Great idea #1: Backchanneling by #EDUPLANET21 synthesized with Cornell Note taking – Strategies for learning success! #gifted #edchat #assessment

On Tuesday, February 28, 2012 I listened in on a webinar by EDUPLANET 21 (http://www.eduplanet21.com/) with speakers Bena Kallick, Ph.D and Jeff Colosimo.

Thank you EDUPLANET21 for a great webinar! I will blog more about what I learned this weekend!

The webinar was titled “Launching self-directed learners through social learning”.

The ideas and understand about social learning?  Well…that is a blog post in itself and it’s coming!

But one of the many things I took away from it was the term “Backchannel Learning”.   Below is some notes about back channel learning and how I integrated the concept with a strategies I’ve used before.  I integrated back channeling using the Cornell Note format.  I feel it helps me assess not only the information they took from me or what I’ve asked them to give back (as far as work)..but the side notes also give me insight in their questions and thinking about their learning.

Here is a fusion of comments from the speaker and my thoughts:

“So in chat (available with on-line learning platforms) – use the idea of being able to think about back channeling – looking at the question while someone is speaking. The learner: “I am having thoughts.”  The instructor:  “If I want you to pay attention, but I can’t monitor your mind, I ask myself…metacognitively…what is going on?”

Back channeling allows you as an instructor to capture that and turn it into a learning moment.   Back channeling is where the student is staying on task with speaker and allowed to post questions…

So the presenter can use thoughts and gain feedback (formative assessment at times) as she goes along teaching.  You can engage on the ideas and questions together!  In real-time!

Backchannel…You don’t allow for the meeting to take place AFTER the meeting…it happens during.  (You don’t let the students leave and then ask and wonder when you no longer are there…you get them to engage right then.)

The power of back channeling is AMAZING!

In short…Backchannel learning is when the learner can post questions into a Q & A zone on-line while the teacher is presenting.  EDUPLANET21’s new on-line platform provides that real-time interaction. The instructor can see the questions and comments and can adjust her presentation or answer the questions privately or during the lesson as needed.

This is multi-tasking in its most amazing domain…not only for the teacher but also for the student.

Actually, for the student I would call it multi-path learning because the student is able to gain information visually or through listening …while responding through type and gaining feedback in a ‘backchannel’ zone.


The concept of back channel wasn’t new to me in the sense that I teach my students to raise  3 fingers in the air (rather than a hand) when a question they have or thought is ‘off the topic’.  If I can fit an off the topic question in, I address it.  If I can’t, I nod ‘no’ and they write the question on their paper to ask me at the end of the lesson.  That way they don’t forget.

Well, I put that info all together today through a Cornell Note taking sheet I found on-line at:

Here is the essence of the guidance I taught my 5th and 3rd grade Gifted classes for note taking strategies.


  • The lined zone…belongs to me the teacher – in the sense that I, as the teacher, guide what goes on and in this zone.
  •  Work in here needs to be neat.
  • Work in this zone shows they gained information
  • Or…shows any information or work being asked for.

The blank zone – their BACKCHANNEL SPACE

  • The zone around the sides and at the bottom was their ‘backchannel space’.
  • This area is to write notes, ideas, thoughts, doodle (doodle has been showed to support learning).
  • This area belong to them..it didn’t have to be neat – although I suggested that after the learning they look it over and revise any writing they feel is important but can’t read well.

I also taught them some study, note taking strategies.

  • Circle ideas that were important and they might want to look up or address later.
  • Place a ? Mark over questions and thoughts they want to ask me about or look up on their own.
  • * (star) Items that are super important and might need to be done. These items they look up at the end of the lesson or day so they don’t forget.
  • At the end of the lesson, in the bottom part, write down a last thought…or reflection…what did I like, not like, think about what I just learned.  What might I do next?

Then we practiced as we considered the limits to a learning game they are developing.  I noticed some students quickly started to back channel and others not at all.  I did make a note on which students didn’t back channel to see if they do over time.

It should be interesting.  I like the concept because with gifted children their minds are fast and in a lesson,..they take off in other directions.  If they don’t write their ideas down and then tell me verbally, I miss some and we don’t end up acting on their ideas until or unless it is remembered and brought up again.  I’m interested in if this will change their learning and extending their learning.

The notes in a journal worked…but this feels more linked to their learning…at least visually.

I am using Edomodo as a way for them to share their ideas, questions and thoughts with me so I have them ‘written’ down.

Here is a gallery of some student examples…


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