Back-channeling with 4th Graders

Back-channeling is not just a learning opportunity for adult learners during professional development sessions. Similar to Twitter, yet safer in the sense of privacy, TodaysMeet offers learning opportunities for elementary students as well.

Using TodaysMeet, students have a safe platform for sharing and expressing ideas during classroom lessons. While classroom discussions or activities are occurring, students logged into the teacher created URL have the opportunity to share, expand, and collaborate on ideas around a central theme. Documentation of ideas, collaborative efforts, and participation are easily monitored when students are participating in back-channeling events.

Recently I offered my fourth grade students the opportunity for back-channeling during the beginning phase of a writing unit. This type of learning task was the first experience any of my 24 students had been afforded. This was also my first attempt at using the learning tool with elementary students, therefore, our maiden voyage required a few regulations.

  1. Students needed to stay focused on the theme being examined: What writing traits did a published author of personal narratives use in his/her writing? (If more informal types of discussion were demonstrated during the exercise individual sessions would end.)
  2. Students were encouraged to read the feed prior to posting, in an attempt to build upon ideas rather than repeat them.
  3. Leaving a positive digital footprint was encouraged, in the sense of feeling proud of the content posted by the individual student.

todaysmeetWhile there were a few students who had laptops removed, overall, I would have to say the learning experience went over quite well. Students were able to listen to the narrative being read aloud, while following along with an individual paper copy in front of them. Students were capable of noticing different characteristics of the narrative while simultaneously sharing them in the news feed. Of course there were some repetitive comments and thoughts shared, but on the whole it was insightful to view the level of comprehension students had over the genre being introduced. As an initial, formative, and open response style assessment, it guided my instruction for the unit in terms of teaching points that may be thinned out or explored in greater depth.

While technology as a tool may take on multiple forms, I chose TodaysMeet purposefully. The content leading into this unit was to pre-assess student knowledge around the genre of personal narratives. Pedagogically speaking, this was a collaborative effort that was meant to permit students to build upon each others’ ideas and activate prior knowledge from previous writing experiences. TodaysMeet served the technology integration purpose by allowing students to view each others’ ideas around the content in real time, while extending their knowledge collaboratively. This also streamlined my responsibilities as a teacher, as all of my students’ thoughts and ideas were in a central location that could be viewed and objectively evaluated at any time.

As a bonus, using this particular site, transcripts can be stored, printed, and saved from two hours up to one year. Therefore, the activity that initially began a unit may also be used to reflect once the unit has finished, offering the opportunity to witness student growth and learning.

Take a look at what my students first produced here.

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