Dealing with Distraction

By David - Feb 2013


When I talk to people about using a back-channeling tool in the classroom I usually hear comments such as 'isn't that distracting for students?'.  I guess given that your reading this post on a site that provides a backchannel tool, you'll expect an answer like 'of course not'.

But the truth is that it's not about the tool or technology at all, if you put lego on the desks of your students, they will fiddle and play with them and get distracted. The key is in the planning and knowing how the backchannel can support your teaching goals.

The technology and tool can help reduce the 'distraction' by itself being designed with an educational focus, but it's not going to be a substitute for a lack of planning or inappropriate use.

Students being distracted is only half of the conversation, a teacher giving a lecture can just as easily be distracted by all of the students having their heads buried in a laptop. It's also a sign of respect, if your speaking to the class, they should at least provide the opportunity to make eye contact. It's this eye contact and facial expression that a teacher looks for to determine if the message is getting across. The worst outcome is for both the teacher and the students to be distracted and it needs to be considered when planning a lesson.

The best examples of BackChanneling that I've seen are when the students are discussing topics that require a little more higher order thinking. These might be activities that support a topic that has already been covered and the backchannel becomes an outlet that supplements other class activities, you'll find that some students will respond well to online delivery while others may not.

For example, you may be discussing a historical event in class, your introduction might be a few slides on the whiteboard and a bit of verbal discussion. Once your satisfied that you've covered enough of the topic, the backchannel could be used to discuss different view points of the historical event.

We've all seen the examples of how a backchannel is used at conferences and the benefits it provides, but the primary and secondary school classroom is a different learning environment and consideration to the content, students and the teacher need to be considered, an effective backchannel enhances the learning experience, it does not provide a distraction.

As always, let us know what you think. Start a free chat room now and try out the tools that help support learning.

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