Backchanneling in the Classroom?

I have been in a number of forums where the subject of backchanneling for learning in the classroom has been mentioned. I personally use it all the time in exactly the same way Dana Boyd does. It has dramatically increased my learning power. See the excerpt from her blog post below. I also Scott Snyder’s presentation at 2008. Hope this helps you move beyond confusion.


Wikipedia Definition

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.
First growing in popularity at technology conferences, backchannel is increasingly a factor in education where WiFi connections and laptop computers allow students to use ordinary chat like IRC or AIM to actively communicate during class.

Blog Post on Backchanneling

Dana Boyd’s Blog apophenia :: making connections where none previously existed

I want my cyborg life
Excerpt: There’s no doubt that I barely understood what the speaker was talking about. But during the talk, I had looked up six different concepts he had introduced (thank you Wikipedia), scanned two of the speakers’ papers to try to grok what on earth he was talking about, and used Babelfish to translate the Italian conversations taking place on Twitter and FriendFeed in attempt to understand what was being said. Of course, I had also looked up half the people in the room (including the condescending man next to me) and posted a tweet of my own.
But, of course, the attack was not actually about the reality of my internet habits but the perception of them. There’s no doubt that, when given a laptop in a lecture setting, most people surf the web, check email, or play video games. Their attention is lost and they’ve checked out. Of course, there’s an assumption that technology is to blame. The only thing that I really blame said technology for is limiting doodling practice for the potential future artist (and for those of us who still can’t sketch to save our lives). Y’see – I don’t think that people were paying that much attention before. Daydreaming and sketching (aka “taking notes”) are not particularly new practices. Now the daydreamer might just be blogging instead. 2008 Presentation

Back-channels in the Classroom

Scott H. Snyder Lewisberry, Pennsylvania, USA
Bio: Scott, a graduate of Bowling Green State University (Ohio) with a B.S. in Education, has been teaching for 15 years. A member of the English
Department at Cedar Cliff High School, Camp Hill, PA, USA, Scott teaches Theater, American Literature, and AP Language and Composition.
Presentation Description: Backchanneling, traditionally an online discussion running alongside a live presentation, is a way to engage all students in classroom activities, including students who are normally non-participants. Issues and student needs that lead me to the technique, the educational
relevance of the process, backchanneling services (including possibilities and limitations of several), and example activities will all be addressed in this presentation.
Post By Dean Shareski ⋅ on 2008 October 29, 2008

Crossposted at

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