digital citizenship

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.

Positive Post Friday: 9/9/16

It’s Friday and that means it’s time for another Positive Post Friday!

Fridays mark the end of the work week. Fridays mark the start of the weekend. Fridays should end the week on a positive note. Therefore, I’m going to share 5 positive things that happened this week:

1. I had an interesting encounter with some 6th grade boys this week. I walk into the school usually around the same time as the students. They were behind me. I had my jacket, backpack, and lunchbox. They came up beside me and asked if my name was Javier. I had to inform them that I was their ITRT named Miss B… the look on their faces was priceless!

2. I have been working on design staff development courses using Google Classroom. This week I finished up designing my course for Seesaw, the digital portfolio website, and for Google Forms. Three courses designed now.

3. I have been working on building up a crew for my Connected Educator PD. I have 10 people, and this week I surveyed them, designed my templates for both Twitter and blogging, and had my first meeting with one of the teachers. It was great and I feel like I can definitely do this. I figure I’ll do better as I do more sessions with folks.

4. I worked with a SPED teacher this week to plan some lessons on digital citizenship for his students. We are starting with communication and learning how to send a proper email. He wants his kids to be able to communicate with their peers and professionals and I will do my first lesson with his kids on Tuesday.

5. This week #wvedchat had an amazing edchat session on Tuesday evening. We worked really hard to make it better based on the plans that Rikki, Derek, and I discussed and it was successful. We had our best group of participants since the April switch to using for stats. I hope it keeps up!

Necessity of Digital Citizenship – #1 Illegal Downloading/Filesharing

This will be the first of what will hopefully be many reasons as to why it’s important to teach digital citizenship in the school system. It’s a subject sometimes pushed aside for other things, or where some parts are more heavily focused on than others. Most of what will go here will be my own experiences, or experiences that are related to me.

All of this came about due to a conversation I had yesterday with someone in their early 20s. It was focused on music and downloading instead of purchasing. In short, they felt that it was okay to download music instead of purchasing it because they had other things to take care of instead. Illegal downloading and file sharing had been a topic I had recently focused on with 1st graders, and I was surprised to find this person so clearly feeling this way. They were not worried about consequences or ever being caught for what they were doing.

Before I go further, I’m not innocent on this topic. I grew up in the age of Napster, Kazaa, and LimeWire, and any other services of similar ilk. I was a user of LimeWire, although not extensively, and of course when the RIAA began their crackdown that came as a shock. I was a silly high school kid then, and it wasn’t until I was mostly through college where I quit any sort illegal downloading. I didn’t have much, and I got rid of what I had. The idea of teaching lessons on file sharing and illegal downloading wasn’t really a priority at the time, though crackdowns were happening more and more.

However, it’s a different time and age now. Creator’s rights and copyright are more visible on the news than they were back then. Lessons for teaching about illegal downloading and file sharing are more abundant than ever, yet when it comes to digital citizenship, we focus more on research tactics and plagiarism. While key components, they tend to overshadow the other components.

If we fail to teach all components of Digital Citizenship, we are going to continue to have high school graduates participating in illegal file sharing and downloading. As with other things, they feel as though they are invincible and won’t be caught. To them, it’s not about stealing money from the artist, or paying them for creating their work. It’s about having something for free just because they can, or because they feel justified in doing so due to other bills. Why pay for a good when it can be gotten for free? Stealing music isn’t put on the same shelf as stealing from a store, even though stealing a digital copy of a CD is still giving you the same content as if you’d stolen the CD from the store.

If you’re looking for some sources to begin teaching this component of Digital Citizenship, try checking out:


Change will take time, but it must be made clear to students at a young age that downloading music illegally and filesharing are not OK and never will be considered such.