As I've thought about what I want for my writing and why I'm sharing it, many thoughts swirl around in my mind. Do I want this to be a place where I share about my life as a teacher or about my personal life as a wife and mom? As an educator, I have been on a two-year journey trying to ride this "wave" of technology, and it has been exciting and overwhelming at the same time. I have also been on a personal journey since 2012 while grieving the loss of my nephew and dealing with how that has impacted those closest to me. These two areas of my life go hand in hand. I cannot separate the two because they are so intertwined. Therefore, I can't separate my writing into one area or the other. They both make up who I am and what I believe. This time in my life has shaped who I am as an educator and who I am as a person.
This brings me to the use of backchanneling in the classroom. I have been doing some professional reading about using backchannels and informal assessment tools with my students. I have tried several different ones like Padlet, Socrative and TodaysMeet. Student feedback is another way to think about it, but in the world of technology we now have digital tools available to more easily meet the diverse learning styles of our students. In the traditional classroom setting, the teacher might initiate a discussion with students about a topic or their opinion about something being learned in order to gage their understanding. In this setting, the same students are usually the first to offer a response. While the more reserved or introspective student does not respond at all which is a valuable loss to the classroom dynamic. This type of student needs time to "mull it over" before responding. He or she needs time to figure out what they believe and how to express or verbalize it to others. In many areas of teaching, technology can give every student a voice, and this is what I love the most about using these tools in the classroom. It is not just the iPad or device in and of itself, but what that device allows every student the opportunity to say and create in their own way and in their own time. For example, Padlet can be used to pose a question to students and be left open for responses for as long as the teacher chooses. This allows even the most shy or reserved student time to share a response which gives them a voice and an identity.
As I've learned more about the use of backchanneling in the classroom, it has made me think more about the significance of the past two years of my life. Sometimes in life we have to take a few steps back in order to move forward. Grief is universal; yet, at the same time, it is very personal and individual. Each person deals with grief in a different way. Some people are like that student who is always the first to speak when the class is asked for feedback. I am not like that student. These past two years have been a time of "back channeling" of sorts for me. I've had to take the time to "mull over" the life-changing events of the last two years in order to verbalize all that it has taught me and how it has shaped my beliefs about life. I tend to think long and hard about things before I am able to share my thoughts with others. My nephew Colton was like that in many ways. He was not usually the first to speak up or give his opinion. He was a deep thinker and soaked up everything around him. So when he did voice his opinions or thoughts, they were usually right on target. His discernment of the character and sincerity of others was beyond his years. I valued his thoughts and opinions. We as teachers, need to show our students that we value their thoughts and opinions. Implementing backchanneling in a thoughtful and organic manner with your students does just that. Through the digital conversations exchanged with backchanneling, we can make connections, build relationships and create community in our classrooms. We can move forward, learn and grow.
So, now that I have read and experimented with backchanneling on my own, I realize the importance of it not only in the classroom, but in life. Take the time, however long it takes you as an individual, to ponder and process the information or the experience until you are ready to give it a voice that can be shared so that others can learn from it, relate to it or simply... hear it. This weekend, as we celebrate and honor the lives of those who sacrificed everything for our country, slow down and allow yourself time to backchannel; think about what you've learned and what you believe. Then, give it a voice in the manner that you choose and allow it to be shared with others. Just like in a classroom setting, this will allow you to make connections, build relationships and create community with others. This is how we move forward. This is how we learn. This is how we grow.
Here is an example of our Padlet about their favorite 6th grade memories: