Posts Tagged ‘TodaysMeet’

I have already written here about how successful the unconferencing  (“backchanneling” is probably the more accurate term) was at the BCSSA Fall Conference last week, in Victoria.

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

Other Advice:

  • 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?

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One notion that stuck with me this morning from Valerie Hannon, a keynote speaker at the BCSSA Fall Conference, was  that education requires disruptive innovation in order to prevent an “institutional bypass.” In another post I will share some of the key points from Valerie and other speakers today, but I want to focus on the conference going on behind the conference and how many of us have bypassed the traditional structure, through disruptive innovation to make meaning at the event.

As I write this post at the end of the first day of the BCSSA Fall Conference, ninety-three different people have tagged posts on Twitter #bcssa10 and tagged close to 1,000 tweets.  At different points today the conference has been a trending topic both in Vancouver and across Canada.  There were more people using Twitter to talk about the future of teaching and learning than to discuss the Canucks or the weather. 

I believe one year ago at this conference there were three  people sharing information on Twitter.  The ninety-three tweeters today included participants in the room, and those who engaged in the conference from many sites around the province and beyond.

In addition to the dialogue on Twitter, there was  a second back-channel conversation happening on TodaysMeet (a great tool for in-class online conversations – no account required).  Several dozen more people used this tool to extend the presentations.

While the conference has looked very similar to the conferences I have become accustomed to since I first attended this event about a decade ago, I think we have found a way, using Valerie Hannon’s notion, to bypass the traditional conference structure.  The presentations were largely stand-and-deliver lectures, but those of us who learn by engaging with others had an amazingly rich un-conference experience. 

Thinking about the change in just one year with how we engage in professional learning, I wonder what these type of events will look like over the next few years.

Some other wins with the un-conferencing:

  • We have exposed dozens of educators in a variety of roles to the power of Twitter as a professional tool
  • We have been able to share our learning with colleagues in our districts who were not able to join us
  • We have collaboratively compiled notes to use after the conference
  • We have modelled cross-role and cross-district learning

We often talk about the need to “go where the kids are”.  Our efforts in engaging in social media to support our learning, is part of this journey.

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