What is Backhanneling?
A backchannel is a space in which secondary conversations happen during content delivery. Many teachers use backchannel spaces to give students a place to process information, make connections, ask questions and extend learning. Backchannels are often used during times when the primary teaching strategy is content-delivery such as during lectures, videos, presentations or panel discussions. The advantage of backchanneling is that you turn passive listening into active discussion. Here are a few resources to learn more about backchannels:
Seven Things You Should Know About Backchannel Communnication
Ten Observations About Backchanneling
Nine Uses for Backchannels in Education
I have often used this strategy to get feedback from an audience or group of students in real time. To manage this, I either project the backchannel so that I can see it, or I ask someone to be my backchannel monitor, and I check in with them from time to time.
As a learner, I've used backchannels to ask questions, share my own insights and experiences, and to participate in discussions that I couldn't be in the room for. Once, when I couldn't attend a PD session out of town, a colleague of mine turned on his Skype so that I could hear the presentation, and then I logged into the backchannel to participate in the discussion.
While backchanneling can be done with lots of different tools, one of the easiest is TodaysMeet. I like it because it is simple enough for anyone to use (if you can type, you can use it); it is free; it isn't public; it doesn't require a login; and the content can be saved for up to a year.
To use, you simply go to http://todaysmeet.com/, name your room, give your room a shelf-life, and then click create your room.
At that point, participants are part of the backchannel. They can read what has been shared in the listen box and can add to the conversation by typing in the message box and clicking the Say button.
Note that each message is limited to 140 characters (like Twitter). This could be a way to practice live Tweeting with students ahead of using the more public Twitter.
Here is the link to the TodaysMeet that I created for this demonstration:
Feel free to try it out, ask questions, etc. BUT make sure that you make you actual 30 Day Challenge response in the comments to this blog post. This is because we want to preserve your conversation for future readers, and the TodaysMeet Backchannel will only exist for a year.