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National Training Office December 13th, 2019
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2 Backchannel Discussion Tools for Librarians

Posted in: News, Teaching Technologies

Backchannels have been around for awhile. A 2010 Educause 7 Things You Should Know About Backchannel Communication called them “a secondary electronic conversation that takes place at the same time as a conference session, lecture, or instructor-led learning activity.” Backchannels provide a space for real time conversation, alongside the primary activity. Twitter is an example of a backchannel. Here’s two more backchannel tools you might find useful.

Today’s Meet

Todays meet

Screenshot of Today’s meet website


Today’s Meet shut down in Spring 2018

is a freemium backchannel chat service for educators. Create a login, name your chat room and open it for a duration from one hour to one year. Responses are anonymous- users only need identify with a name they make up on the spot. You can also limit who joins a room, keep tabs on users, and download chat transcripts. There is a 140 character limit, so not the best place to record one-minute reflection papers, (as someone from our recent Teaching Topics observed), but maybe just right for a question from a timid student.

How would a librarian use this? 2 ideas from Matt Miller’s 20 Useful Ways to Use Today’s Meet in Schools are online office hours or hosting a contest (first person who correctly posts in the TodaysMeet room wins!). I’m sure you can think of more.



NTO Flipgrid

Screenshot of NTO Flipgrid website


One tool that I would not necessarily label just a backchannel is Flipgrid, a social learning tool developed by the University of Minnesota. Their slogan is use video the way your students use video, and the idea is participants can view and post video responses to discussion topics. Essentially, it’s a video-based discussion board. You get one grid with a free account – a grid is where students go to view topics, record responses, and reply to classmates. Each grid can contain multiple discussion threads. Grids can be private or open, and can be integrated into learning management systems. Admin tools allow comment moderation, while assessment tracking is available in the subscription version.  But the real power are in the Flipgrid apps. Download the free app to your phone and start a conversation.

How would a librarian use this? Flipgrid could be useful for a video journal club, for discussions in a distance learning program, or even a library scavenger hunt (first person to find the printer & post to Flipgrid wins!)

Backchannels are a way to facilitate side discussion during a learning activity as well as enhance learning, conversation and networking after your class is over. What do you think?

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