Sunday, March 15, 2009

Backchanneling Basics #4 - Relevance Continued

This week I'd like to continue talking about the educational relevance of backchanneling. In addition to the coaching idea I wrote about toward the end of last week's post (students answering each other's questions and explaining difficult concepts), I'd like to talk about the other educationally relevant uses of backchannels.

Besides having students interact with each other during a content presentation, a teacher might use a backchannel to have students comment on something they are watching and make connections to what they already know. Questions could be posed to the students to see if they are understanding content in the intended way. Students could be given a heads-up ("This is going to be important!") about some aspect of the material about to be presented, so they are mentally focused on it and not caught by surprise.

On the flip side of the coin, a student can pose a question in the middle of the presentation and get an almost immediate answer to the question from his or her peers or the teacher. In this use, students can get their thinking straight and don't have to wait for the teacher to pause (which might often be much later in class) to get their questions answered. In this use, the students might not loose understanding of all the content that follows the confusing aspect they had a question about.

To round out this week, I wanted to share some other articles I located on backchannel use. Some show it in a positive light, as I see it, while some take a look at the downsides of the process. See the following links for some additional reading, and decide for yourself where you stand.

Backchannels and Mythbusting - Digital Natives Blog
Ira Socol Brings the Backchannel Forward
The Laptop and the Lecture: The Effects of Multitasking in Learning Environments
The Myth of Multitasking
Back Channel Use? : eLearning Technology

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