Free Tools for the Backchannel

by | Posted March 31st, 2013

I’m a big fan of the backchannel and am always looking for more ways to incorporate it into my work, particularly as a way to generate instant feedback during presentations. I also imagine the backchannel as a valuable stream of feedback for classrooms too. The two tools featured here are TodaysMeet and PollEverywhere.

TodaysMeet logoTodaysMeet works like a chat room – you create a room, choose a timeframe for how long the room stays open (two hours to one month), enter your name, then start chatting. The text box is limited to 140 characters, just like a tweet. TodaysMeet is very much intended for backchannel communication. They write on the About page, “Imagine you’re giving a presentation where you can read the mind of every person in the room. You’d have an amazing ability to adjust to your audience’s needs and emotions. That’s the backchannel.” How could you integrate this tool into your classroom space, across an assignment, during a workshop or presentation?

PollEverywhere logoPollEverywhere approaches the backchannel a bit differently, identifying itself as an audience response system. First, it’s anonymous; there is no space to enter a name, which could generate interesting responses. Additionally, instead of creating a room like TodaysMeet, you pose a prompt or a question. PollEverywhere is also not bound by the 140 character limit. And probably the coolest feature of PollEverywhere is its mobile capabilities. Folks can respond to your prompt through text message, Twitter, smartphones, tablets, and computer – any web-enabled device. Keep in mind the free version of PollEverywhere limits your poll to 40 responses. This web tool is more robust than I have space for here, so I hope you take this as an invitation to explore integrating these free backchannel tools into your work.