Mobile Phones, laptops, email, facebook, twitter – most teachers shudder at the words and spend a good chunk of classroom time getting their students off of these networks and their eyes forward. However, a small (emphasis on the small) contingent of educators are employing these tools in the classroom in the form of back-channel talk – a way to get students (especially the quieter ones) involved in the discussion.
With Twitter and other microblogging platforms, teachers from elementary schools to universities are setting up what is known as a “backchannel” in their classes. The real-time digital streams allow students to comment, pose questions (answered either by one another or the teacher) and shed inhibitions about voicing opinions. Perhaps most importantly, if they are texting on-task, they are less likely to be texting about something else.
Part of the idea behind this is that students with these devices will be focused on using them for class, rather than to tune out. In this fascinating New York Times Article, you can read more about the use of social media in the classroom as well as the controversies surrounding this issue.