The Backchannel

One of the great things about teaching is that I learn something every day. Today, I learned about "Backchannel". A phrase born in 1970 by Victor Yngve to describe a technological conversation going on in a group at the same time a lecture or verbal discussion was ongoing. Sort of like MST3000 , for those of you who are as geeky as I am. The first instance in 2002 resulting in some embarrassing fact checking for QWest CEO, Joe Nacchio, who was bemoaning his lack of funds -not true. So now, according to the New York Times, teachers are using it in class. Speaking Up in Class, Silently, Using Social Media.


Now I never asked that cell phones be turned off in my class and when I walk past the professor in the computer lab whose students are on Facebook rather than his chemistry simulation, I don't report them. After all, they are there, which is more than many students are today. The idea of using the new modes of communication, of incorporating them in your class, virtual or not, is lifesaving for teachers who want to survive. No more arguments and you are watching on all channels! Everyone knows the worst thing to do with people is to forbid them something.


So if I want to be in the game, I have to use all the tools at my disposal. To the people who have asked to follow me on my mute Twitter account, maybe I can get something going. If I can ever get off of Facebook long enough to tweet. Oh yeah, I need to do both simultaneously. For a gray head like me, it is sometimes like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. Fun but confusing and, at times, just laughable. LOL indeed.