Private Chat: A Gift to Students

One tool we can use this year to help students reluctant to verbalize contributions in class is the private chat feature of most conferencing software.

(Day 29 of my 30-Day Writing Challenge)

Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash

Fellow teachers told me that the private chat feature of conferencing software helped students who would not normally contribute to class discussions. All students had to do was send a private message to the teacher during class, and the teacher would provide feedback privately in return. This process eliminated the fear of being wrong in front of their classmates, who may or may not be supportive.

This development was unanticipated, and teachers were thrilled! We all want students to be comfortable. A safe environment for learning makes deeper learning possible.

Essentially, students felt more comfortable sharing solely with the teacher, so they participated more. Over the course of the year, their participation increased. With encouragement from the teacher, some students even started verbalizing on occasion.

Practice helps build confidence. Practicing in a low-risk environment supports building self-confidence.

Teachers could easily gauge the student’s progress with a concept or skill too. This made the formative assessment process much easier. The chat also helped teachers get to know these students better than ever.

Let’s Keep the Private Chat

Launch a Conference

I suggest keeping the private chat. If your conferencing software supports it, launch a conference during class. Invite your students to join it.

There is another benefit to launching the conference: You can share material that you are also sharing via a projector or Apple TV, ensuring that all students can view the material clearly. Last year, I had everyone in class (in-person and online) join the conference. Then, everyone could view the materials clearly.

Backchannel Chat

Another way to implement private chat is to use software called “Backchannel Chat.” My LMS allows us to install it as an app, but it is buggy. That doesn’t matter, though, because you can share a link with your students.

“Backchannel Chat” now supports private messages from student to teacher. After you share the room code with your students, demonstrate how to send a private message.

Note: “Backchannel Chat” was built for use in schools. There are other chat tools out there, but I would not recommend them if they are not intended for use in schools.

If you have other suggestions for helping students participate in class, please leave a comment. I can’t wait to read and respond to them.

Thank you for reading this, my twenty-ninth post in my 30-Day Writing Challenge. One day to go!

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