The NY Times recently had a great article on using a classroom BackChannel which I'd encourage you to read, but one quote in particular stood out for me:
Nicholas Provenzano, an English teacher at Grosse Pointe South High School, outside Detroit, said that in a class of 30, only about 12 usually carried the conversation, but that eight more might pipe up on a backchannel. “Another eight kids entering a discussion is huge,”
The article and Nicholas's comments really help to drive home the classroom benefits of setting up a backchannel. The article touches on some of the misconceptions of a backchannel such as:
- Distracting teachers - leading to off topic conversations
- Inappropriate remarks
Each of the above misconceptions can be handled easily with a dedicated classroom backchannel tool, where the teacher has control of the content and can retract the students comments.
The article also brings up the great point that if students are part of a laptop or tablet programme, then having a BackChannel running on them will actually promote student engagement.
As Derek Bruff, a math lecturer and assistant director of the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University points out:
The word on the street about laptops in class is that students use them to tune out, checking e-mail or shopping. Professors could reduce such activity by giving students something class-related to do on their mobile devices.