With access to laptops and smartphones, audiences today are no longer sitting quietly taking notes during live presentations. Instead, they are creating a second conversation called the backchannel, where people are online searching for resources, checking facts, and connecting with others inside and outside the room. The backchannel extends the reach of ideas and creates a sense of community and connectedness among the participants.
The backchannel is put into use everyday at a high school in Philadelphia called Science Leadership Academy (SLA) and at an annual conference called Educon held at the school each January. Chris Lehmann (shown here with Cristina Alvarez), is the principal of SLA and originator of Educon. Alvarez, principal of Hunter School in Philadelphia, is studying SLA as part of her doctoral dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania.
Students at SLA have their electronic media on in school during classes because Lehmann and his teachers have shown that this backchannel is where real learning takes place. Educators come from across the country, and also participate online from around the world, to see how the backchannel works at SLA and at EDUCON where several hundred participants use the backchannel throughout the 3 days of panels, presentations, and conversations.
In his book, The Backchannel: How Audiences are Using Twitter and Social Media and Changing Presentations Forever (right), communications consultant Cliff Atkinson shows that if these new kinds of audience participation are embraced and the conversations properly handled, the outcome can be a new, more effective form of communicating. Whether you’re a host, presenter, or an audience member, Atkinson shows how this convergence of social forces is upending the presentation norm and how you can effectively manage the change.
Click on the heading above to go to the website supporting the book "Backchannel."