Collaborative discussion is an extremely valuable exercise for students to share, challenge and debate their opinions and ideas with their peers. As a facilitator to this discussion the teacher’s role is often to guide, focus and document the class conversation to ensure the discussion is shared evenly among students and that the whole class is gaining from the experience. TodaysMeet is a valuable free tool that can be used to add a meaningful backchannel to this conversation, providing opportunities to share thoughts in a live forum and gain immediate class feedback.
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A Quick Look
1. Backchannel questions
The backchannel is defined as the conversation that goes on alongside the primary activity, presentation, or discussion. Try using TodaysMeet as an open forum for students to ask questions as you discuss or teach a certain topic. Whether you choose to answer questions as they come up or collate them for a deeper discussion, this can be an excellent way to encourage your quieter students to get involved as well as keep a running record of areas of interest or misunderstanding.
2. The classroom live feed
One very visual way to involve the whole class in a backchannel conversation is to project the TodaysMeet window up in front of the class. This can be particularly useful if you have limited devices or if you want to keep a running commentary through your class. TodaysMeet also has the option to embed the discussion feed in any website so you can include it on a class blog or site.
3. Collaborate with other classrooms
This is a fun idea where you can reach beyond the walls of your own classroom discussion. Generate a QR code for your room using TodaysMeet. This QR code can then be added to a printed worksheet, presentation or website. Students from other classes can then use the code to access your discussion and join in themselves. If you want to get really adventurous, try inviting classes from other schools, cities or even countries!
4. Use the coconversation data
While the presentation of individual thoughts can be an excellent catalyst to conversation, there is a lot that can be gleaned from collating and visualizing conversation data. Try importing the transcript of your conversation into Google Sheet, Excel or a word cloud tool such as Wordle. The trends, patterns and insights can be fascinating as well as being an opportunity to introduce early concepts of visualization and data analysis.
5. Dissect and analyze the conversation
This is an excellent idea from educator Gary Johnston where he divides his students up into a number of different roles to study and monitor class conversation. Much like a courtroom, press conference or media event, Gary’s student each contribute in different ways to expand the skills being learnt as well as providing a very different take on class conversation.
Links and Next Steps
- What is the Backchannel? – Definition and links from TodaysMeet
- TodaysMeet Help – Frequently Asked Questions
- 20 useful ways to use TodaysMeet in schools
- Using TodaysMeet as a Formative Assessment Tool
- Embracing the backchannel for learning – Article from University of Sussex
- 7 Activities with TodaysMeet – Slideshare by educator Kevin Zahner
- How to Foster Collaborative Discussion (and the tools to do it!)
Feature image adapted from image courtesy of Flickr, Waag Society.