Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How to Take Advantage of the Conference Backchannel

With Ebooks in Early Literacy: Science, Design, Decision kicking off this Friday, attendees should be planning to maximize the learning potential of the event. One thing that should be part of the plan is participating in the conference’s backchannel.

Wondering what a backchannel is? In The Backchannel, Cliff Atkinson defines a backchannel as:
…a line of communication created by people in an audience to connect with others inside or outside the room, with or without the knowledge of the speaker at the front of the room. Usually facilitated by Internet technologies, it is spontaneous, self-directed, and limited in time to the duration of a live event.
Derek Bruff, assistant director at the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching and senior lecturer in mathematics at Vanderbilt explains the importance of a backchannel in a post on The Chronicle of Higher Education,
A Twitter backchannel at a conference can provide participants a way to share ideas and resources from the sessions they attend, connect people who might not have connected otherwise, and broaden the conference discussion to include those not physically present.

While the backchannel is a new concept for many people, others may have heard of the backchannel but never actually participated in one. If you’d like to participate in the Ebooks in Early Literacy backchannel, you should prepare in advance. Here is a quick overview of some of the things you can do to be ready to participate and enhance your Ebooks in Early Literacy experience via the backchannel.

Now that you’re familiar with what a backchannel is here’s what you need to do to participate.

Join Twitter

If you’re going to participate in a backchannel, you must have access to the technology through which the sharing takes place. In this case, the backchannel will take place predominantly on Twitter. If you want to participate in the backchannel, start by joining Twitter. Joining Twitter is actually very easy, and can be done in less than five minutes. Visit the Twitter signup page and follow the on screen instructions. Here are some additional resources to help you get your account created.

Choose your Device and Apps

Take some time to become comfortable with Twitter prior to the conference. It is most important to consider what type of technology you will use at the event. In general, people that connect to Twitter during a conference are not doing so using a laptop. More often, people use a smart phone or tablet. You’ll want to download an iOS app like the official Twitter app or TweetBot on your iPhone or iPad to start participating. If you’re an Android user, try Janetter. What ever app you choose, the goal is to get comfortable and learn how the app operates so that when you arrive at the conference you can concentrate on “What to Tweet” rather than figuring out "How to Tweet.”

Take a minute to learn about Hashtags

One barrier to using Twitter effectively that beginning users often experience is understanding the language of Twitter, and how that language translates into connecting within the community. One term that you’ll need to be familiar with to participate in the Ebooks in Early Literacy backchannel is HASHTAG. Hashtags are the foundation of a Twitter backchannel. People who are discussing a specific topic on Twitter use hashtags to tag or categorize their discussion and make it easy for others interested in that topic to follow. Hashtags are searchable from the Twitter website or through a simple Google search.

Placing a number sign in front of a word or acronym in a tweet creates a hashtag. The official hashtag for Ebooks in Early Literacy: Science, Design, Decision will be #eel13. People contributing to the conference backchannel will be adding the #eel13 hashtag to each tweet. Anyone that wants to review or monitor the conference backchannel can do so by searching for the #eel13 hashtag. We’ll also have a live feed of the #eel13 hashtag up on the screens and monitors located throughout the conference center.

You’re now ready to start using and monitoring the #eel13 hashtag. Go ahead, post a tweet about what you’re most looking forward to about the conference! Remember to include the #eel13 hashtag as part of your tweet! As more and more conference participants begin to use it, it will become easy to connect and share with one another through the event hashtag. Have fun sharing and learning via our #eel13 backchannel!

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