Backchannels and Microblogging Streams

These two things are really kissing cousins.

The backchannel has really become my favorite tool of choice when I'm presenting. I've purchased an inexpensive ad-free chat room at Chatzy that is password protected and use it for my backchannels when I present.

I like to find two people to help: one to serve as Google Jockey (a/k/a Link dropper) and another to serve as a moderator — posing questions to me when I take a breath and ask.

Gomeric Hill talked about the backchannel on a blog post.

“The WebEx interface they were using to present Vicki’s Flat Classroom project has a chat that was used throughout her presentation as a backchannel discussion. As Vicki talked, the conversation in the chat replied to her, responded to her, posted questions for her and assisted with answering questions without Vicki’s help. Sometimes the chat updated slowly and at other times, the information was being added so quickly it was hard to keep up with the glut of information being added to the chat. I learned as much from the backchannel discussion as I did from Vicki…”

Here was my response:

I think this is a great post for several reasons:

1) It demonstrates HOW things are happening now. A viral mashup of services, stream of activity and happy accidents.

2) It also demonstrates the power of the backchannel. I personally believe that the backchannel is the greatest unharnessed resource that we as educators have available to us. It does not threaten me nor bother me that you learned as much if not more from the backchannel the other night — in fact, it makes me feel great that I facilitated the connection.

I believe a good presenter pushes the backchannel to do more by asking questions of it, encouraging the backchannel to communicate and share, and prodding it to communicate about the topic at hand.

I wonder if it is the “sage on the stage” type environment we've all grown up in that makes us THINK that the best thing on the menu should be the “main course” — the presenter. When, in fact, the backchannel has so many more people involved — really, it should give the most resources and insights and just add to what the presenter is saying.

Of course, there is backchannel netiquette as we discussed, however, I thought the backchannel was phenomenal.

Kudos on a great post!

Microblogging streams
These are RSS feeds or searches enabled by the use of a twitter search engine like Terraminds — searching on a keyword.

With our Twitter Bookgroup, a person can join the bookgroup and then just type @bookgroup in their response and it will appear on the RSS feed. (Note: You must have your responses allowed in the public areas of twitter and not be protected.)

See what this looks like at the Terraminds @bookgroup search — so to make this simple — it is aggregating all of the people discussing the book and we didn't really have to do anything except just create a wiki. @digitalmaverick is the bookgroup mastermind and it is starting to take shape.

Aggregating ourselves
So, let me pose these questions:

1) What if some teachers coordinated a group skype discussion and enabled a backchannel chat with their students between the classes?

2) What if we came up with a twitter group for the major pieces of literature and set up a wiki page for each of them — we could aggregate the thoughts of students and they could even send thoughts to it from their cell phones?

3) What if we just came up with a few standards of keywords to use for books or events or just about anything to aggregate the thoughts of students or teachers.

I'm trying this out — if you'll go to your twitter account and type in #cw2 and then put a cool web 2 website, we should be able to follow the RSS feed for this at – once it populates.

Just think about what happens when we connect. Let's use our minds here and we can really come up with some useful ways to give more students a global audience without inundating us all with too much.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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1 comment

Classroom Queen February 28, 2008 - 3:23 am

I’m part of EC&I 831 with Alec Couros in Regina, Canada. A typical class for us is a presenter on Elluminate complete with back channel chat, on top of that the session is being viewed on Ustream which also has a back channel chat. There’s always amazing discussions going about the presentation, as well, thekyleguy or robwall always have the links and info ready for the other participants. If you’re still feeling disconnected you can always check out what’s going on in Twitter. I can only imagine what will happen when I give my students this opportuity.

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