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July 17, 2008




I am a new follower to you, to your blog, and also to your twitter account....and in just the few weeks of following you, I am both appreciative for your thoughts and also am learning a great deal.

I need to tell you that I ADMIRE you for sharing on something that might become a controversial subject -- as people will feel a need to defend the backchannel......however, I need to tell you, I will have your back.

I agree with what you have to say on so many levels -- and also agree with you when you say "While my sophomoric instincts love the game (I can't deny it), I've finally admitted to myself that 99.9% of the backchannel has nothing to do with the goal of working with/for students to better their lives. " -- WE CAN ALL LINE UP WITH YOU ON THAT ONE!!

I blogged about how much I appreciated when you recently were in Chicago and you kept the conversation at Borders (Barnes and Noble?) just at that location. It was a fantastic idea.....and it kept the conversation in the present, with those involved, and I am sure it was enlightening for many (I am sure, hard for some as well!)

Thank you for sharing your thoughts!


This was my take on backchanneling (written in February, but my opinion is unchanged)

As far as Twitter goes, I'll miss you there, but will continue to read your blogs. We each choose our own tools to fill personal needs, and Twitter still works for me.

Wonder what choices will be available when Beckett becomes an interactive presence online!

Jason Priem

Awesome post. Like Jennifer, I've just started subscribing to your blog, and I've been nothing by impressed by what I've seen.

Your point about the backchannel is a well-made, and, I think, accurate one. Backchannelling seems to me to appeal to that unfortunate lust for in-groupishness which we all seem to possess to one degree or another. It's a great illustration of how a focus on technology can lead to a sort of coolhunting mentality where folks build both social capital and self-images around being early adopters; at its worst, I see it being a sort of cool-kids lunch table, with looks and sport skill replaced by laptop ownership and IRC skills.

The bigger point of the post, though, is what I really liked: "I either select topics that nestle in real good-n-tight in the "Doing Good" column, or I don't post." This is a powerful idea that needn't stop with blogging. What if I had to categorize all my action, like I would a blog post. How much would be in the "doing good" column? You've given me a lot to think about.

A. Mercer

So funny, I'm watching this (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/12807) about how if you're really cool (or at the top of the pack) you don't need to email, or have a blackberry.

My only concern with turning off the back-channel is this: Having been at NECC, there were lots of people at the conference who could not get into sessions, and outside the conference that wanted to hear what was going on. Live blogging, twittering, and back channeling was a way to include those folks in a session limited to 80 participants.

I can also recall being at some restaurant tables where folks were reflexively checking their smart phones, so I hear what you are saying about being present.

I don't know how we're going to resolve this . Frankly, I could be an awful note passer in staff meetings/mandatory PD before I got a laptop, so I could leave my laptop/smart phone, but I think I'd still find my own back channel, if the BS level was too high. I guess the only advantage is it's not up on the Internet forever.

amy vejraska

Seems like you are not the only one re-evaluating these things, and I can't say I disagree totally. I guess I just wonder how far back the connections will ravel...when a new face pops into twitter, or a backchannel, who will be there to guide that conversation? I liken it to negative chatter in the faculty room at school. I could just walk away, but would that help the community? I am not saying that you, or I, or anyone should feel obligated to enforce some list of unwritten rules. I just hate to see voices that I appreciate taking themselves out of the conversation on some levels. Tansmom...will miss..Beckettsdad :)

Laura Deisley

Standing ovation on this one CL. As I reflected on BLC while running this morning, it became quite clear to me that the "social" and "connective" benefits of the twittering and back-channeling also had the effect of distracting me from digging deeply in my OWN experience of each presentation. As someone who can be drawn "wide" easily, but who relishes those moments when I can dig deeply, I recognized that I need to change my approach. I need time to be present, and then I need time to reflect and to write.

Doing good is a good mantra. Kudos for you for recognizing what was happening to you, and for taking a stand on a different way to "be." I'm apt to follow your lead here. I won't ditch Twitter or backchannels entirely, but I will self-regulate to make sure I am focused on the right end game.


Karen Richardson

I did a presentation yesterday with a group of educators and there was no backchannel. As we began, it occurred to me that we might have set up a ustream or some such thing, but we didn't. There were a few folks with laptops but I don't think anyone was liveblogging or twittering...we just spent three hours together talking about education in the 21st century and how it influenced what they were doing in their classrooms. We were present to each other and not worried about bringing in the outside world. It allowed us to focus on their specific concerns and ideas and we had a great day.

Christian Long

Jennifer: Been enjoying your blog, Jen...and there's no doubt that you're pushing on key topics in terms of how all of this impacts what matters most: our teaching.

Diane: I can't even imagine what will be available to Beckett in the coming years, but I hope regardless of the tools and hype that he'll be "present" in others' conversations rather than just surfing the outer edges of yet another backchannel link.

Jason: Much thanks...truly. And I can't disagree with any of your what-if's and comparisons. The "coolhunting" point definitely catches my attention, too! Hope to cross paths with you one day soon so thanks for leaving a quick word here.

A. Mercer: Definitely agree that there is value in back-channeling, but I have zero guilt about letting go of the majority of what is distracting or merely self-serving. And to be honest, not needing the backchannel isn't such a bad thing either. After all, my own colleagues -- far, far away from the digital-razzi -- have a great deal to share, too...and not one of them tends to care about/pay attention to the blogosphere. Just something I'm spending more time contemplating going into a new school year...FWIW.

Amy: The most vital part of the "conversation" for me is the continual arrival of fresh voices, rather than hearing the same ol' gang say the same ol' stuff. Plus, we'd all be better served if those of us who have been fortunate to have a few followers would listen more, speak less, when in these networked moments. Me, I'm just sitting back and enjoying letting others be the key voices.

Laura: I'll be the first to admit to being distracted, both when at the conference and when trying to keep track while 'watching' from afar. As for the "doing good" motif, it's a horizon line to keep in my sight...but I hardly claim to have any sort of patent on it. BTW, key point about "self-regulat[ion]" vs. tossing all of it away.

Karen: Intriguing point re: "present to each other". It's not so much a matter of framing the tools (such as UStream, etc) as being good or bad, but about our being intentional about what any tool serves beyond the heart of the primary conversation we're supposed to be "present" for. Too often we leap at the opportunity to broadcast without doing a plus/minus column as to what is really gained or lost in the process, especially given the lack of editing, the dead time, and the potentially self-serving elements (that few are talking about...sadly).

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