Wednesday, September 3, 2014

3 Ways Teachers Can Ease Into Using Back-channels

I love using Twitter and/or TodaysMeet during professional development, during instruction, or as a formative assessment tool. Whether harnessing the collective intelligence of the room, allowing participants to ask and answer questions, or memorializing an event, back-channels allow for a level of connection with other participants that I now find essential.

For full disclosure, I must admit that I have had back-channels backfire on me, especially as when I was new to a platform, when I had a few too many immature students (or was too immature myself), and when I was a newbie in the Twitterverse [side note: thank you ISTE for your understanding that I was not trying to hijack the back-channel at ISTE Leadership in Indianapolis 3 years ago :) ]

So how can educators not throw the back-channel baby out with the bathwater? Below are 3 ways I've used to ease into back-channels until participants (or the teacher) are ready for a platform that is entirely open or allows for anonymity.
  1. Socrative- Love the simplicity and the many ways to use Socrative. As a back-channel you can select "Quick Question" then "Short Answer", then write the essential question . You can then decide to make the responses public (names required) or anonymous.
    1. Pros- Great displays, simplicity, new "voting" feature allows for expansion of back-channel questions or answers. Ability to "clear room" if participants abuse backchannel. Data reports of responses available in a variety of formats.
    2. Cons- A truthful "Student Name" is voluntary, no email of participants (unless that is what you have students use as "name".
  2. Google Forms- Create a Google form before hand, allow participants to submit questions, scroll through results to answer questions.
    1. Pros- If GAFE account you can automatically collect submitter's email, allows for questions to be answered via email if unable to address during the event, provides data about common questions allowing for revision of presentation. Allows for private questions
    2. Cons- Owner of the form controls the Q&A, if questions get asked early on and then answered during presentation you maybe redundant if you address. Generally limits audience interaction. Best as an exit ticket.
  3. Google Docs- Share an editable google doc for Q&As or embed an element of your presentation and allow participants to comment, and/or utilize the chat.
    1. Pros- share with limited audience. Accountability for comments and questions.
    2. Cons- No anonymity in comments or responses (depending on the class make-up this could also be a pro)
As always, I would love to hear other ideas and platforms from my PLN so please feel free to comment here, on Twitter at @EGHSPrincipalRI or on G+

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