Backchanneling with Padlet
Type of technology: Padlet
SAMR Model Rating: Augmentation
Grade level: 6-12
Subject area: Any
“Backchanneling is the practice of using networked computers to maintain a real-time online conversation alongside the primary group activity or live spoken remarks. The term was coined in the field of linguistics to describe listeners’ behaviours during verbal communication.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backchannel
When giving a lecture, showing a film or having a guest speaker in your classes, how do you require students to interact with the information? Do they take notes? Do they ask questions? Discuss in small groups? And when does this all happen? After the information has been presented? The traditional practice is to require listening and note-taking during lecture, and then allow some inquiry by a select few at the end of the presentation, if there’s time. But is this effective? Or efficient? Many teachers struggle with these questions.
At the CUE Conference this year, I was struck by the constant flow of ideas, questions, and quoting on Twitter that occurs during each presentation. This is called backchanneling. During a presentation, the audience actively and constantly comments on the presenter’s information. No longer are we sitting passively, fighting the urge to tune out, raising our hands and posing questions at the end of the lecture. The opportunity to backchannel allows us to get the question or comment across instantly, in a public forum. Essentially, there are two presentations occurring simultaneously, and the audience is highly engaged.
How can I recreate this activity in the classroom?
Twitter is one public site for backchanneling in a public setting. Today’s Meet is another commonly used site, especially for business-type meetings or Professional Learning Communities. Both of these methods allow for anonymous responses, assuming the participants understand the protocols of appropriate responses in social media environments.
I want to use backchanneling in the classroom in a way that will make students accountable for their responses, and that won’t require students to open personal, public accounts. We need a safe place to practice these protocols and teach digital responsibility without forming a digital footprint.
One answer to this challenge is Padlet. I’ve written about Padlet in a previous blog entry, and will assume that you understand Padlet to be an online bulletin board where students can share ideas about a topic, image or concept.
THE LESSON: Group Discussion Backchanneling with Padlet
Create a Padlet with a task/directions posted at the top of the bulletin board. (Example: students pose questions that come up during their discussion of the novel Ender’s Game.)
Situate students in groups of 4. Each group needs one networked device. Give each group the URL for the Padlet you’ve created. You can also post a QR Code for easy access on cellphones or tablets. (The Padlet site automatically provides a QR code for each Padlet you create.) Have students discuss their topic (Example: verbal discussion on Chapter 13 of Ender’s Game.)
As they discuss, each group agrees to post questions that arise during their discussion. These may be questions they answer in group or questions that still remain. Every group needs to post at least one question, preferably two. Each group has a group name that they list as the title of their post. (If students post individually, I have them type their own name as the title.)
Set the Padlet to “Moderate Posts”. This enables you to approve each post as it pops up, which helps to eliminate “shenanigans”. Students want to see their post on the board, so they eventually adjust to the requirements and play along. (After awhile, I don’t need to moderate posts anymore.) During the activity, mirror or project the Padlet publicly in the classroom for a visual of the live bulletin board during the discussion activity.
At the end of discussion, address the questions that students have posted. It looks something like this:
Students generate their own questions about the topic. Some questions answer other questions. Few posts are redundant because students adjust their responses to those that are already published. The teacher can then answer the questions, conduct a whole-class discussion, or have students answer individually in writing. The Padlet can be saved and posted online for test-review or reflection. The Padlet can also be used by the teacher to assess student comprehension.
My next step: Backchanneling during a video. Students will watch an instructional video, preferably 10-15 minutes long. Instead of taking notes, students backchannel using Padlet as the video progresses. I will instruct them to ask questions, make comments or quote from the video. They can post as often as they like. Once we address student responses, then students may take notes on the topic.
This student-centered, inquiry-based activity teaches digital literacy, responsibility and accountability. It engages students during a lecture, when they are often prone to tune out. It enables the teacher to assess student comprehension quickly and effectively, and it can be saved for use at a later date as a study guide or an extended writing task. Good stuff!