Thursday, July 04, 2013

Back Channels

Thanks to the AviChai foundation, I spent four days at the annual ISTE conference. Four days of lectures, workshops, exhibits, brainstorming, networking, and a fair share of corporate marketing. When I had to capture the essence of those four huge days in one small blog post, I realized that it wasn't about a specific app or strategy or even a keynote speaker's powerful one liner. For me, it was about the way the presenters and attendees at ISTE 
embodied all of the reasons we try to integrate technology: ease of access to resources, creating shared knowledge databases, and most importantly - greater communication. 

Conspicuously absent were the professors who lecture for three hours about the need for hands-on,  individualized learning while their idealistic students scramble to take notes so they can prepare for a traditional test.  At the conference, each session would begin with the sharing of a blog, twitter handle, and links to the slides and websites. Then, the presenter would encourage the participants to start a back channel. Checking phones or typing on tablets was not considered rude.  People were tweeting their observations, joining virtual conversations on TodaysMeet, and jotting down their notes on a shared GoogleDoc. And it was okay because it meant that they were participating in a parallel, yet connected conversation.  Because of those backchannels, each session was so much more than a presenter and what he/she had  to say. It was about forming connections: between presenter and participant, among participants, and between participants and the world. 

At the ISTE conference, I learned that if a teacher is willing to cede some control, his/her message can reach deeper and farther and wider...

- Chaya Goldberg 

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