I'm thinking a lot about "backchannels" in a very micro way ... (e.g. chat going on while a phone discussion). This is part of my preparation for a 90-minute webinar I'm doing for N-TEN on making face-to-face workshop/panel sessions more interactive.
I'm using web/phone conference software called "Ready/Talk" which (thank god) offers some interactive features, like chat and handing control of presentation to someone else's desktop. Since the workshop is essentiallly about designing more interactive face-to-face learning environments, I don't want to model a 85 minute lecture with 100 slide powerpoint, leaving 5 minutes for q&A at end.
I'm thinking of ways to integrate the chat with the phone discussion -- similar to what I experienced and learned about during Nancy White's Online Facilitation Workshop last fall.
But the word backchannel also refers to the chat in a conference where there are people in the room chatting as well as remote participation. I wonder if there are learnings or ideas one can take from here?
So, this has brought me to the question of the learning design of the backchannel - if there is such a thing.
One of my favorite vloggers and screencasters is Raymond M. Kristiansen who is a self-proclaimed Norwegian media juggler. He recently participated in the backchannel for Les Blogs. He shows a video clip of Mena Trott's Keynote calling for more civility in blog commenting. Apparently, the comments in the backchannel got her angry, they weren't so civil - particularly those from Ben MetCalfe who Mena called to the mike. (Warning she says the F-word on the clip.) See Dave Winer's comments here, or as someone on the vlog list "Fighting for civilty using rudeness."
Raymond goes on to raise some really good reflective questions about backchannel:
How do they affect the relationship between those on the stage and the audience?
What does this intermediation of dialogues mean?
How can we use back-channels as a progressive force at conferences?
How can we use them as a test of how things are going at the conference?
How can we play further with the distance between those up there - on the podium and those in the audience?
Update: September, 2007
Coolcat Teacher wrote an excellent post reflecting on the use of backchannels in the classroom