Sunday, February 22, 2009

Backchanneling Basics #1 - Defined

Seems like opening up with a definition might be a pretty good place to start. What is a backchannel? Wikipedia has a pretty decent definition that you can check out here. To think about it a different way, think of a traditional chat room but with a purpose. The chat room runs in parallel with something else. The conversation is guided. Sometimes the guide is as simple as the topic itself: a group of people decide to discuss a presentation while it is occurring. Sometimes the guide is a series of questions asked as students take somethig in visually. Perhaps students could simply be asked to present their observations of something they are observing or listening to.

As long as the backchannel is purposeful and driven toward an end educational goal, I think it is relevant to the classroom. Use it if you think your students are ready for the challenge and capable of putting together their thoughts using a keyboard. The possibilities are only limited by your creativity and imagination.


Damian said...

What are your thoughts on having a backchannel "moderator"? Maybe a student, classroom aide, or co-teacher to keep discussion on topic and moving? Or does that just add to the already-noisy backchannel?

Anonymous said...

Damian, I have used a co-moderator on two occasions, and I definitely would consider it again. The first time I did it, we didn't plan nearly enough and ended up posting some comments multiple times. The second time out, we put each of us in charge of approving sets of comments.

I actually like the idea of co-moderation because it helps to get comments and questions posted quickly in a particularly active chat room. So far, I have only used a co-teacher although I wouldn't be opposed to a student or aide helping out too. On the student side, it would definitely have to be a very trusted student.