SxSWi09: Blackboards or Backchannels?

I was extremely disappointed in higher-ed panels at SXSWi and I am not the only professor. This particular panel was from a student-only perspective. I would have preferred mix for proper balance and conversation. The other panel was from educator’s perspective, but majority focus was not on using already developed tools, but creating original tools…not too time or cost efficient or community friendly!

While I did not attend all of the higher-ed sessions, I was disappointed at the lack of real world education use. From this panel, the vibe I got was students look at social media as just an alternative to getting someone’s phone number in case they skip class!



  • Laptop is a huge distraction and takes away from real conversation.
  • (Small university perspective) Best use of tech is outside the classroom to compliment/stimulate class conversation.
  • Online experience is rich because of limited participation; there is no deadweight. (True, but this is problem for professor…must have 100% participation!)
  • Tech should be not be solely about making classroom experience easier, but important things productively difficult.
  • IM and email lowers barrier between professors and students; leading to lack of respect from student, manipulation and frivolity; professors cannot give up authority to students. (Wow! Never saw this comment coming…do not agree that using these tools lowers my respect/authority, but I do let my students know proper etiquette for using said tools.)
  • Throwing money at school programs is not solution; Cannot buy laptops or add online resources without strategy and training of usage.
  • Diana: (Re: Backchannel use) “Helpful to look at as murder mystery and look at everyone’s motives.”

Additional Topic Reading:

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  • Archana Ramachandran

    Hey Diana, hope you’re doing well.
    I was one of the 5 student speakers on the panel you are referencing. We were slated to have a professor speak with us, but said professor was unable to attend the conference, so we opted for a full board of students. I can only speak for myself, but I agree with you – the panel would have been richer had a different perspective been present. Hopefully next year’s panel will include a variety of characters.
    “the vibe I got was students look at social media as just an alternative to getting someone’s phone number in case they skip class” – As a student of rapidly changing times and as someone who has observed what’s happening on today’s college campuses, the issue is not as simple as you present it. Technology can be used to facilitate the face-to-face experience in classrooms. Social media is not a replacement for going to class (or missing class) but at the present point, it can be used (successfully) to facilitate the classroom experience.
    I sincerely hope you submit a panel idea for next year’s SXSW so that more people may gain a wider perspective on technology and higher education. Thank you for your comments, and I look forward to connecting with you sometime!

  • Lauren Vargas

    Thank you for responding to my post.
    I did use generalization of how tools are being used and you are correct there are great examples of backchannels facilitating new classroom experiences. Hopefully we will hear and see more examples next year.