While working on our final ecmp 455 project last night, Kristina and I had an excellent discussion about back channelling and the benefits of allowing it in your classroom. I never knew that there was a specific term for this, but apparently I have been using it for pretty much my entire school life (minus the years were a) I couldn’t write sentences yet and b) was too afraid to getting caught by the teacher). For almost as long as I can remember I have been chatting during class, mostly about what ever it was that I was learning about. My friends and I would ask each other questions about the content we were learning about and share whatever connection we were making to it in regards to our lives outside of the classroom. In the era of technology students do not pass notes or try and whisper quietly to one another, they send text messages from their cell phones or Facebook messages to one another if on a computer during class. These actions are done silently and do not cause a disruption in the classroom. But is it distracting? Maybe. Is it beneficial? I think so.
Why not use this ‘chat’ as a teaching strategy and a way to enhance the learning that is taking place in your classroom. With cooperative and experiential learning being pushed in today’s classroom then why not allow students to discuss as they are learning. This discussion I am talking about does not involve the teacher stopping her lesson for small group discussions; this discussion is taking place while the teacher is teaching. I would be curious to set up a room at todaysmeet.com and find out what my students are talking about and asking one another in regards to my lesson.
I see this as an assessment tool to not only assess what the students are learning, but assess your teaching of that lesson – Do the students get it? Or do they not get it? There are many benefits to using Twitter, Today’s Meet, or a class blog in your classroom or presentation. Take our chat during our ecmp class; we have side conversations about what is being said, add our own thoughts and feelings, make connections to the lecture, and pose questions that we would like answered. These questions cannot only be answered the the instructor, but by other classmates as well without disrupting the lesson. There is immediate feedback and shows you as the teacher if you are reaching your target of being heard by your students/listeners. The more silent discussion taking place on the side = interesting topic!
Pistachio has a great blog post about backchanelling during presentations (which I have related to classes/lectures) and has listed 8 benefits of the back chanell to the audience:
1. It helps audience members focus
As a presenter, you might be worried that the back-channel will be distracting. The opposite seems to be true.
2. The audience gets more content
People tweeting during your presentation add explanations, elaborations, and useful links related to your content
3. Audience members can get questions answered on the fly
In the past, you might have lent over to you neigbor and said “What did she mean by that?” or you remained confused. Now, audience members don’t have to wait to clarify things they don’t understand. They can tweet their question and another audience member will tweet back with the answer. Audience members who tuned out because they didn’t understand now stay engaged.
4. The audience can participate
The back-channel blurs the line between the presenter and the audience. Now everyone can be an active participant.
5. The audience can innovate
As your presentation sparks ideas, audience members can tweet them and build on each others’ thoughts.
6. You don’t have to be physically present to participate
Not only can you watch a live videostream of the presentation, but you can also tweet or chat with the physically-present participants.
7. You can connect with people
Being at a conference where you know no-one or only a few people can be intimidating. People who know each other cluster together and you can feel out of the action. But if you participate in the back channel, you’ll get to know people virtually, and can then introduce yourself physically at the next break.
8. You can do something else
And lastly, if the speaker is tedious, you can get on and do something productive and no one will know.