stay engaged during videos or in-class presentations, the opportunity to chat, without being disruptive, could re-invent the experience, making it more meaningful. Lastly, reviewing chat transcripts is an opportunity for both reflection and assessment.Continue reading Show less
Backchannel Chat is an online tool (website and Chrome app) designed to facilitate real-time discussions. Teachers need only sign up, create a name for their chat, and then share the URL with their students. Students enter a name and click Join -- no other personal information is required. Teachers can moderate discussions, remove messages, and “lock” the chat at any time. The site also has a profanity filter, and offers a web-based transcript of all chats for teachers and students to review.
Additionally, Backchannel Chat has an “amplification” feature where students can “vote up” responses. There are also “chat stats” for teachers to track student participation. Upgrading to the premium package offers expanded search options and storage, full PDF chat transcripts, and allows private student-to-teacher messaging.Continue reading Show less
Don’t let the site's simple design (or occasional typo) discourage you -- Backchannel Chat has solid potential as a teaching tool. With the discussion occurring online, the playing field becomes more level and thus, more inclusive. Reluctant speakers -- ELL's, special ed. students, and those who might just be more introverted -- can all become active participants. Everyone can assert their own opinions and ideas while also learning from each other.
However, teacher-moderation is key. Front-loading chat etiquette and expectations, as well as structuring discussions around specific objectives, will enhance the discussion and better support learning. Reviewing the chat transcripts as a class or in small groups will also help to reinforce new skills -- students can transfer what they've learned to new experiences.Continue reading Show less
Key Standards Supported
Speaking & Listening
|SL.9-10: Comprehension and Collaboration|
|SL.9-10.1||Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.|
|SL.9-10.1a||Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.|
|SL.9-10.1c||Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.|
|SL.9-10.1d||Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented.|
|SL.11-12: Comprehension and Collaboration|
|SL.11-12.1||Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.|
|SL.11-12.1a||Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.|
|SL.11-12.1c||Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.|
|SL.11-12.1d||Respond thoughtfully to diverse perspectives; synthesize comments, claims, and evidence made on all sides of an issue; resolve contradictions when possible; and determine what additional information or research is required to deepen the investigation or complete the task.|