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Tools That Help Give Every Student a Voice in Class

We’ve all had students who have great ideas but don’t share them aloud in class for one reason or another. You can probably picture those students in your head right now. One that stands out to me I had in my current events class nearly ten years ago. This student, Patrick, was shy and would rarely speak to the whole class but made great contributions in small groups and in my earliest attempts at hosting an online forum for my students. That forum was hosted on Ning back when they offered a free service. Eventually, I moved those discussions from Ning to TodaysMeet. In both cases I found that having a forum or backchannel was beneficial not only to my shy students but also to my students who just needed a little more time to think before responding to a discussion in class.

What is a backchannel?
Tools that provide an opportunity for students to post questions and respond to prompts during a lesson, presentation, or classroom conversation are generally referred to as backchannel tools. Unlike quiz game tools like Kahoot, backchannels don’t have definitive time limits nor are they based on students answering questions correctly or incorrectly. Instead a backchannel is an informal way for students interact with you and their classmates in an online forum designed to complement classroom activity.

Tools to give every student a voice in class
Backchannel Chat is a service that provides exactly what its name implies. Through the service you can create a free backchannel room (AKA chat room) in which you can post comments and questions for your students to respond to. Your students can respond in realtime. Students can ask you and their classmates questions within the confines of your Backchannel Chat room. The free version of Backchannel Chat limits you to 30 participants at a time.

Tozzl is a chat platform that allows you to quickly create private, password-protected message boards as well as public boards. To get started visit Tozzl and select “create a new Tozzl.” Then you can name your message board and set a privacy password (optional). Tozzl assigns a new, unique URL to each message board. On your message board you can add sections for chat, file sharing, to-do lists, and YouTube videos. You can also import the feed of a Twitter hashtag into your Tozzl boards. Tozzl is no longer available as a backchannel tool. The new owners of the domain threaten to sue anyone who writes the word Tozzl in a blog post.

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Introduction to Using VR and AR in Your Classroom
On Thursday afternoon at 4pm ET I’m hosting a webinar about using virtual reality and augmented reality in education. This research-based webinar will teach you what you need to know to use these exciting technologies in your classroom. Learn more and register here.

Book Me for Your Conference
I’ve given keynotes at conferences from Australia to Alaska for groups of all sizes from 50 to 2,000+. My keynotes focus on providing teachers and school administrators with practical ways to use technology to create better learning experiences for all students. I like to shine the light on others and so I often share examples of great work done by others as well as my own. Send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com book me today.