Wednesday, September 19, 2018

7 Reasons to Try Using Backchannels in Your Classroom

A couple of the most popular posts that I have published lately were about creating backchannel chats to use in your classroom. In response to those posts some readers have sent questions asking for more explanation of why they should try tools like Backchannel Chat or Yo Teach. Here are some reasons to try using a backchannel chat in your classroom.

1. A Voice for Shy Students
Typing a response or asking a question in a backchannel chat can be a little less intimidating for some students who aren't comfortable asking questions aloud.

2. An Outlet for Chatty Students
We've all had that student who wants to say something about everything. A backchannel chat gives that student a place to ask all of the questions that he/she can think of.

3. Extend Classroom Discussions
If you've ever had a great classroom discussion cut short by the sound of the bell, a backchannel can help. With an online backchannel chat your students can continue to add comments and questions to the discussion after the school day ends.

4. Post Quick Warm-up/ "Do Now" Activities
Do you need a place to post little activities for your kids to do when they walk into your classroom? If so, post those warm-up activities in a backchannel chat for students to see when they open their laptops or unlock their iPads.

5. Preserve the Flow of a Presentation/ Video
Whenever I have shown videos in a classroom there have always been students who want to ask questions about what they're seeing and others who are annoyed by those questions interrupting the flow of the video. By using a backchannel the students who need to ask questions can do so and I can respond to them without breaking the flow of the presentation for the other students.

6. Create a Record of a Classroom Discussion
Have you ever had a student who was absent during a great classroom discussion come back to you a day later and ask, "what did I miss?" If so, a backchannel chat could be a solution for you. Using a backchannel to have kids share their questions and their comments creates a record of some of the highlights of your classroom discussion.

7. Practice Good Digital Citizenship
Hosting a backchannel chat for class by using a tool like Backchannel Chat or Yo Teach! can provide you with good opportunity to have your students develop digital citizenship skills in the form of respectful online discussion. Both Backchannel Chat and Yo Teach let you remove inappropriate comments and mute students who don't adhere to the standards that you have set for online discussion.

If You Manage a School Facebook Page, Watch Out for This Scam

I manage a handful of Facebook Pages. This morning when I logged into Facebook I had notifications that "Verified Facebook Page" had requested administrative access to those pages. This seemed phishy to me and so rather than just clicking "accept" I stopped and thought about it then did a little research before ultimately determining that it was a phishing attempt that would have given complete control of my Facebook pages to a stranger if I hadn't caught it first. Here's how the scam works and how I figured it out.

How the "Verified Facebook Page" Scam Works

  • Someone creates a Facebook account that he/she calls "Verified Facebook Page" or something similarly named to make you think that Facebook is actually reaching out to you.
  • Said person then sends requests to you as the owner/administrator of your Facebook Page asking for administrative access. 
    • If you grant administrative access to the fake "Verified Facebook Page" account, the owner of that fake account then goes in and changes the settings, content, and will attempt to lock you out of the page that you own. 

How I Detected the "Verified Facebook Page" Scam

  • Since I had previously done some research on the process of getting the little blue verified checkmark that you see on pages verified by Facebook, I knew that the pages I manage are not eligible for the verified status (the reasons why are a point of contention, but that's a topic for another day).
  • I also know from experience of managing pages for many years, Facebook doesn't just send a request without an explanation in the form of a FB inbox message, an email, a phone call, or all three in some cases. (Phone calls are rare and you shouldn't expect one unless you have hundreds of thousands of followers or you spend a lot of money on Facebook advertising).
  • I know that Facebook doesn't need to request access to a page if they want to do anything to it. They can suspend any page at any time for policy violations or to simply respond to suspected account security breach.
  • I did a quick Google search for "Verified Facebook Page Scam" and found plenty of examples of page administrators getting locked out of their pages after approving administrative access for "Verified Facebook Page."
The Bottom Line for Administrators of School Facebook Pages
  • If you get a request for administrative access to your Facebook page when you weren't expecting one and or from someone you don't recognize, deny the request and report it to Facebook as suspicious activity. 
    • If someone who actually works for Facebook is trying to contact you, it won't be through a simple request without an explanation. 

Anchor Adds New "Smart" Background Music to Podcasts

Anchor is a podcast recording and publishing tool that I have been writing about all year. I started writing about it because using it is the easiest way to record, edit, and publish podcasts. I've continued to write about it because the new features seem to be added every month. This month's new Anchor feature is a library of background music tracks.

Anchor's library of background music contains one hundred tracks that you can use for free in your podcast episodes. Anchor calls the tracks "smart background music" because the volume of the tracks automatically adjusts to the volume of spoken words in the podcasts.

Applications for Education
Hearing their voices on isolated vocal tracks can be a bit unsettling for some students. Many times they'll say, "I don't sound like that" or "I hate how my voice sounds." Adding background music can make the podcast sound a bit less isolated, dampen echoes, and generally make students feel a little more comfortable with the sounds of their voices in a podcast.

Watch the following video to learn how to get started making podcasts on Anchor.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Use Flippity to Make a Multimedia Timeline

Flippity is a site that I have recommended for years as a place to find templates that you can use in Google Sheets to make things like flashcards, quiz games, and random name pickers. Recently, I noticed that Flippity has added a template for making multimedia timelines.

Flippity's multimedia timeline template is rather easy to use. To use it, simply make a copy of it from Flippity's homepage and then fill in the information that you want to display on your timeline. You can include text, pictures, videos, and slideshows within each event on your timeline. To include pictures, videos, and slideshows you paste the URLs at which they're available online into a column in your Google Sheet. Publish your spreadsheet to the web after you have entered all of the information and media links that you want to display. Your published spreadsheet will then be used by Flippity to generate a multimedia timeline that you can view online. Take a look at this sample to see how a timeline made with Flippity looks.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for a flexible and free tool that your students can use to create a multimedia timeline, Flippity's free timeline template is worth trying. Students can collaborate on making a timeline by sharing the Google Sheet in which they are entering dates, text, and media.

The Places Where I Will Be Presenting This Fall

I am fortunate to be invited to speak at many conferences and schools every year. In the last couple of years since my first daughter was born I have had to alter my travel schedule. I still speak at a couple of events every month and work with a school or two every month. The following is a list of the places where I will speaking this fall. Most of my spring schedule has filled in, but I still have some space available in my December and January calendars. Please send me an email at richardbyrne (at) if you are interested in having me speak at your school or conference. Click here for more information about my speaking and professional development services.

  • September 21st - ESC-20 Library Resource Round-up
  • October 5th - Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston Teachers' Convention
  • October 21st & 22nd - CECA/CASL Annual Conference
  • November 7th - EdTechTeacher Innovation Summit 
  • November 27th-29th - LACUE Annual Conference
Please send me an email at richardbyrne (at) if you are interested in having me speak at your school or conference.