The Strength of Weak Ties

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

ChatCasting: A Summary

Many of you have probably heard of chatcasting by now, or the process of using something like Skype to chat during a conference presentation (in effect creating a back channel discussion), with a copy of that chat being posted as a blog entry. Several were done at NECC in Atlanta, the technique continued at the BLC Conference in Boston in July, and has been repeated by some others , including David Warlick, Janice Sterns, and Darren Kuropatwa. Here is an example from BLC, featuring Chris Lehmann and Christian Long.

The most obvious benefit is that participants inside the presentation can have a discussion about the content of the presentation, and it can be very enriching. Imagine having a mini-learning network right in the conference room....

But it doesn't have to be just the people in the room. People not attending the conference can participate, and by using the conferencing features of Skype, a limited number of people not on location can actually listen to the presentation through Skype and add their perspectives to the chat.

As you might expect, with any emerging learning technique, there are questions about the process itself, and questions that focus on the value of the chatcasting process to:
  • those chatting and present in the audience
  • those chatting but not in the audience
  • the presenters
  • to the individuals reading the transcript of the chat in a blog entry (chatcast)
The process itself:
  1. How many participants are optimal? At BLC, the sessions ranged from 4 to 26 with many of the 26 just lurking.
  2. Should off-site participants be invited or should it be open to anyone who wishes to participate? For BLC, I posted my schedule on my blog so people knew where I would be, and surprisingly, they took me up on participating through Skype.
  3. Should there be a moderator? Terry Freedman recently was a moderator for a chat that was done in a workshop being led by Darren Kuropatwa. Here is the wiki, which contains the chatcast.
  4. What is appropriate in terms of chat content? At one point at BLC, everyone was saying hello to each other and people entering the chat, which was not really necessary. What are the ground rules?
  5. Should the chat be edited before posting? How much distillation should take place, or should the entire chat be posted and let readers make their own meaning?
  6. Should the chat be placed in a wiki for participants to mashup after the conference or presentation? If so, should other media be added, such as a podcast, or the presentation file used, in this case, delivered via Slideshare.
  7. Should the process be formalized by conference organizers? If so, what logistics would need to be in place to make that happen?
  8. Is there a different tool besides Skype that would be more effective? Would FlashMeeting make more sense? Are there other tools that have been used successfully at other conferences that would work, as Tim Lauer suggests?
The people present in the session:
  1. Does it improve the presentation experience, or does it create too much distraction? Just how good at multi-tasking are you?

The people participating, but not in the session:
  1. How is context provided for these people? In one session, Dean Shareski took a photo of the presentation room and posted it on Flickr. Seemingly minor, but I think that it would help me if I wasn't present.
  2. Is it really valuable? Is it a true learning experience or is something that is just unique and fun? Read Cathy Nelson's view here.
The presenter(s):
  1. Should they participate, if there is more than one presenter?
  2. Is having 10 people typing distracting? I had to get over several people blogging my sessions live, I can only imagine ten typing furiously. Wouldn't you want to see what they were saying?
  3. Knowing that this process could occur, how does that impact preparation? Would you prepare in a different way, and would you prepare differently if a member of the presentation team could interact with the audience?
  4. How much value is there in reading the chatcast of your presentation as a evaluative process on how the presentation was received and what the audience thought your most salient points were?
  5. How would that influence you the next time you gave the presentation?
  6. David Warlick has been exploring the use of a chat backchannel in his presentations, see his reflection on the process.
The people reading the chat:
  1. How much value is there in the transcript of the chat to someone who did not participate in the actual chat?
  2. Would editing the chat before posting improve its value to those processing it for the first time in a blog post, or should they draw their own meaning from the raw discussion itself?
  3. It's not for everyone, and that's ok.
Using this technique in the classroom:
  1. How could this technique be added to schools that had 1:1 environments? Or perhaps even those schools that have mobile laptop labs?
  2. Think of the ground work that would have to be done in order to allow students to have access to some type of chat program in a school setting. Considering the pervasiveness of IM and chat in the lives of our students...oh well, enough of that....
  3. What would the pedagogical structure of the lesson look like?
  4. How could this be used to invite experts into a classroom to add value to the lesson, would teachers be comfortable with that? Would kids?
  5. What literacy or literacies would this process support?
  6. What kind of assessments would enable the teacher to evaluate if the chat, and the subsequent chatcast (especially in the form of a wiki), were effective learning tools? How would we know that the process of chatcasting improved student learning?
A couple of comments:

From Mrs. Durff, in a comment to Chris Lehmann's post:

"I've been pondering how best to implement this backchanneling into the high school classroom. I'm thinking it will have to be scaffolded, so where you all flew off into it, I will have to provide a prompt and allow time for response. We will likely use Meeborooms. I think the metacognitive value is too great to skip this. As the year progresses, less and less structure will be necessary."

From Darren Kuropatwa,

"Imagine a 20 minute lecture where all your students back channel about what you're saying. Outside guests or experts are invited in. Someone acts as a "rudder" to keep the conversation on track. The discussion is displayed on a SMARTboard or with a projector. The chatcast is immediately dumped into a wiki. The rest of the class is devoted to reorganizing the wiki clarifying what was said, answering questions (student to student as well as teacher to student; and don't forget the people, students, teachers, mentors or parents beyond the glass walls of the room) summarizing the big ideas, reframing the discussion in terms of what needs to be explained again and where we're going next. Imagine the possibilities."

Yes, that's exactly it. The possibilities. Educational technology in 2007 is all about possibilities and I think we can safety add one more. I'll be interested to see how the process continues to evolve at conferences and in the classroom.

Over Jakes' Shoulder by Will Richardson

tags: davidwarlick willrichardson terryfreedman janicesterns darrenkuropatwa deanshareski cathynelson lisadurff chrislehmann christianlong timlauer chat chatcasting backchannel


  • At 4:51 PM , Blogger Claudia Ceraso said...

    I took part of two chatcasts -one moderated by you and the other by Terry Freedman. I was not present in the session.
    I have posted my first notes and reflections on this
    Chatcast post. On the second experience in Darren's Kuropatwa's presentation, some of the participants were able to have the audio of the presenter. That certainly helped to keep us all more focused on the topics to discuss. I imagine it also made the moderator's role simpler.

    I did not find it exactly fun. The whole process is rather fast, messy and it is not easy to keep concentrated that long.

    All in all a new learning experience. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised to find depth of thought and speed of delivery making a good match. But of course, most participants read each other's blogs regularly. The chatcast is just one more instance of an ongoing conversation.

  • At 8:56 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I have only been blogging since NECC07 and am totally hooked! However, this is a totally new idea to me and have been invited to participate in a flashmeeting this weekend. I haven't explored skype, yet. I love the examples and thought-provoking questions and comments. This helps me envision what applications this technology could have in the classroom. Thank you for this post - I will be exploring this soon! MsTina

  • At 8:20 PM , Blogger Lee Kolbert said...

    This is awesome!! Thanks for sending me the link to this. It will help a lot as I conduct staff development and try to rework our model for effective integration.

  • At 6:19 AM , Blogger Kristin Hokanson said...

    Yeah I know I am supposed to be a "tech person" but I can't for the life of my get my links to self create....color me clueless...HERE are my thoughts Thanks for making me think!


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