Creative Uses of Backchannels

Class discussions provide excellent opportunities for people to listen, think and speak. They have a few problems though. First, only one person can speak at once. Second, some people are too shy to speak. However, a backchannel can help to solve these problems.

A backchannel – a digital conversation that runs concurrently with a face-to-face activity – provides students with an outlet to engage in conversation. There are a number of ways to set up a backchannel to support communication and collaboration.

For more backchannel tools, visit our backchannel tools page.


With TodaysMeet, teachers create private chat rooms so that students could ask questions or leave comments during or after class. These text-based rooms limit students to 140 characters at a time, and also lets them to share links to other resources. A teacher could set a room to last for an hour, a day, a week, a month, or even a year. A TodaysMeet could be used as a way for students to post their thoughts during a reading session, for sharing research resources, or to extend a conversation beyond class time.


A Padlet wall allows students to share their ideas as text, images, videos, and links posted to a digital bulletin board. For some students, this free-form platform for expression provides a less constricting way for them to engage in conversations or debates. Consider having students engage in debate, post observations during science labs, or pose questions to begin an inquiry project.


Though technically considered a student response system, Socrative could also be used to support class discussion and provide an alternative method for students to contribute their ideas. By incorporating open response questions during class, students can share their thoughts, and teachers can save their ideas. Asking questions via Socrative may allow some students to better formulate thoughts before engaging in face-to-face conversation.


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