Last week, I finally tried a new idea. I heard from multiple sources that Todaysmeet, an online chat website, could be used as a backchannel during class. One appealing idea was to use it with Socratic Circles. The idea of a Socratic Circle is to have two circles of students, one inner circle and one outer circle. The inner circle discusses a question or a series of questions, while the outer circle analyzes the discussion. With Todaysmeet, the outer circle analyzes the discussion in real-time, and in some cases, the online discussion can be projected onto a screen in the front of the room.
I went ahead with this last week, and it was a great success. I posted the discussion onto our Smart board so all students could see the discussion unfold. Everyone was totally engaged with the discussion and posted frequently on the backchannel. Those in the middle were startled to see analysis posted while they were talking. I was shocked by the fact that I didn’t need to tell anyone to stay on Todaysmeet or pay attention to the discussion, which I would have surely done without the backchannel.
I did learn that I have to work on online discussion skills with the students. There were plenty of times where the comment “I like what Jonathan had to say” was repeated by may students. I also want students in the outer ring to directly engage in the conversation by questioning those in the inner circle, rather than act like spectators.
Nevertheless, this tool gives me a great place to start.