Backchanneling on Google Docs

I witnessed backchanneling on Google Docs for the first time this summer and was immediately impressed.  Backchanneling allows viewers of a presentation to become part of it by writing in responses to slides or comments a presenter makes. 

Several people had inquired about this recently, so I decided to modify a lesson to incorporate backchanneling and recorded it.  It was my first foray into student backchanneling and I learned a lot from it. You can see a 2 minute highlight of the lesson embedded at the end of this post.  I’ve also included a short screencast of how to set it up below (you may have to click through if you’re in a feed reader).

If you’re planning on using backchanneling for a lesson, here are some things I learned from my first go at it.

• When logging on to the presentation, remind students that they need to click the “View Together” button to participate.

• Make sure you have the latest version of flash installed on student computers. My room has a motley mix of old computers and some of them couldn’t run the chat feature on the presentation. I ended up sending some students to another room and having some double up to expedite things.

• Lay down very specific ground rules on what is appropriate and what is not. When students first got on, they treated it like a random chat room. No one said anything bad, but they were off topic before the presentation even started. I then made a rule that all posts had to relate to the topic or they would have to sit and watch – 2 students ended up having to sit and watch.

• Watch out for the smiley faces (etc.). It’s probably good to have a rule about them.

• Give it some time. It took my students a little while to get comfortable with the environment. Initially, they wanted to verbally respond to other students posts or my questions, but eventually realized they could just message them back. Halfway through the lesson, all I could hear was quick keyboarding.


3 thoughts on “Backchanneling on Google Docs

  1. Hi Mike,
    I’m glad you posted this – I really wanted to know how to do this! Having technical issues though. (ha) I can get it to show on my PC (with View Together). Got it to show on my Mac (with View Together), but I had logged in with my daughter’s login, and it said my name as the Audience instead of hers. In addition, when she logs in on her computer (a Mac) it does not show View Together. Got a clue what I’m doing wrong?

    Cindy Warming

    P.S. When I copy the address, what is the procedure for copying it on the Wiki?

  2. Hi Mike,

    Just wondering what I’m doing wrong. I’m so glad you posted this -I’ve been wanting to know how to do this, but must be doing something wrong. When I copy the address to put on my Wiki, where do I go from there? My screen shows View presentation, but my daughter’s screen (I added her email address) does not show that. I thought it was because she has a mac, but I also did it with my mac, and it doesn’t show View Presentation. Aaargh. After copying the link, what’s the next step?

    Cindy Warming

    • The first thing I think you should do is make sure that everyone is logged out of their google accounts on the various computers. Next log back in to the different accounts, making sure each computer is logged into a different account. There may be a chance that you’re logged on to the same account on different computers. You may have already checked this, but it’s worth checking out just to make sure. I’m not sure if this will make much difference, but it may be causing some issues.

      Secondly, when you want others to view the presentation, you don’t have to share it with them directly (Share–>Invite People–>inputting their email address). You only have to publish the presentation and share the link with them (Share—>Publish/Embed—>past link to blog, wiki, or webpage). If they’ve logged onto their google account, the “View Together” button will appear when they go to the link for the presentation. If they haven’t logged onto their google account, prior to clicking on the link, the “View Together” button won’t appear.

      Any group can view the presentation together at any time if they are logged in. The creator/owner of the presentation can take control of the presentation if other people are viewing it. This should work regardless of the operating system or browser. I’ve used it on several different browsers in Win XP, Win Vista, Mac OS 10.3, Mac OS 10.4, Mac OS 10.5, and Ubuntu 9.04.

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