What is Back Channeling?


A backchannel is a conversation that takes place alongside an activity or event.

Back channels or back-channeling is common at conferences where attendees use tools like Twitter to discuss the various presentations in near real time. This gives the audience a real voice and helps to include and engage the audience in ways not seen before.

Cliff Atkinson's book: The Backchannel: How Audiences are Using Twitter and Social Media and Changing Presentations Forever provides some great insights into this topic.

In an educational context a back channel can provide quiet students with a place to ask questions without speaking up. A backchannel is a place that teachers can share supporting resources such as video's, links and photos. Teachers can ask questions and watch the response of students to determine if they really understand the concepts being discussed. Students can search the backchannel for notes and resources without having to scribble personal notes on paper.

Backchannel Chat is focused on the educational aspects of the back channel where it can be used to support formal education. Tools such as Twitter are great for back channeling to a broad audience in on the open internet. However sometimes that might not be what a teacher is looking for, with Twtter the teacher can't control the context or the content of the messages that can get introduced into the backchannel.

Backchannel Chat provides teachers with a number of benefits over an open tool such as Twitter and we believe that a classroom backchannel will become a standard part of a future classroom. We are already seeing great results in 1:1 laptop classes where students have a backchannel open during class.