If you told me that one day I would use a backchannel in my Grade 1 class, I would never have believed you. As far as I was concerned, backchanneling is an activity for high school students, post-secondary students, and adults, but not for elementary students. My thoughts changed though when I read one of @zbpipe’s tweets about her use of EtherPad in the classroom. Zoe Branigan-Pipe was backchanneling successfully with her Grade 6 students, so I knew that I had to try this out with my Grade 1’s. The opportunity presented itself on Wednesday when I planned to use Crocodoc for an important brainstorming activity for our Community Project, but the Flash Player on our school computers wouldn’t work properly. It was 7:30 in the morning, and I was trying to think of a good alternative. That’s when I remembered @mrjarbenne’s last SMART Board inservice, and his use of Today’sMeet as a backchannel. I had to give this a try! I set up a chat room in just a number of minutes, and then I was ready to go!
This backchannel was a huge success! Even my quieter students that rarely participate in class were sharing ideas as we reviewed the key elements of a community in an attempt to create a definition of “community.” Students quickly figured out that they could ask questions of their peers and respond to questions too. They were reading, writing, and thinking, and yet, as far as they were concerned, they were just having fun! My class loved using Today’sMeet and was eager to use it again, but the students really wanted the use of their own computers.
I then decided to use Today’sMeet again on Friday. @mcarls was running a GoogleWave session for educators in Buffalo, New York. He allowed me to be involved in this session, and I decided to get my students involved too. I set up a chat room for them to share their thoughts on GoogleWave and on our Community Project. I then signed-out the set of laptops, so that each student could have his/her own computer. Students were told that they could have a “life line”: a student sitting beside or across from them that could help them if they ran into difficulties. I then put the GoogleWave session on the SMART Board: allowing them to see what the adults were sharing as they shared in the Today’sMeet Room.
This weekend, I looked closely at the conversations between my students in the Today’sMeet Room and also looked closely at the conversations between the adults in the GoogleWave, and the similarities between the discussions were amazing. Both groups started out with greetings, shared many of the same concerns, and even interjected with some light-hearted exchanges between on-task discussions. When I really look at what happened in my room on Friday, I think to myself that I really was witnessing a “learning community” in action, and that I was as much a part of this learning community as my students.
It really is amazing what Grade 1 students can do, and I can’t wait to see what other exciting adventures this year brings! For parents reading this blog post, I would love to hear your feedback on this backchannel. What did your children think of it? What are your thoughts on using it in the classroom? And for educators reading this blog post, have you ever used a backchannel in your classroom? What program did you use? How successful was it?
Thank you for sharing your experiences here! It’s as we share that we learn more.