Friday, April 11, 2008

Backchanneling 101

It's Elementary #16 on Monday, April 7, 2008, was about defining Edtechtalk. In the chatroom, one person said that the chat during a live show contributes depth and breadth to the topic being discussed. Another person commented, "The chat contributes other connections to the topic - people sharing personal experiences, questions, etc." This sort of backchanneling occurs in every live show at Edtechtalk. At PETE-C Steve Dembo referred to backchanneling as synthesizing. It is indeed a way to examine what we are learning. It is a way to examine our metacognition. It is connecting our prior knowledge with what we learn. It is collaborating with a network of people. Backchanneling is essential to our learning. As the lead learner in my classrooms, I need to uncover a way to effectively use chatrooms to backchannel. Middle school learners tend to use chatrooms to socialize to the total exclusion of backchanneling, connecting, synthesizing. Adults often socialize too, but then we turn to using chat to extend our thinking.
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Photo from Techlearning blog by David Jakes, October 2, 2007, available at


NJTechTeacher said...

I agree with the two definitions that you have shared from the chat room. I'll add a third.

The backchannel acts in many ways as a welcome committee to newcomers. The backchannel can help people navigate a new environment. The backchannel strengthens the "working" relationships of people who may have never met face to face. The more I interact with individuals, the more I come to respect their knowledge and opinions. The presenters have their content that they expect to cover, the backchannel helps refine the knowledge or broaden it as required by the group of learners. Thank you for passing on this interesting conversation.

kathy shields said...

Lisa, While I can see some positives to backchanneling consider this... It tends to create cliques. It can make a person feel less welcome and less of an insider. If level 1 backchanneling is just @ people in an open chat then, yes, I agree it's a way to build relationships but if it's also multi-layer twittering at the same time, then it can get out of hand. People refer to things they have been discussing in twitter and sometimes it's just an inside joke but when shared in an open chat can come across as a red herring of sorts. It can cause confusion and make conversation difficult to follow. It used to be easier to stay on top of things when connections were more open, now if you don't or can't follow some of the conversation you can be swept out to sea and swimming to shore can be very tiring. Maybe some twits should be made into blog post transcripts if they are the seeds of groundbreaking revelations. What do you say?
your friend,
Perpetually Paddling to Shore!
PS. I need to make more time to read your blog, that would help!

Mrs. R. Martin said...

I must say I agree with what Kathy said about the clique, was well said. First of all a newbie who doesn't know about back channeling wouldn't even know where to go to be a part of it! Perhaps at the start of a presentation, someone in the room should mention where the back channel is taking place so everyone can at least watch if they are not interested in contributing. Of course if you are ADD like me, you love listening, reading and writing all at the same time. Now comprehension is another thing!
Nice blog,
Robin Martin (RMOM)

.mrsdurff said...

I must be ADD too! I think that is why the backchanneling is so valuable to me....