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Back Channels in the Classroom
July 9, 2012

Worried about students being distracted by text messages and Twitter tweets in class?  No problem!  Instead of discouraging it, why not jump in to the distraction with back channels?  Back channels allow online conversations to take place alongside live presentations, and now with the iPad students can easily access them.

There are many benefits to using a back channel in your classroom.  One of those benefits includes the opportunity for all students to become actively engaged in the lesson.  Now with back channels, every student can bean active participant, even those quiet, shy, students who avoid drawing attention to themselves and who are afraid to ask questions or voice their opinions.  With back channels, they too can now have a voice.  Back channels also can also be used to help provide clarity to students’ misconceptions of the topic at hand.  As students ask questions during the presentation, they are able to get immediate feedback from either the presenter and/or their peers. Finally, by integrating back channels into the learning environment,educators can quickly assess the level of understanding and confusion of their students based on the post that are made.

Now that you are aware of some of the advantages of utilizing a back channel to actively engage your students, you may be wondering how a back channel could work in your class.  Below are a couple of examples to help get you started!

  • When showing video clips in class, instead of pausing to engage students in a discussion, use   a back channel to guide the discussion during the video.

  • Setup a back channel during your lecture to allow students to pose questions. At appropriate moments, take a short break from your lecture so that you can have a look at the back channel and provide answers to any unanswered student questions.

  • Use a back channel to poll your students in order to check their comprehension of the subject matter.

When creating back channels, here are a few sites that would be useful.




Poll Everywhere

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