Thursday, December 3, 2009

Backchannel Baking

I've had a busy few weeks getting into the swing of things with school but yesterday's class showed how my students are really hitting their stride implementing technology as a tool in the classroom. I would like to place great emphasis on the word TOOL, instead of what often happens which is an add-on.

The recipe from the outside seems like it's destined to be a flop, but here's how I created this backchannel lesson. Take our first ingredient of grade 9 students and throw them into a large mixing bowl (also known as our performing arts theatre). This is no slouch of a theatre! With a Blu-Ray player and HD projector with AMAZING sound, movies in the theatre rock! Then mix gently and let students sit wherever they want (only in the first 2 rows).

Sprinkle in short lesson on backchannel, google jockeying and have a discussion about what the students think they should be mindful of when having an online conversation. This is one of Anne Davies' assessment for learning strategies. She writes, when a teacher "Involve[s] students in setting and using criteria," "they become more engaged in learning."

Don't forget a key ingredient: the rubric. Students need to mix the idea of interacting in a meaningful way in their brains and connect it to technology. For some this is a HUGE step, which is why we will be practicing it more and more in the coming weeks. We discussed the personal and social implications of contributing to backchannel online, and how we can make the experience positive and productive. Students did a self assessment of their experience and then blogged about the positives and negatives of their experience. Most thought it was productive, but a few found watching a movie and participating in the backchannel distracting.

This again confirmed for me that students are not the "digital natives" and tech multi-taskers that some people believe they are. Next time I use backchannel I will pause the movie frequently to allow more in depth discussions to occur with less distractions.

How might you use backchannel in your class?

Note: this lesson happened in early October and I'm just now getting around to publishing this post!

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