Opening up opportunities to share: Using backchannels

I’ve been meaning to share this resource for ages (and thanks to Jedd Bartlett for sharing this way back).

You may be a fan of the backchannel at conferences, meetings, sessions that you are facilitating etc…or you may not be sure what a backchannel is. Educause (in this guide) provide a nice definition, and some of the benefits of backchannels:

Backchannel communication is a secondary conversation that takes place at the same time as a conference session, lecture, or instructor-led learning activity. This might involve students using a chat tool or Twitter to discuss a lecture as it is happening, and these background conversations are increasingly being brought into the foreground of lecture interaction.

Digital technologies allow background discussions—which have always been a component of classes, conferences, and presentations—to be brought out of the shadows and, perhaps, incorporated as a formal part of learning activities. Instructors and presenters alike should be aware of this dynamic and the opportunity it presents to add another dimension to learning.

Sound like something you would like to try? The Educause 7 things you should know about backchannel communication is a great start.

Once you have read this guide, and maybe watched the two videos below, if it still sounds like something you would like to try then this tool (one of many that are out there) – Twijector – may useful. Twijector has:

  • free and paid options,
  • the ability to moderate certain words,
  • an option to archive all tweets from your session or event,
  • the ability to show photos, and
  • you can tag

It’s also really easy to use, and has clear instructions on the site.

If you do give backchanneling a go, or have already done so, please share your experiences in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you 🙂




Nancy and the Twitter stream. CC ( BY SA ) licensed iFlickr image by Michael Coghlan:

About ictenhancedlearningandteaching

I am a director and consultant at Ethos Consultancy NZ ( I have a keen interest in all aspects of ICT Enhanced Learning and Teaching (ICTELT) where the focus lies on ways of scaffolding and empowering learners. In particular, I am interested in the way that creative, blended approached to Academic Professional Development can create trust, rapport and encourage reflective practice. As such, ICTELT is approached from facilitation, design, evaluation and assessment as opposed to the tools and what they can offer. I am a strong advocate of the potential of Web 2.0 to empower learners from all walks of life and cultures, especially after my experiences working for 6 years in the Middle East. In particular, I am interested how ePortfolios can be used in the VET sector (especially where Literacy and Language challenges are faced), in Recognition of Prior Learning, and in authentic, applied assessment. I have been involved with designing and developing ICTELT approaches and programmes for ten years. Following research informed approaches and design, I apply a qualitative, iterative process to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, programmes and tools, encouraging learners' voices and input from all stakeholders.
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