I witnessed backchanneling on Google Docs for the first time this summer and was immediately impressed.Â Backchanneling allows viewers of a presentation to become part of it by writing in responses to slides or comments a presenter makes.Â
Several people had inquired about this recently, so I decided to modify a lesson to incorporate backchanneling and recorded it.Â 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.Â 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.
â€¢ When logging on to the presentation, remind students that they need to click the “View Together” button to participate.
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ 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.
â€¢ Watch out for the smiley faces (etc.). It’s probably good to have a rule about them.
â€¢ 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.