Backchannel Chat in Action

Moe Beaulieu is a risk taker. She’s a relatively new teacher who has her students on her radar. She’s not afraid to try to meet them where they live. When I popped into her English I classroom  this week she was talking with them about expectations, the realities of teacher pace, and the upcoming documentary they’d be watching.

I had come down to try to talk to one of her students but I saw an opening and, as I am apt to do, walked right on through. I talked to her about using Today’s Meet, a backchannel chat tool, as a way to provide her students a venue for asking questions and making connections during the documentary. I showed it to her very briefly, spoke with the student, and left.

At our staff meeting today Moe said she’d used it- and was stunned at the conversation that went on during the documentary. Not all students chose to post to  the backchannel but those that did made interesting comments, asked clarifying questions, and raised points of view that might not have been shared had students just watched the video. Those that didn’t post still had access to the ideas and questions (and answers) in the chat. She’s given me permission to share the transcript of the chat with you. You’ll find a link to it at the end of this post.

Moe was smart. She didn’t try to use backchannel as a way to make sure everyone was paying attention. She didn’t threaten them with it as an assessment tool. She simply used it as a way for students to deepen their understanding of the topic via collaboration.

The transcript is a glimpse into her students’ thinking as they were learning. It provided a way for students to have a voice when speaking out loud would be distracting. It’s available for viewing after the documentary, providing jumping off points for discussion, debate, and further research. Moe could also use it to determine overall class understanding of the film.

You’ll need some context before reading the transcipt. These students were working on a learning target about conflicting viewpoints and evidence. They watched Lost for Life,  a film about young adults who made poor decisions as teenagers and are now in jail serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. Click here to access the Today’s Meet Transcript.

How could this work in your classroom?

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