4 Tips for Using Backchannels in Class through Yo Teach!

Backchanneling can be a helpful tool in the classroom when used effectively. For instance, if you are having your students watch a video in class, a back channel might be a helpful platform to ask questions, post observations, etc.  Perhaps you have a blended classroom and want to use a backchannel as a forum to ask questions or engage in online discussion.

Yo Teach!

I recently came across a backchannel site called Yo Teach! With the demise of Today's Meet, I have been searching for a viable alternative. This free tool helps you easily create an online chat forum, as well as share with students via a link or QR code.

It is easy to create and takes less than 5 minutes to set-up and share. Plus, there is no account that is needed!

I like the fact that students can share their thoughts in multiple ways, such as through text, a drawing, or upload a picture. Providing students with multiple avenues for participating helps increase engagement in the lesson. Not all students learn the same way - so why should we expect them to backchannel the same way?

4 Tips for Using Backchanneling in Class

Regardless of your strategy or purpose, it is important to consider a few things:

  • Establish expectations with students. What does acceptable dialog look like? Realize that students are going to do and say things that are inappropriate at times. Does this mean you abort the technology or use it as a teachable moment? 
  • What is the purpose of establishing a backchannel? Is it just to have a "cool" new activity or will it enhance discussion? Knowing your purpose helps provide direction. 
  • Know your audience. If you are working with a bunch of 1st graders, is this the most appropriate tool for conversation? What is the maturity level of your students? What online experiences have they had in the past? If they haven't had much experience, how can you help them learn how to participate in an online environment. 
  • Establish a framework. Use a framework to guide your student's through the online discussion. Will they pose questions or share observations? Will they share 2 truths and a lie about the video? Are you using it as a 3-2-1 activity at the end of class? Structure helps keep the majority of students on task because they know the purpose. Without a purpose, students will often create their own purpose - even if it is unproductive. 


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