Why Backchannel?

By David - Dec 2012

If your not familiar with the term Backchannel, let me first introduce it to you: It essentially amounts to using a set of networked computers and software to allow teachers and students to communicate in real time.

Backchanneling has its roots in conferences and events where participants communicate using tools such as twitter and youtube to provide alternative discussion on the event.

So what does setting up a backchannel in your classroom actually give you?

Well a number of educators have found value in setting up a backchannel in their classes, often they find that 'giving everyone a voice' is a very powerful way to engage students. Often quiet and shy students find a voice in the backchannel.

Outside of the increased student participation that backchannels provide, you might also find that students collaborate in ways that don't replicate the normal class social structure. By moving the discussions to a forum that is different and not so face to face, students tend to get judged more on the content and insights they contribute.

What is the educational relevance of a Backchannel?

Setting up a class backchannel might sound great in principle, but how does it fit into an educational setting.

  • A Backchannel provides a written representation of what happened in the classroom
  • A Backchannel provides students the opportunity to ask questions
  • A Backchannel can provide links to resources and other rich media
  • With a Backchannel a student can ask a question without it interupting the flow of the classroom activity
  • A Backchannel is a tool that can support a flipped classroom

A Backchannel is a great classroom tool and can support other activities in the classroom, hopefully I've given you enough to get the basic concepts.

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