My students spent the past two days using a Twitter backchannel to communicate, share ideas and resources during a math test. Here’s a taste of what it looked like:
I saw students very quiet in a setting that needed to be, yet still communicating through the backchannel. I witnessed them interested in responding to tweets for help, and sharing advice or strategies through the twitter stream. Most importantly, I saw students focussing on feedback and improvement during a ‘test’, rather than on their grade or what ranking they would be assigned as compared to the standard.
Afterwards, we had a class discussion where I asked the students a) Is this cheating? b) what is challenging about leaving the backchannel open? and c) in what ways did the backchannel help you? Here are a sample of their responses:
Is this cheating?
At first I thought it was, but then I realized it’s not cheating because it doesn’t help just to get an answer.
It’s not cheating because we’re just trying to help each other get better.
Some people would call it cheating but it just helped me get the math better.
What is challenging about having the backchannel open?
It’s so weird being allowed to do it that it’s kind of distracting at first, but then you learn to use it only when you need it.
Sometimes it’s distracting.
So many people say so many different things that I don’t understand it sometimes.
In what ways did the backchannel help you?
It let me talk but still stay quiet.
It made the test fun.
It helped me focus.
It helped me compare my thinking to other people.
At first I was embarrassed to ask questions, but then I saw some people like S—– who are good at math asking questions so I thought ‘Fine, it’s OK.’