I called upon some local talent in our community to share their expertise with my class. I found three authors who agreed to come to my classroom to share their experiences with students and answer their questions. As I prepared for our visiting authors, I began thinking about ways to get each of my students engaged during their visits. I wanted to ensure that each student was an active participant, rather than a passive listener.
Thinking about my own experiences at workshops and conferences, I started considering the power of a tool like Twitter and how backchanneling is a way to encourage participating from the audience. A format such as TodaysMeet was my first choice to use with students, but that website is currently blocked in my district. Twitter was my second choice, but my students are under the age of 13, so that wasn't an option either. I was faced with a situation that required some creative problem-solving.
Critics will say that the students are not necessarily paying attention if they are on a computer throughout a presentation. This may be true. But who's to say that they are paying attention throughout an entire presentation when they're not on a computer. I'll tell you this much...I am really good at looking like I'm paying attention while my brain is on a mental vacation, and guess what? So are our kids! The one thing I can say is that the evidence on my Google Tweet Form showed engagement, enthusiasm and participation. Everyone was involved! Yes, they may have missed a few things while typing out their "Tweet," but so do adults. With practice, the students will improve at quickly developing concise Tweets during presentations, and their participation will take the learning to an entirely new level.
What do you think? Would you consider letting your students backchannel during a class presentation?