Thursday, November 8, 2012

Day 9- TodaysMeet

http://www.flickr.com/photos/andreasskog/6828734269/
My favorite web 2.0 tools are free, simple to learn, and they deliver on what they promise. An excellent example of this is TodaysMeet, an excellent backchanneling tool that allows you to create a digital space to have conversations around a topic.

What is Backhanneling?


A backchannel is a space in which secondary conversations happen during content delivery. Many teachers use backchannel spaces to give students a place to process information, make connections, ask questions and extend learning. Backchannels are often used during times when the primary teaching strategy is content-delivery such as during lectures, videos, presentations or panel discussions. The advantage of backchanneling is that you turn passive listening into active discussion. Here are a few resources to learn more about backchannels:


Seven Things You Should Know About Backchannel Communnication
Ten Observations About Backchanneling
Nine Uses for Backchannels in Education

I have often used this strategy to get feedback from an audience or group of students in real time. To manage this, I either project the backchannel so that I can see it, or I ask someone to be my backchannel monitor, and I check in with them from time to time. 

As a learner, I've used backchannels to ask questions, share my own insights and experiences, and to participate in discussions that I couldn't be in the room for. Once, when I couldn't attend a PD session out of town, a colleague of mine turned on his Skype so that I could hear the presentation, and then I logged into the backchannel to participate in the discussion. 

TodaysMeet


While backchanneling can be done with lots of different tools, one of the easiest is TodaysMeet. I like it because it is simple enough for anyone to use (if you can type, you can use it); it is free; it isn't public; it doesn't require a login; and the content can be saved for up to a year.

To use, you simply go to http://todaysmeet.com/, name your room, give your room a shelf-life, and then click create your room.


Once the room is created, participants go to the URL of the room you created (http://todaysmeet.com/WhateverNameYouGaveIt). They then type in their name and click join.


At that point, participants are part of the backchannel. They can read what has been shared in the listen box and can add to the conversation by typing in the message box and clicking the Say button.


Note that each message is limited to 140 characters (like Twitter). This could be a way to practice live Tweeting with students ahead of using the more public Twitter. 

Here is the link to the TodaysMeet that I created for this demonstration: 


Feel free to try it out, ask questions, etc. BUT make sure that you make you actual 30 Day Challenge response in the comments to this blog post. This is because we want to preserve your conversation for future readers, and the TodaysMeet Backchannel will only exist for a year.

Your Challenge


Share your thoughts about backchanneling generally and TodaysMeet specifically. How have you used the strategy or the tool in your classroom or personal learning? How do you imagine it could be used to enhance learning for the students you work with?

29 comments:

  1. I was introduced to TodaysMeet and backchanneling last year during a few PDs. I have not implemented it in my middle school classes yet with my students still warming up to their netbooks.
    However, I plan to use this when we are reading novels in class. Many times students come up with questions during reading, but do not ask them because they are shy, don't want to be singled out for not understanding or a hundred other reasons. This would be an easy way for the questions to get asked and answered. It would also be a great way to monitor understanding. Students could have a short list of quetsions while they read that they need to respond to via a backchannel and I could have instant feedback. This would allow time for me to meet individually with students and clear up any confusion they may have about topics and cover ideas more in depth with them.

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  2. I love using TodaysMeet. It's easier and more reliable than the ANGEL Live Chat function which tended to kick students off after a time. We use TodaysMeet when watching a video. My teaching partner and I pose questions and "watch for this" comments, so the students can discuss what they're seeing without disturbing others. And we don't have to stop the video or talk over it to engage the students in discussion. The transcript option of TodaysMeet makes it easy to award participation points, too. We also used it last year during Policy and Lincoln-Douglas debates. The student audience would discuss the debaters' arguments and evidence and debate the resolution themselves. It is a great way to keep all students engaged during an activity where they serve as an audience. I could see adding it as a feature in Mock Trials. We have a handful of students left over who aren't serving as attorneys, witnesses, or jury members. These spectators in the courtroom could discuss the trial using TodaysMeet without being in contempt of court.

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    1. I like your idea of doing it during a video. I may pick your brain more on that.

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  3. The only time I have used any type of backchanneling was at the very first elearning conference at a session by Jason Bailey. I don't remember which site we used but it was on "Why google chat is not the problem". I don't know if it would really work for me and my students. I think it could work in AP and above (college level). I just don't think our kids are mature enough or have enough digital citizenship skills to make it effective in what I/we would want it too. I see the connection of Todays Meet to Twitter with the character limit so maybe it would be a good way before I jump into Twitter. Maybe we should try it as a PLC or faculty meeting tool first (even then would the staff know what to do). Lots of questions on this one.

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  4. I still use TodaysMeet in almost every presentation I give. It is absolutely the best way find out how your audience is receiving your message. I used it last week to pre-load half a dozen links for my audience - they typed in one custom made link, and then they could just click on all the rest. I agree with Leah that it could make a nice gateway to good Twitter use. I also think that in a classroom, it is a great equalizer. Ask your discussion question, but instead of settling for 1 or 2 students responding, expect them all to respond - some can raise their hand and some can craft their response in the text box. I still believe that the answer isn't to keep kids from chatting, but rather to get them chatting about things that matter.

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  5. I remember the first time I backchanneled. I was very distracted and couldn't keep up with both the backchannel and the lecture that was happening. The second time was a little better--I could get my question/comment down and still was able to be tuned into the talk. I think kids already backchannel when they are texting instead of paying attention or while they take notes. However, theirs isn't on topic. I think it could be a good thing to try in the classroom during a video, as Heather Coy described above. I wonder how it could work in math on a review day. Maybe students could get questions answered that way but I think talking to the person next to them works well to. I just opened a channel for my algebra 2 students for this unit. Let's see how this goes!!

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  6. I think backchanneling is something students do already in their daily lives. There is always something happening in the background for many of our kids--they already deal with filtering, some better than others. I think the backchannel would be good for monitoring where students are in their understanding, and it would also help add a social aspect to a lesson, as well as helping them to learn to monitor themselves and how they divide their attention!

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  7. I WILL be using this during my presentation this summer. It is super easy, and I love that you don't have to log in!!! I would love to have the feedback to answer questions after a break, during the presentation, or just general feedback.

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  8. I'm thinking I'd love to share this with my principal! Wouldn't it be interesting to have a backchanneling discussion going on during our faculty meeting. For third graders, I don't think the attention span or even typing skills are enough for them to backchannel too much. However, I do like the idea of even typing one question they have during a video and having one place for the results.

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  9. I like the idea of using it for a purpose such as answering a discussion question. When I've tried similar methods, I've found that my 6th graders are too involved in the online comments and are distracted from what's going on in class. If the tool is used to foster discussion, that may be a different story. I would like to try this as a way for students to answer a question and then facilitate further discussion based on their responses.

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  10. Well, backchanneling today was an epic fail! I think I was trying to be too educational with a new site and should have had them play around with it first. So much for intelligent discussion for my juniors and seniors! They enjoyed impersonating someone else and making silly comments under that name. They did think it was really cool though. I think using google docs or mybigcampus would just be better for the kind of discussion we are looking for with a backchannel for students. They cannot hide behind a fake name since it is already setup for them.

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  11. I think I will try to use this for my 5th grade when we study composers. I am working on a unit for them to watch a video about a composer, and use web tools to research and compile information and then eventually present it to their class. We can use a back channel to ask questions about the person before hand and and then as we watch and find answers, they can add to the discussion. I really like seeing what others write, but I am more of a lurker during meetings with Today's Meet used, because I am usually afraid to comment first!

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  12. This could be useful when I am giving history lectures. I also like the idea of using this during a video. We've watched a few videos on myths and each time a few students have questions about who is who and what's going on in certain places, and it's hard to answer the questions during the movie.

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  13. I like the idea that Brittany gave about using during a video. I also liked Heather's idea about a novel study. I have fourth grade and we are not one to one. Their typing skills are weak and that is being kind. I do not think at this time it would work in my class. However, I could see this being used during a science investigation. If someone had a question during the investigation they could use the back channel instead of raising a hand to ask and taking them away from the lesson. Many times students are embarrassed to ask and this would give them the opportunity they might need. I have used a backchannel during a workshop. For myself I did find it hard to focus or keep up with both things going on. Of course those little tickers across the bottom of the TV channels cause me to go nuts too. I guess for me it is too distracting. Yet with the students they are used to twenty things going on and keeping up with all twenty so for them it would probably work.

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  14. I can see how this might work as a "silent" class discussion requiring everyone to participate. Students would have to be identified as themselves and not someone else. I would not use this during a classroom presentation. Even though our students are used to multitasking, when "illegally" texting in class, they are clueless as to where we are in class and have no idea what to answer when called upon as they have been too engrossed in something else. On the other hand, maybe they would be on top of things if they were to do this. Something to think about for the future.

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  15. I like this site, it is very easy to use and not having to log in is great. I too can see the 8th graders making up false names and making silly comments, I also think it would distract them too much if we were watching a video or discussing a lesson.
    One thought that came to mind was in our middle school health classes, where the discussions are about important topics, but many of the girls are not going to raise their hand and ask questions for fear of what everyone else might think... using a site like this might help discussions because they would be too shy to ask out loud, but typing it is not nearly as bad :-) I think it would be very beneficial!

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  16. I first learned about backchanneling through the ICATS and have now used it during several presentations as a means to continue the discussion or provide opportunities to expand ideas. The backchanneling during a video idea is genius. I know what I'm doing with our next film! Thanks!

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  17. I love the backchannel concept. Especially during a workshop, keynote, or conference. Sometimes you have a question or an idea that pops up and you want/need an answer right away. I love how you can connect with others immediately without bothering the person that it speaking/presenting. It is an easy concept and have not yet brought it into my classroom--but plan to do it after Christmas. I also love that Twitter with a # hashtag is a great way to connect and backchannel as well! I have learned just as much during the backchannel as i have from the actual speaker in many instances.

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  18. I love that this is free and my students don't have to sign up for accounts and create log-ins. That sometimes takes my students with special needs almost a whole class period. Creating Diigo accounts took more days than care I to mention. I think this would be a really user friendly way for my students to participate during different activities. I love some of the other ideas I read about using it with novels and videos.

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  19. I first learned about this in a pd at school a few weeks ago. It is very neat and I really like the idea of using during a video. My students can comment on their own performance.

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  20. Like others, I have used this at workshops I have attended. I think it's fantastic for our introverted students, as it could give them a voice in class.

    I am always looking for tools in which we can jump right in - without a username, password, registration, etc., so I love that we can use this immediately. I appreciate the idea of using it during a video, class discussion, etc. Will definitely give it a try!

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  21. I must admit that when I started reading this my first thought was we are giving the students a way to talk to each other while they are suppose to be listening? However the more I read and thought about it the more I started to see the potential. There are several sites out their with math videos that explain ideas and concepts. You could have a couple of them playing on the board (short clips) and have the students bounce ideas and questions back and forth. I would have to make sure all the students participated, but it would just be a different way to do lecture. Just a thought.

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  22. I think it would be neat to set up a backchannel on a day when I have a sub - that way I can check in on what's going and students can have conversations about what they are doing even if the sub doesn't allow talking. Thanks for sharing how to set it up - I had participated in these before but wasn't sure how to do it for the class.

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    1. I love the idea of setting a backchannel up on days you are out of the classroom! I kept a live feed of Skype open with my classroom one time when I was out with a sick child. I had my end muted without video, but I could see and hear the students all day. The students simply walked up to the computer and asked their questions and I could then un-mute my end to respond to them. It worked great. The idea of using todaysmeet for the same purpose would take less effort and work just as effectively. Kudos!

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  23. I have only used this in PD meetings, and it is a nice way to share information, such as links or data collection for the group easily. My students are not quite at the state of being able to constructively comment, and in the past, I have just had to turn off chatting features for our programs, but maybe with many days of instruction, we would be able to try it!

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  24. This looks like a great program, but I really don't think I would be able to use this in my elementary class. I love the idea, but it just seems a little too overwhelming.

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  25. This is perfect for me as a learner. I always have something to say, but I hate to be rude by constantly commenting. Back-channelling allows me to be constructive rather than distracting. If it works for me, I know it will work for some of my students. My only concern is not being able to monitor it while I am busy teaching.

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