This week, in our weekly Brittain Fellow Research Methodology seminar on Hybrid Pedagogy, we discussed using Twitter as a tool for creating a “back-channel” of conversation at conferences, lectures, and in the classroom. Our conversation constituted the “face-to-face” component of our own hybrid classroom; our session technically began last week when we all attended the Emory DISC lecture “Seeing Time” by Edward L. Ayers during which we used a twitter back-channel (#discayers) to have a synchronous discussion about the talk. We then continued our conversation asynchronously on TECHStyle by commenting on Robin Wharton‘s write up of the event “What Should a Hybrid Classroom Look like?” during the week leading up to our Wednesday evening Research Methodology seminar.
In our “face-to-face” discussion, we shared our experience using the Twitter back-channel during the talk, and many of us expressed feeling distracted by the effort to listen to the speaker, compose tweets, and read the conversation that developed on the #discayers thread. Some of us felt that it appeared rude to be typing on our phones and computers during the talk (although Robin confirmed with us that she had asked permission for us to do so), and we worried that our behavior might be distracting to others. (During our discussion, Melanie Kohnen tweeted a link to guidelines for Twitter etiquette at conferences, demonstrating in real-time how Twitter can be used to quickly share information with a group). To continue thinking about this issue and the ways we can productively harness “distraction,” I highly recommend reading Jason Farman‘s timely post on ProfHacker, “Encouraging Distraction: Classroom Experiments with Mobile Media.”
Despite some of the reservations we had about the distraction of the back-channel, our discussion turned to the potential for such a simultaneous commentary (as Kate Tanski suggested it be called) to turn into a deeper, more critical discussion of the speaker’s argument (which Robin discussed in her post). We also considered how tweeting the main ideas of the lecture allowed an external audience to follow along with the talk, which could translate in the classroom to a broader notion of audience and internet discourse. While many of us saw the potential for the use of Twitter as a pedagogical tool (and several of us shared ways in which we are already doing this), we debated the best way to use a back-channel to promote deeper attention rather than distraction. As we noted, students are already invested in tools which allow them to engage with participatory media, so we will continue this conversation next week as we discuss a monograph by Henry Jenkins (et. al) “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.”
Additionally, we will be moving our conversation to discuss other platforms that allow synchronous and asynchronous participation and which extend the classroom space into the virtual realm (one that already came up is Piazza). As we do so, we will begin to discuss how we can assess these initiatives using empirical and ethnographic methodologies.
Please comment below on tools/platforms for hybrid pedagogy that you have used or that you would like to learn more about!