A back channel is a program/tool that a teacher can use in the background of a lesson. Typically they are chat windows that are used to allow students and the teacher to communicate together while they are working on notes, projects, or any class activity. Many teachers use these to allow students to ask questions without having to speak in a whole class setting. It benefits the students that are quiet and do not like to talk out in class. It also gives students that know the content well to answer student questions and allows them to become leaders.
1. GoSoapBox - GoSoapBox creates events for students to join. There are multiple functions within each event. Students can participate in discussions, polls, and quizzes. For the teacher there is a profanity filter, confusion barometer, and name requirements. You can also download quiz results. Students do not have to sign up for an account. Teachers give students an accent code to enter when it is time use it.
Uses - I have used this when I given my students reading assignments. I love that students can ask questions, let me know if they are confused, and have different modes of interaction. I can give them a quiz to check for understanding and then have students engage in a discussion and poll them on their thoughts about the content.
2. TodaysMeet - This is the basic chat room. Students can use their phone or computer and have no account to sign up for. You can close out rooms whenever you want. This is great for in the background chatroom. Students can ask questions and respond to student questions while the class activity is happening. You can download a transcript of the discussion before you close it. There really isn’t much control for the teacher unless you pay for an upgrade on the free account.
Uses - I have used this as an exit ticket activity or progress check. I like that this is quick. Student can do a quick response about whatever question I ask. I’m not a big fan of the lack of controls in the free version.
3. CoverItLive - They call it a live blog. It is a chat window, but the teacher can act as a moderator in the conversation. A teacher can deny posts that are inappropriate. Another great function is that it can be embedded in a website or LMS page. The chat can also be replayed at any time. It is marketed to corporations, but I emailed them about a teacher account and was given one for free.
Uses - This is my favorite chat window. I love that you can embed it in a website. I love that it has moderator functions to limit students that choose to make irresponsible decisions. I have used this one as a background chat during lecture and days when I am meeting with small groups and cannot immediately answer every question. It allows students to answer each other's questions without disrupting the rest of the class. I have also seen this used at pd conferences so attendees can discuss what is going on as it is happening!