Last week, I used a Google Form to gather feedback from students around the use of a back channel. I was pleasantly surprised to see that students have really latched onto this idea. There were, of course, a few students who feel that the back channel inhibits them from watching or interacting with the live version of whatever is happening in the classroom. However, the majority of students really enjoy having a place to communicate with peers while something is going on, live, in the classroom. See Data on my site for specific feedback from students.
Bill Fishell and I have used TodaysMeet in a multitude of ways so far in our classroom.
TodaysMeet with movie
The pilot of this back channel was to watch The Lost Boys BBC documentary while students communicated via TodaysMeet with facts from the film, questions, and/or general observations. Our first TodaysMeet was teacher moderated. Our second TodaysMeet was moderated by students
Live discussion or TodaysMeet choice.
We had a discussion in class regarding issues in the book A Long Walk to Water. Student had the option of a live discussion (face to face at a round table, no screens) or a TodaysMeet moderated by students.
Live Discussion with TodaysMeet fishbowl
In the same book discussion day, we changed our approach by having students at the round table, discussing live, while students around the outside engaged with one another on TodaysMeet.
Though we have yet to find the "perfect" back channel (is there such thing?), I think we are on the right track. I have heard so much from students about their engagement in class when they have the platform to share their views and opinions. As we know, middle school is a tumultuous and amazing time. Students grow immensely, physically and emotionally, in our classrooms. They are starting the see the "grey" area in the world, understand larger issues, are capable of higher order thinking, and recognize injustice in the world around them. When we offer students the opportunity to explore these areas in a safe space, incredible things can happen.