Here is the definition of backchannel from Wikipedia:
Backchannel is the practice of using networked computers to maintain a real-time online conversation alongside live spoken remarks. The term was coined in the field of Linguistics to describe listeners’ behaviours during verbal communication, Victor Yngve 1970.
The term “backchannel” generally refers to online conversation about the topic or the speaker. Occasionally, backchannel provides audience members a chance to fact-check the presentation.
By the end of the conference, over 150 people posted at least once to Twitter with a post tagged #bcssa10 (both from inside and outside the conference); several dozen others also used TodaysMeet to connect (it is hard to be precise since this tool does not require an account), and many more, while not posting, followed along monitoring one or both places. As I write this post, two days after the conference, posts are still being made tagged to the conference.
Toward the end of the conference, and in e-mails since, I have been asked many variations on the question, how do we replicate this elsewhere?
Here is a collection of thoughts from conference participants, around unconferencing / backchanneling, from this past week:
What the organizers can do:
- pre-publish the tool(s) being used including the Twitter hashtag (check to be sure the hashtag is not being used by another group)
- in advance of the conference, use the backchannel as a place to share prereading and help engage those attending, and those who may want to follow the event
- encourage participants to bring technology and give them permission to participate through social tools
- identify a moderator (in the classroom, a teacher) to monitor the conversation and help guide it when necessary
What presenters can do:
- honour the conversations that are taking place virtually – at the BCSSA Conference both Valerie Hannon and Tony Mackay referenced the Twitter and TodaysMeet conversation which gave status to this dialogue
- encourage groups to post key information to the backchannel during table discussions
- use the backchannel as a visual in the room during presentations or breaks
- use the backchannel to help with Q & A sessions
- have the presenters participate in the tools during breaks
- use the information on the backchannel to guide the presentation — again, Valerie and Tony did this by taking what was said during the first day to influence what they spoke about on the second day
- Pick your tools carefully — if you are doing this with students, consider a tool like TodaysMeet that does not require an account and allows students to hide their full identity and create pseudonyms
- Start with the goal — there are hundreds of tools available, so consider what it is you want to do and then find a tool to match. If I were to do it again, I would look for 1) a tool that allows threaded conversations 2) a tool that allows collaborative note-taking
- Model — one of the reasons for adults in education to use the tools is to model their use for students — so be good models with what you say, and how you interact
- Pick your spots — not every event needs a backchannel
I find following conferences via Twitter to be extremely powerful, and a great way to drop in on events I can’t attend in person.
I am very interested in how we can take this learning and apply it to our work with students. How can we use tools like Twitter and TodaysMeet to link students in classrooms, schools, districts and across the world to improve their learning?