Apps for Classroom Backchannels

What is a backchannel?
A backchannel is essentially a classroom conversation that takes place alongside a class. With the advent of technology in the classroom, backchannels can now take place digitally, in or out of the classroom.

How can a backchannel be used in the classroom?
Opening up a backchannel in your class can serve numerous purposes. It can allow quieter students to fully participate in class. By setting up a digital backchannel using one of the below apps, quieter students can simply log in and share their question or comment. It can supplement your teaching by allowing for discussions outside of the classroom. Students and teachers can participate in a supplemental dialogue about the subject after class is over.

Apps that can be used for a class digital backchannel include:

  1. Backchannel Chat: An app and a website, Backchannel Chat gives the teacher control about what is discussed in the backchannel. Discussions can be archived and available for future reference. Another great aspect of this app is that every post in the backchannel can be moderated by the teacher and must be approved before posted for all to see. Along with the website, there’s an app for Android and iOS.
  2. Padlet: Create a wall that pertains to a specific topic or chapter and use it as a backchannel. Allow students to comment and ask questions on the board. Make sure and turn on the profanity filter.
  3. PollEverywhere: In the same way you opened a Padlet wall, start a discussion in PollEverywhere. Use the app or the website to let students communicate with you. Use PollEverywhere while students are working on a project or classwork. Great for students that are timid in the classroom.
  4. Recap: Students can use the app or access the website to ask questions or comment. Set up a topic and allow students to present their questions or ideas.
  5. Google Slides Q & A: If you use Google Slides to do a presentation, you’ve got to use Google Slides Q&A as a backchannel. Simply go to your audience tools and start a new Q&A. During the presentation, a url is presented at the top of the presentation, directing students where to go to ask a question or make a comment. Students can vote on which questions or comments are the best then, at the end of the presentation, the teacher can choose to display the comments while they address them.
  6. Verso: Verso is unique in that when you post an activity to discuss, it allows you to post a recording of yourself giving directions, a document from your Google Drive, or attach a link for students to access. Verso provides an option that allows the teacher, to include certain vocabulary. The other thing that’s unique about Verso is that, as the teacher, you can access classroom stats, showing who has participated in your discussions and how often. Verso is available on the web at Verso as well as an app.
  7. Slack: Slack is not only great for business teams, but it can be used in classrooms as well. Set up channels for different class topics. Use separate channels for comments and questions. As the teacher, send out discussion topics and ask students to comment. Send students feedback on their work in class.