Report on Asynchronous Backchannel

We started out with a definition of backchannel that we found on Wikipedia:
Backchannel is the practice of using networked
//computers// to maintain a real-time online conversation alongside live spoken remarks. The term was coined in the field of Linguistics to describe listeners' behaviors during verbal communication, //Victor Yngve//1970.
The term "backchannel" generally refers to online conversation about the topic or the speaker. Occasionally backchannel provides audience members a chance to
//fact-check//the presentation.

First growing in popularity at technology conferences, backchannel is increasingly a factor in education where
//WiFi// connections and //laptop// computers allow students to use ordinary chat like //IRC// or //AIM//to actively communicate during class.
Twitter is also widely used today by audiences to create backchannels at technology conferences. When audience members add an event hashtag to their tweets (for example, #w2e was the hashtag used for the Web 2.0 Expo New York in 2009), anyone can run a Twitter search to review all the backchannel tweets related to that event.

Backchannel has been, at times, confused with social networking. At its best, the back channel could not be used as a successful method of social networking. It is, instead, a learning tool that can be used synchronously (during) or asynchronously (after the fact) of a presentation, training session, or conference.

Social networking is defined on Wikipedia as the following:

A social network service focuses on building online communities of people who share interests and/or activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. Most social network services are web based and provide a variety of ways for users to interact, such as e-mail and instant messaging services.
The main types of social networking services are those which contain category divisions (such as former school-year or classmates), means to connect with friends (usually with self-description pages) and a recommendation system linked to trust. Popular methods now combine many of these, with
Facebook and Twitter widely used worldwide; MySpace and LinkedIn being the most widely used in North America; Nexopia (mostly in Canada); Bebo, Hi5, StudiVZ (mostly in Germany), iWiW (mostly in Hungary), Tuenti (mostly in Spain), Decayenne, Tagged, XING; Badoo and Skyrock in parts of Europe; Orkut and Hi5 in South America and Central America; and Friendster, Mixi, Multiply, Orkut, Wretch, Xiaonei and Cyworld in Asia and the Pacific Islands and Orkut and Facebook in India.
There have been some attempts to standardize these services to avoid the need to duplicate entries of friends and interests (see the
FOAF standard and the Open Source Initiative), but this has led to some concerns about privacy.

Note the references to IRC, AIM, and Twitter. These are primarily considered social networking tools so it is important for us to recognize the difference between backchannel for social interaction and using it as a learning/educational asset.
[Is asynchronous backchannel less likely to be used for social networking because it is done after-the-fact? Or could it be just as easily used as a ‘resource’ for connecting with others for social reasons?]
It could start as a means of social interaction and evolve into discussions on the identified topic or vice versa.
- We need to identify:
- the resources for our subject (our research)
- the reasons for posing the questions as we did on our survey
- the results of our survey and what we learned given the reasons for posing the questions.

Resources for our study included:
Two Wikispaces for review courtesy of Mike Baker and Chris Champion
Educon Wiki
KTI 2009 Wiki

Contact Information

Mike Baker
Chris Champion

Additional Resources
Definition of Back-channeling- by wikipedia
Multi-tasking and the Backchannel: Powerful learning or more noise- article discussing if backchanneling is more learning or not

Pictures of backchannel

Here’s an example of one sort of backchannel using a wiki.


Here’s an example of backchannel using text messaging with cell phones:


This screen shot is taken from the Website (as you can see) but it shows graphically how backchannel can be done using cell phones in real time. This site also shows (by the very fact that we’re viewing it and writing about it) that asynchronous backchannel can be used as well.

Tips and Tricks for using Wikispaces

Our wiki is
We have been using our wiki for communication, discussion, and posting related information for all to see. Basically we’ve used it as a repository for all information we can find about backchannel.

Wikispaces Info
Embedding a Google Docs Form into a webpage: Brief Tutorial
Google Docs Tutorial
Google Docs
Cover It Live

We designed a survey for distribution to groups to determine how users felt toward asynchronous backchannelling.

Here is the link for the survey -