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Backchannel or Bashchannel?

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I attended the keynote speech at ISTE 2010. I am still wrestling with what happened during the Twitter backchannel of the keynote. The speaker, Jean-François Rischard, spoke about global problem solving and the critical role of educators and technology for education. I believe most of his speech was based on his book, High-Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them. When he walked on stage, he looked a bit nervous and all I could think was that it takes a very brave person to stand up in front of a crowd that big on the opening day of a major conference. The Wells Fargo Theater has a 5,000 fixed-seat capacity and it looked to me like all seats were filled.

Photo courtesy of jjohnson1120's photostream on Flickr

When he began, Mr. Rischard showed a Power-Point slide and began using some mathematical terms and formulas that made me wish I had more mathematical knowledge. Although, what he said was over my head, I was able to understand the core of his message, that we have major global challenges that need to be solved quickly. I was interested to learn more.

While Mr. Rischard was presenting, I was keeping an eye on the Twitter backchannel. It was not a pretty sight. Things started to turn pretty ugly, pretty quickly. Many commented negatively on his PowerPoint Slides, his lack of energy and his lack of connection to the audience. Reading the negative tweets reminded me of a blog post I had recently read by Danah Boyd, “spectacle at Web2.0 Expo… from my perspective.” In her post, she describes what it felt like to be on stage presenting and know that she had somehow lost the audience.  She talked about hearing laughter at moments when there should have been none. It forced her to rush through her speech, just to be done as quickly as possible.  She stated, “The Twitter stream had become the center of attention, not the speaker. Not me.”  Her post really stuck with me, and I couldn’t help but realize that I was witnessing the same type of situation. Thinking about that, I tweeted out a tweet to try and divert the attention back to the speaker. I am not sure if it helped, but I felt it was something I needed to do.

There are at least two sides to every story. Did the speaker lack savvy presentation skills? Maybe. When presenting at a conference filled with tech savvy presenters, is that important? Maybe. Is it an affront to the message of fostering a growth in technology in education? Maybe.

Here’s my issue. The message the speaker was trying to convey was a very serious one. Do we always need bells and whistles in a presentation? When we don’t get that, can we get past it and pay attention, really listen?  Maybe I am way off base, but isn’t the backchannel supposed to be a critical engagement about the message the speaker is trying to convey and not about the speaker himself? Don’t we do a disservice to ourselves and the speaker when engaging in a bashchannel and not a true backchannel?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Am I way off base? Maybe? Maybe not?


Written by Life With L

July 2, 2010 at 10:58 PM

Posted in Education

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