Back Channel Communication

Back Channel Communication is quickly becoming an effective way to engage students in classroom activities.  Back Channels allow students to write, respond, or question inside of a group forum.

This post from freetech4teachers.com outlines 5 uses of Back Channels in classrooms.

1. Shy students are given a place to ask questions and contribute toconversations.

2. Students who process information by asking a lot of questions can ask an unlimited amount of questions without dominating the classroom conversation. Everyone can see their questions and you can choose when
to address their questions.

3. Gauge your students’ interest in and or prior knowledge of a topic.

4. Extend your classroom conversations beyond the time in your school’s schedule. If you have started a backchannel during a classroom conversation and it’s going well you don’t have to worry about running out of time because you can have students continue the dialogue later in the day. Students who thing of a question or comment later in the day can add them without having to wait until the next class meeting to share that question or comment.

5. Gauge the effectiveness of an activity in real time. By having students share questions and comments during an activity, you can get an immediate sense of the effectiveness of that activity by gathering
feedback from all of your students.

Back channels provide a great medium for authentic writing as well as a place to model writing to learn.  Students have the freedom to share thoughts and ideas and not be squashed by the loudest or more aggressive students, while allowing the teacher to monitor student understanding and bring content to a higher level.

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