Create a backchannel with TodaysMeet
A backchannel is a secondary or hidden path for communication. It generally refers to Twitter conversations during a presentation of some kind. Some instructors who teach large courses encourage backchannel communication, and my colleagues in the professional development field often use a backchannel during workshops and presentations.
You can use a backchannel at the beginning of a session to ask participants what they know about today’s topic. During the session it can help you field questions and diagnose misunderstandings. And afterwards it’s a way to collect anonymous feedback. Participants often use a backchannel to share notes and reactions to a presentation:
- Quotable quotes from the speaker
- New discoveries and surprising ideas
- Related images and videos
- Articles, websites, and news items
TodaysMeet is a free web-based tool that lets you conduct an online conversation in a quiet place. It’s like Twitter, only simpler and more private. You only see what you need to see, and your audience doesn’t need to learn a new tool. Here’s how TodaysMeet works:
- Launch the site on a laptop or tablet. It’s okay on an iPhone … a bit cramped.
- Name a room and decide how long you want it archived (from 2 hours to 1 year).
- Give yourself a name, real or made up. No account is required.
- Share the room’s address with participants.
- Type into the message box – 140 characters or fewer. Links will be live if they begin with www.
I saw TodaysMeet in use at a conference and thought it would be fun to try in a workshops on my campus. One thought was to gather several first generation iPads, place one at each table at a session, and have each group designate a person to respond to discussion prompts.
TodaysMeet is very simple but does offer some options. You can create two rooms if you want some conversations where the participants are identified and others where they are anonymous. There’s a “projector” mode with a larger display and no message box, as well as a “transcript” mode for printing or saving. There’s an option to display a colored bar to distinguish one conversant from another.
Sources and resources
- 7 Things You Should Know about Backchannel Communications (Educause)
- 18-Point Twitter Primer (Tim Berry, Huff. Post)
- Backchannel Etiquette Served Up (Communicators Anonymous)
- Backchannels (Richard Byrne)
- Free Tools for the Backchannel (Michigan State)
Tip o’ the hat to Christy Price at Dalton State College, who inspired this post by using TodaysMeet in her session at the POD Conference on Saturday.