With the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic games underway, you’ve probably noticed a lot of people “live tweeting” and “live blogging” about the activities and events.
What is live tweeting and live blogging? It’s a synchronous broadcast of events in written word (and pictures/video) via Social Media Internet sites such as Twitter and Blogs. It’s a way for anyone with a computer, smart phone, or tablet to create their own “news”.
Live tweeting and live blogging is also applicable in the learning environment. At the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, students participate in “backchannel” dialogue. Backchannel is when computers are used to have a real-time online conversation alongside the primary group activity or lecture. The graduate students in the Interactive Media & Games major contribute to the live lecture discussion at the same time by commenting on a WordPress blog page. The constant stream of comments assures that all opinions are documented.
The use of backchannel in the classroom encourages student participation when the class is too large for everyone to speak (100-200 student lecture hall). If the comments are made anonymously, it also allows students to freely speak their mind and contribute without the fear of “getting it wrong”. I particularly like the use of backchannel during live lectures because it promotes community building. Not only are students learning from their instructor, but they are able to share their opinions with others and continue the discussion even after the lecture concludes. In some instances, instructors are unaware of backchannel discussions taking place, opening up the possibly of uncensored opinions and thoughts of the subject matter.
In the professional environment, people live blog conference events. This gives attendees a chance to get an inside look of conference sessions and workshops they are unable to attend. Using tagging features, such as hashtags (#), guarantees that similar topics are grouped together and easier to find on the Internet. Anyone can run a Twitter or Internet search for a hashtag to review all backchannel communications on a given topic, thus opening conference proceedings up to the entire Internet community.