Join Kevin Kelly for an in-depth discussion in this video Using Twitter as a class "backchannel" during lectures, part of Social Media in the Classroom.
- A common objection to use devices and social media in the classroom is that students can get distracted. We all face what's called selective attention, in our students, and even in ourselves. While it's true students can get distracted, it's less likely if you give them specific learning tasks to complete. I'll give you an example. At a recent conference, the keynote speaker encouraged all of us to use Twitter to ask each other questions and share our own ideas about the topics. The kicker is the speaker asked us to do this during the presentation itself.
This is called a backchannel, which Edutopia author Beth Holland defines as "a digital conversation that runs concurrently "with a face-to-face activity." We used mobile devices and a social media backchannel to make that conference keynote presentation more meaningful. In the same way, we can ask our students to use a backchannel to make our lectures more meaningful. Backchannels may be more useful for larger classes, but there's no reason why a smaller class wouldn't benefit just as much.
Some of the benefits include increased participation, students who wouldn't normally speak up, and students who work at a different pace, benefit from a backchannel. The classtime is multiplied, students all tweet responses at the same time rather then waiting for one student to finish speaking. Let's look at how to set up a backchannel. First, discuss the idea of backchannels with your students. Let them know that the use of Twitter is meant to support their learning. If you're going to use Twitter, provide a course hashtag to make it easy to display the tweets.
Classroom backchannel veteran Professor Monica Rankin, from University of Texas Dallas, uses a weekly tag, such as #H1302w08. The first part is the course, History 1302, the second is the week, Week Eight. You might consider doing something similar so students can search for comments from a specific week. For example, #Biol2A, for Biology 2A.
Encourage students to use additional hashtags for important concepts, that way they can filter the results even further to find what they need to study. If you want your class discussion to be private or secure, you can use TodaysMeet instead of Twitter. It's more simple than Twitter, but students don't need email addresses or accounts. You can create a separate room for each lecture topic and share the shortened link with your class. Here's what a room in TodaysMeet looks like. When students visit the URL with their device, they're asked to enter a nickname, then they can start posting comments.
Later in this chapter, I'll show you how to set up a room and share the shortened URL with your students. It's a good idea to provide opportunities for both structured and unstructured backchannel comments. To solicit structured comments, provide specific prompts for individuals or small groups. For example, if you wanna catalog student attitudes, ask them, "What is your initial reaction?" If you want them to look at different viewpoints, ask them to play devil's advocate.
If you want them to make connections, ask them how the concept connects to a discussion from a previous class. To solicit unstructured comments, encourage students to ask questions or submit reactions during a lecture or presentation. Here you can see Instructor Gobnet is asking students to make a connection between the concept of her lecture and what was discussed previously about rivers. Think about when and how you want to display the backchannel to your class. For structured prompts in between mini lectures, display a browser window with their comments as students submit their ideas.
You can use Twitter and search for your class hashtag to show only those tweets, or filter even further with the class hashtag and hashtag for a prompt or lecture topic. TweetDeck is a Twitter tool for tracking and organizing engagement. You can add columns for different searches, again, based on the hashtags for your course, and more. Take the time to talk to students as the backchannel progresses. Some students may finish earlier than others, so you can ask them individually to elaborate on what they wrote.
Last, be sure to recognize certain contributions. Ask everyone for their attention, then highlight a specific tweet on your screen as you explain why it's a good question or comment. You can also use Twitter's favorite function to mark the questions and comments you think are worth noting. Here I'll click the star, favorite. This makes it easy for students to find later, when they search through the comments. I've created an exercise file for this video sharing some good resources related to using social media backchannels.
Teachers in both K-12 and Higher Ed environments can use these resources. I've provided books, articles and blog posts, and tools you can use to implement this in your class. Before you review the next video, take a minute to share how you might use a backchannel for your class, by using our Twitter hashtag, #lyndasocialclassroom, and #backchannel.
- Moving from social networking to "social netlearning"
- Balancing social media with in-class activities
- Creating social media guidelines
- Using Twitter for polls
- Using Facebook for student-generated test questions
- Connecting to real-world scenarios and people
- Using ReadWriteThink and Facebook to construct timelines
- Using Flickr and YouTube to collect student fieldwork
- Showcasing student work in online portfolios