‘The back channel is the conversation that happens behind the real life front conversation.’
I love the way @langwitches explains this to the children, even though the back channel is as much real life for me as the front conversation!
On her first day working with teachers, a full day, full on workshop which blows minds – some love it, others are overwhelmed – Silvia introduces several back channels at once. Participants are encouraged to use Today’s Meet and/or Twitter and volunteers take collaborative notes in a Google doc.
The goals are multi-layered –
- Understanding NOW literacies.
- Global sharing.
- Documenting for learning.
- Exposure to new tools and new ways of thinking.
- Connecting to our whole school goal of using data to inform learning (that of the teachers, as much as the students).
The rest of the week consists of intense learning in our upper primary school, with and from Silvia – in classrooms, in small groups and individually. Teams meet with Silvia to talk, listen, choose and plan before she models in the classrooms. They meet again to debrief and yet again to reflect after they have experimented for themselves.
Teachers are the documenters of and for learning. We’re watching, listening and gathering data to inform future learning… of the teachers, as much as of the students.
It’s a meaningful model of professional learning:
- Extended over an entire week, with time for experimentation and reflection.
- Something for everyone.
- Tailored to our needs and goals.
- Big picture then zooming in to the details.
- Responsive, rather than pre planned and packaged.
- Thought provoking and challenging.
- Inquiry driven.
- Change making.
Back to the back channel…
I’m a back chaneller by nature. I like to talk to construct meaning. I interrupt. I blog in my head, as I distil the essence of learning experiences. And I tweet…
So from Day 1, I document the learning, via several back channels at once. I observe Silvia’s ‘front conversations’ – with teachers, with students, with teams – and I try to listen more than I talk. I have ‘back conversations’ in my head and with others. I join the Today’s Meets. And I tweet…
I encourage teachers to blog and I join the conversation via comments.