Fluco Toolbox: Backchannel Chat

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based on your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever wanted your students to have an online moderated discussion on a topic in small groups? Wished to incorporate digital citizenship skills into a group chat?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Backchannel Chat

First, the basics:

Name: Backchannel Chat
Cost: FREE version / $15 per year paid version
Problem this tool solves: Students can participate in online moderated discussions, whether in small groups or whole groups. Teachers can have students join with their Google accounts, and can download transcripts after the chat is over. Great for informal written assessments of students’ knowledge!

I have to thank two 6th grade ELA teachers that I work with, Dawn Baber and Melanie Kennedy, for finding this particular tool. I had no idea that it existed. We have used this tool already for Socratic seminars and loved it. Check out this post and this post for more information on integrating it!

Backchannel Chat is an online classroom discussion tool. It’s similar to other online chatroom websites for teachers or presenters and comes with its own host of features. There are 2 sides – a free side and a paid side. The free side comes with the basics. Teachers can create a chatroom, get a link to share it, have the ability to remove chat messages and mute students, lock a room, get a web transcript, have 30 students in a room at a time, and search an archived chat for 3 months after creation. The paid side adds on PDF chat transcripts, private messaging, add polls, share files, have 50 students in a room at a time, and search archived chats forever. The paid upgrade is $15 for an entire year and may be worth it to educators who find themselves using this feature often.


Creating a chat is simple: go to the website listed above and select the blue “Try for FREE as a TEACHER” A window will pop up and ask for the following: your email, display name, and name for the chat. Once you click “Start”, an email will be sent to the address provided with information to access the chat at a later time. The chat will also immediately load.



On the right side, users in the chat will appear. Anyone who has joined as a teacher will see an icon with a mortarboard and glasses. Student names will appear as the first part of their email addresses.

Here are some simple controls:

  • Send a message: Type text in the box at the bottom of the chat screen and either press “Enter” or select the green “Send” button.
  • Mute a student: Click the gears to the right of the student name and check the box that says “Read-Only Mode”. Then click update. The student’s name will be highlighted in red. To turn this off, click the gears again, and then click “Update” without selecting anything else.
  • Remove messages: Remove inappropriate messages by click the X in the upper right corner of the message.
  • Like a message: Click the thumbs up icon by the sender’s name in the message
  • Pin a message: Pin important messages to the top of the chat window by clicking the thumbtack icon in the desired message.
  • Lock the chat: Keep anyone from sending messages by clicking the lock icon at the top of the chat screen to the left of “Settings”
  • Chat stats: See how many times students have participated in the chat by clicking “Settings” and then stats. Each student’s name will be listed, with the number of messages they have sent listed below their name.
  • Download a chat transcript: Click “Settings” and then “Download Transcript”. Paid users will be able to download a PDF, and free users can view a web transcript. This can be saved as an HTML file.
  • Clear a chat: To clear anything that has been said in chat, follow the steps above for “Download a chat transcript” and then select to clear the room.

For those of you who are Google educators, you can force students to join the chat with their Google accounts. First, you’ll need the original web address. After the /chat/ part of the URL, add g/. This will force students to log in with their Google account. See the example below:

This tool is great to incorporate into small group discussions on a variety of topics. We have found it works great in conjunction with a Socratic seminar, and prepares students to speak on the chosen topic. Teachers will want to make sure to teach proper chat etiquette and academic speak while using this tool. Teachers may also find this tool useful if they would like to have a chat space to host office hours. Chat could be locked outside of the posted times.

If you have a different way to use the tool, feel free to make suggestions. Hopefully, Backchannel chat helps you and your students have deeper discussions!


Backchannel Chat FAQ – The website has put together an FAQ section to assist with any needs.

Using Padlet as a Discussion Board

Back in January, I discussed Padlet on a Fluco Toolbox post. I’ve had some teachers work to integrate it since then, and have received feedback from them. I have also observed some of the integration and thought I’d put together a quick post for teachers who would like to use Padlet for discussion boards. Padlet has many other uses, and this is just one way. It can also be used across the curriculum and isn’t restricted to just one area.



This is a discussion created for a Minecraft-based Ideal School Project.


Using Padlet as a discussion board means that the teacher is posting a question that requires in-depth discussion, and requires students to provide text evidence or other evidence of their claims. In theory, teachers would prefer that students provide a quality answer of decent length, and also that students would respond to each other’s answers.

Students can create accounts on Padlet, and this is made easier when they sign up with their Google account. Districts who do not use Google may choose not to have students create accounts. Creating an account lets posts be attributed to a student, and allows comments made to be listed with the student name and not “Anonymous”. Accounts do not have to be created to post or comment, so this is entirely up to the teacher’s discretion.

Using Padlet with students also means incorporating a discussion on how to post to an online discussion forum. This is a great way to bring in digital citizenship. Unless students have had prior teachers who taught this skill, they do not innately know how to respond to an online discussion. “What’s up?” and “Hi homie!” are more likely to be posted than an enlightening answer to that Shakespeare question. Without a discussion on how to post, students will drive their teacher crazy, and perhaps force them to give up using the tool altogether.

Teachers should model how to post in the online forum. If students have created an account, their name will appear as an author. If not, teachers should instruct students to put their first and last name in the Title of their Padlet post. Students should also have a title for their post. In the body of the post, teacher models answering the discussion question, and provides text-based or other evidence to support any claims. Padlet allows the attaching of files or links, and students can use these tools to their advantage to add to their response.


An example of part of a teacher modeled answer.

Students can then practice answering on the topic that has been provided for the current class. The teacher can observe as students post, and make suggestions. If students have accounts, they will be able to edit their work and make changes.

After students have had a chance to create their responses to the provided question, the teacher can then model how to reply in an online forum. Often, this can be difficult for students. The teacher should model how a reply can add more information to the original post, disagree with an explanation, and encourage more back and forth discussion. If students have accounts, then every reply will show a student’s name, instead of just anonymous.


A sample teacher response to a student’s posted answer.

After the teacher has modeled how to respond to another student’s post, students should pick one post to respond to. The teacher can see all responses as they are posted, and can make suggestions for students along the way. If the teacher determines that students are doing well with their responses, then they can continue to respond to others, or reply back and forth. The teacher should encourage students to have a conversation about the post, rather than simply saying “Good job”.

As students become more confident in their work with Padlet, teachers will see the depth of responses increase, as well as the discussions. Teachers can then use the completed discussion boards to assess students or to aide in future classroom discussions. Using Padlet as a discussion board is just one way to use this tool. How do you use it in your classroom?


Fluco Toolbox: Remind

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever wanted to be able to keep in touch with parents about their student, all without revealing your personal contact information? Have you wanted to share reminders about trip dates, homework, tests, and more?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Remind

First, the basics:

Name: Remind (Formerly Remind101)
Cost: FREE (with options for paid school & district plans)
Problem this tool solves: Lets you keep in touch with parents and students via email, app, or text message without giving away any personal contact information.

Many times teachers, coaches, club advisors, and more want to keep in touch with parents or students. They might want to share deadlines, upcoming events, or important information. However, they want to do this without giving away any personal contact information. Do you find yourself wanting to do this as well? Then read on!

Remind is a text messaging application that is completely free, and allows teachers to communicate with students and parents, without any need for personal information. Teachers can message individual people, send announcements to the whole class, or start a group discussion (if settings are enabled to allow this). Messages can be received via the website, email, or text message, making it easier to connect with your community where they are.

The first step is to go the Remind website and create an account. If you are part of a Google school, you can easily connect your Google account to the service. Once you’ve created an account, you’ll be taken to your dashboard. Of course, if nothing is there, it will be empty. Once you have classes set up, the first class will show by default, and you can select the other classes as you need them:


In this example, you can see my default class is a Fluco Game Designers course. I can see any all messages sent to the class, as well as the members. To the left of the screen are further tools for me to utilize.

It’s time to get rid of that empty dashboard. First, click on “Create a Class” on the left side of the screen. A window will pop up, and ask you to provide some basic details about the class. Give the class a name, create a class code (or use the default one provided), and connect the class to a school. If the class is not part of any school, simply select the “Not affiliated” option in the menu. Agree to the terms, and then create the class.


On the next screen, you can go ahead and add people to your class. You can enter email addresses or phone numbers. If you don’t yet have contact information, or you would rather give your class a code, then explore the other options presented, such as printing a PDF file, telling parents to text the class code to a number, or emailing the code to a group of people. If you prefer not to do anything at this time, simply close the window.


Congratulations! You’ve created your first class, and perhaps added some people to it. Now it’s time to take a look at how to change message settings and send messages to your group.

First, we’ll need to customize your message settings. To access the settings, you can either click the circle with your last name initial in the upper left corner, or check the initial welcome message for the class. There’s a link to message settings there.


Change the types of notifications you receive, and the numbers/email addresses used. If you don’t people to reply to your messages, you can activate this option here, as well as choose to receive copies of class announcements. Please note that whatever you change on this screen applies to ALL classes you have created.


Now let’s modify the settings for the class you just created. Return to the dashboard for the class, and click the gear icon in the upper right corner. You can edit the information about a class at any time, and even add more owners to the class. You’ll now notice an option for people in the class to be able to message each other. You’ll want to uncheck this box if you do not want this feature enabled.


You can send a message directly to everyone in the class from the dashboard of the class by clicking in the message box at the bottom of the screen. You can also send a message by clicking the blue pencil icon by messages. If you click the pencil icon, you’ll see options to send a class announcement, start a group conversation, or send an individual message.


Once an option is selected, a new box will appear on the screen. You can create a message, and even translate it into over 70 different languages. There are also options to add files, images, and video to the message. Messages can be sent right away, or scheduled to be sent at a future date. Very handy for scheduling important dates in advance!


Finally, you’re set! Enjoy Remind, and connecting with all of your parents and students, without the hassle of dealing with personal information.

Worried about how Remind complies with various guidelines and regulations? Check out this link. Remind has provided information to help put one’s mind at ease!

Not in the classroom? You may still find Remind to be a useful tool. I am part of the Remind group for #wvedchat on Twitter. I’ve signed up via text, so whenever there is an upcoming edchat, I’ll get a reminder to my phone about the date, time, and topic.