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.

Backchanneling Basics

The series of posts under the title Backchanneling Basics will overview and discuss various aspects of backchanneling. From definitions to product options to uses in the classroom, I'll try to cover a different aspect of backchanneling each week. Hope you find some use here, and if you have any questions, leave a comment and I will get back to you or address your question in a future post.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

If they had asked me...

If I went down to EduCon 2.1 a day early to check out what was happening in the English classes at SLA. Zac Chase's class started with this journal prompt: "If they asked me, I could have told them..." The genesis for the rest had been rolling around in my head for awhile, so here is the result.


If they asked me, I could have told them the best laid lesson plans don't always go the way one expects, especially when technology is involved. At any given moment, the network will crash, and the glorious lesson plan you had ready to go will suddenly be useless. I could have told them to always have a back-up plan for the event of when (not if) the network will crash. I could have told them that the site you checked out yesterday will inevitably be blocked today, so have a back-up plan. I could have told them that network protocols are constantly being changed, so always check to see if your access is still present. I could have told them that what works on the teacher's computer might not work the same on the students' computers, so always try the activity on those machines before going live. If they had only asked me...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Seven things you don't know about me

My friend Lori tagged me a few weeks back, and I'm finally getting around to writing this post. With that said, here are seven things you don't know about me...

1. I'm not a technology coach; I'm a classroom teacher. High School. English, public speaking, and theater. Someone I've known for about a year now was surprised to find that out. I guess I act like a techie most times.

2. I live on 7.5 acres of wooded property on the side of mountain in York County, PA. If you don't know the address or have specific directions, you are never going to find the house.

3. My partner and I have been together coming up on 11 years. We consider Dairy Queen "our spot" since that's where we met for the first time.

4. Although I was part of an international educational conference this past fall (K12 Online), I've only ever been to Canada when it comes to international travel.

5. I go to dinner almost every Thursday night with the same group of people and have been doing so for 16 years now. We set up a schedule three months in advance and distribute to everyone in the group, so everyone just knows where to show up every week at 6:00. I've only ever been "stood up" once in all those years. A few times there have been only two of us, but the group usually consists of between four and eight of us. Before I joined the group, everyone was a Special Education teacher. In the years since, we have grown to include a Chemistry Teacher, a pilot, and a banker. Several of the group members are now retire yet continue to attend regularly.

6. I watch Nascar whenever I can. It's good background noise while I'm reading essays.

7. Thanks to my partner, all the iPods in my house are named. We have Darth ViPod (a black video iPod with a Star Wars name), Mr. Shuffleupigus (an original iPod Shuffle...the gum stick one...with Mr. Snuffleupigus of Sesame Street in mind), Reddy Nano Pod (a red iPod Nano, named after the electric company mascot Reddy Kilowatt, and WhoPod (an iPod Touch, named because of The Who's lyric "See me, feel me, touch me.").

There you have it. Next post will be a little more on topic. I promise.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Big Playdates

That's what my partner has termed my attendance at two conferences in the last three weeks. And while making fun of me to some extent, it's a pretty accurate description of my attendance at EduCon 2.1 and Pete&C. I've gotten to meet up with a bunch of great educators from around Pennsylvania and the United States, I've met a number of people in my Twitter network for the first time face to face, and I've gotten to catch up with some really close friends.

I also have taken pause to think about where I am with my teaching and where I am professionally. The conversations of EduCon and the presentations of Pete&C have both given me much to think about, and there is much I would like to try to do in and out of my classroom in the coming weeks and months.

With all that said, my hope is to approach my blog with a renewed vigor. So, what that said, let me take care of a little bit of housekeeping. Just before EduCon, my friend Lori tagged me in the "Seven things you don't know about me" meme. I'll honor her tag in the next several days, but I'm not sure I'll invite anyone else to play along. The bloggers I personally know have all been tagged already, so there's no need to hit them again. Second, I wrote a blog post as a result of my attendance at EduCon, and within the week, I'll post that to along with the background that led to it. I am quite proud of it actually, and it, more than the meme, actually applies to the intent and spirit with which I started this blog.

Finally, my Backchanneling presentation at Pete&C got me thinking about how I could continue to promote this concept to teachers around the world, so starting soon I will kick off a series of posts entitled Backchanneling Basics. Over the course of I'm not sure how many posts, I'll introduce the concept, talk about services, address concerns, and I'm not sure what else. I'm hoping that maybe some comments I receive will guide the direction of these posts.

See you soon.