Dan Wade, from Webb City Middle School, sent me a couple of questions about my classroom Alternate Reality Game (ARG). I’ve received a lot of similar questions lately, so I thought I would throw my answers up on the ol’ website to help as many people as possible.
Backchanneling is when an audience has an online conversation about a presentation or lecture as they are watching it live. This is meant to turn listening to a speaker into an active process. Backchanneling allows audience members to chime in with their opinion on a topic or speaker, share resources, and is said to increase participation and grow community. Using a specific #hashtag to Tweet your opinion on a presenter while watching The Oscars or talking to your friend via Facebook chat about The Walking Dead episode your both watching are forms of backchanneling. So, clearly, backchanneling in the real world is popular, but what about the classroom?
Some teachers have been brave enough to allow students to backchannel while they are lecturing. This is usually done with a backchanneling program displayed via projector alongside the teacher so both teacher and student can see their comments as the lecture goes on. The teacher may answer the questions as they appear or comment on the students’ thoughts as they see fit. Backchanneling is said to improve classroom community, attention span, and make lecture more interactive. I’ve never tried allowing students to backchannel while I lectured, and I don’t know if I ever will; I’m not sold on the idea. Thus, backchanneling has never had a place in my classroom… until now!