Website review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2021

YO Teach!

Backchannel tool offers interactive polls, drawing, messages, and more

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Grades
6–12
Subjects & Skills
Communication & Collaboration, Creativity

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Pros: Filled with interactive and visual features that will keep the conversation going.

Cons: Multitasking may not be a good option for all students.

Bottom Line: Quick setup and multimodal features make this a great fit for a variety of carefully monitored classroom discussions.

Whether you're looking for conversation starters, exit tickets, or formative assessment opportunities, YO Teach! has you covered. Ask kids to create and post an original haiku, and have the class vote for their favorites. Let kids teach each other facts they've learned about historical figures, scientific discoveries, technological revolutions, or different cultural traditions. Show a film related to your content, and let kids discuss as they watch it, perhaps sparking a lively debate about a real or fictional character's motivations. Take a poll to see which real or virtual field trip interests kids the most (but be aware that students can vote for all available options).

See how well kids are grasping class concepts by asking a content-related question and taking responses in the form of text, labeled images, or drawings. You'll get valuable feedback in real time along with the benefit of students who can help to correct others' misunderstandings. Overwhelmed by all those posts? Use the site's features to filter posts you've starred, or download responses into a CSV file for a later look at the data.

However you use YO Teach!, stay on top of your rooms. Teachers can turn on a profanity filter or activate a few room moderation features when they sign in with an account. But these methods are likely not going to be perfect; teachers will still want to make it a practice to monitor active rooms and delete them when the conversation is over. Also, it's unclear if YO Teach! monitors rooms or collects data, so teachers will want to be careful about what kind of information their students are sharing.

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YO Teach! is a multi-featured backchannel web app where teachers create and moderate chat rooms for real-time digital interaction among students. Teachers choose the Create a Room option to create searchable or private rooms. Create a free account to create rooms and access all the features. Most teachers will want to enable the admin features, which require a password to delete posts, mute students, control room access, and use the interactive features. Teachers will have to enter the password again after setting up the room in order to make these features show up during moderation. In the chat rooms, there's also a Spaceboard option, which launches an interactive online whiteboard.

Kids access the rooms via a link, a QR code, or a numeric code. Once there, they can interact with teacher and peer posts by sharing text messages, replying to others' posts, voting, responding to polls, sharing and annotating pictures, and submitting drawings. Students can enter a room and participate in a chat without an account.

With careful planning in terms of lesson flow, YO Teach! can be an engaging way to get and give instant feedback, assign quick formative assessment tasks, and encourage collaboration and social interaction among students -- especially those who are more introverted. Because the site encourages learning through text and images, there are opportunities to reach more students, especially when you take advantage of peer-to-peer teaching. Students can help each other to understand difficult concepts by replying to individual posts. To that end, teachers may want to begin with chats about ground rules for discussion, the importance of clear and respectful communication, and other digital citizenship concepts as they relate to social media, relationships, and online safety.

While it's easy to use, YO Teach! won't be intuitive for everyone, at least at first. A few short demo videos and a FAQ section help teachers, but students could use a quick walk-through demo to get acclimated to the different features. Automated text-to-speech and basic voice command features may help students who require additional support. Teachers can also take advantage of downloaded transcripts for later viewing, to see overall trends and provide support for students who may be struggling with concepts. This data can greatly enhance teachers' understanding of their students in terms of learning difficulties, social interaction strengths, writing skills, and other skills that can be hard to assess en masse.

Overall Rating

Engagement

Giving kids a chance to interact with classmates on a safe, social media-like platform is certain to engage even the most reluctant participants.

Pedagogy

While it's a great fit for tasks that students can respond to quickly and socially, teachers will have to plan their lesson flow carefully; deeper learning may be tough to achieve using this platform.

Support

The site is easy to use and has a clean interface; however, the space can get cluttered quickly and may overwhelm students who struggle with reading or fast-paced activities.


Common Sense reviewer
Mieke VanderBorght Researcher

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