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Monday, January 24, 2011

Backchan.nl - A Backchannel With Voting Features

Backchan.nl is an open-source backchannel tool developed at the MIT Media Lab. Using Backchan.nl you can create an online forum through which users can exchange messages in response to a presentation they're watching. There are a lot of free services that do the same thing, but there are a couple of things that make Backchan.nl different. Backchan.nl allows you to select a start and end time for your backchannel. As the administrator of a Backchan.nl account you can create and manage multiple backchannels and schedule them to go live at different times. Backchan.nl also includes voting tools that participants can use to vote messages up or down.

Applications for Education
One of the aspects of Backchan.nl that I'm excited about is the option to create multiple channels ahead of time. This will be a useful time-saver on the days when I have four consecutive classes and I want each class to have its own channel.

As I mentioned during my Reform Symposium presentation about backchannels in the classroom, student backchanneling solves a few challenges that all teachers face at one time or another. Those challenges are having time to hear every student's question or comment, providing voice for shy students, and improving the relevance and timeliness of your responses to students and their responses to each other. The recording of my presentation is now available here (clicking the link will open an Elluminate page). 

Here are a couple examples of using a backchannel in an elementary school classroom. Here is an example of how I've used backchannels with my high school students.