Nod at your computer screen if this sounds familiar. You have just finished a profound conversation with your class that had each student completely engaged, and you ask the thought-provoking question that when answered, will tie everything you have been doing in that unit together. You do as you have been trained to do and allow for some wait time so each student has some time to ponder the question and formulate a response. The wait is killing you, but finally you ask the class, “So, who would like to share their answer with the class?” And then, crickets... Now panic is setting in. You begin to question whether or not your instruction was proficient enough. You wonder if anyone was really paying attention during the last two weeks of class. You think maybe the question was misunderstood, so you ask again only to get the same response. If you have been in teaching long enough, this has happened to you.
What you need to remember is that as much anxiety that you are feeling as the teacher, the students themselves are feeling it twice as badly. In these particular situations, most, if not all, students might have the answer; they just might be too timid to share their response publicly in fear of what the response of classmates might be. In some classes, this is never a problem. In these classes, we have what Fred Jones calls the helpless hand-raisers that want to answer every question asked. Regardless of your class makeup, there are a couple of back-channeling tools I would like to share with you that will help both the students that are nervous to share out and the students whose arms are always in the air.
For more information on using back channel tools in the classroom, please click on read more below.
The first tool I would like to mention is TodaysMeet. This tool is already pretty popular and I have seen it used in classrooms, faculty meetings and professional development sessions. One reason this tool is so popular is because it is very easy to use. Simply go to TodaysMeet.com to set up a room. First you will name your room and then select how long you want the room to remain open. After this you will create your room.
After you have created your room, the next screen will ask your name and then you will be able to join the room and begin typing messages. You can either choose to have students put their actual name or if you feel students would rather remain anonymous, then have them create their own names.
Once you or your group has joined, the conversation can begin. Like Twitter, users have 140 characters that they can use for each post. Besides the easy set up and clean design, another feature that I think makes this a great tool is that the room is only accessible if you have the link. After creating the link, simple copy it and send it to the students or teachers that will be using it for the discussion. During their time on the discussion, no ads or pop-ups will appear to disrupt or distract the participants.
The next tool I would like to mention is called TitanPad. This resource is similar to TodaysMeet but does have a few noticeably different features. To start, go to TitanPad.com and click on the “Create Public Pad” tab at the top of the page.
Once you’ve created your tab, you will begin to notice the differences between this tool and TodaysMeet. First, when you type in your name, you may choose an authorship color that will appear each time that you make an entry. You can also disable this feature if you would like. Like TodaysMeet, once you have created your pad, you will need to send the link to whoever is going to be involved in the conversation. Once the other participants join, they can select the authorship colors they want to use and the conversations may begin. With TitanPad, there are no popups or ads that will appear.
Although these two tools are similar, there are some differences as well. TitanPad allows for multiple people to work on a single document simultaneously. If a teacher wanted to upload text they could copy and paste it to the pad and students could annotate or the teacher could lead discussions. TitanPad does not limit the number of characters per post like TodaysMeet does. However, if you have an extended number of people on the same pad at once it can be a little difficult to get text entered onto the pad.
I never imagined my first year of teaching, 11 years ago, that we would be using back-channeling tools in classroom. These two resources allow for students not only to participate in the discussion but can allow for them to take control of the discussion in a controlled and safe environment. Another great use for these tools is that they are excellent ways to formatively assess during class. A teacher can get a feel for the level of understanding of the whole class or each individual by using this tool. For me, the most powerful feature of TodaysMeet and TitanPad is that it allows for students to take control of their learning by allowing them to ask others for help and share with others their knowledge of the assigned task.
If you have any other questions or would like to share how you have used these two resources in your classroom please share in the comments section below.
Top image by StockMonkeys.com
Post by | Ben Rubey - Middle School Instructional Coach
This will be a resource built by the staff for the staff to encourage integration of 21st century skills into every student's learning.