Educators’ Perceptions of Uses, Constraints, and Successful Practices of Backchanneling


  • Cheri Toledo Illinois State
  • Sharon Peters Hebrew Academy



web-based backchanneling, learning environments, professional development, networking


This qualitative study sought to explore participants’ perceptions of the impact of web-based backchanneling conversations in a variety of learning environments. Backchannels, forms of instant message conversations, take place during synchronous learning sessions. Online interviews with educators from Canada and the United States revealed their perceptions of the uses, constraints, and successful practices of backchanneling. Educators in the study saw backchanneling as a non-disruptive, non-subversive, collaborative activity that expanded participation and interactions; an approach applied with intentionality to enhance learning. Six themes emerged from the data: backchanneling for professional development and networking; backchanneling for engagement; constraints of backchanneling; changes in teacher and/or learner perspectives; examples of backchanneling in educational settings; and suggestions for successful backchanneling.

Keywords: web-based backchanneling; learning environments; professional development; networking

Author Biographies

Cheri Toledo, Illinois State

Cheri Toledo, an Associate Professor at Illinois State in Curriculum and Instruction, specializes in educational technology. An educator for over 25 years, Cheri has taught in a variety of disciplines at the K-12, undergraduate, and graduate levels. Her research interests revolve around strategic uses of current and emerging technologies to increase effective teaching and learning, and issues and practices in web-enhanced, blended and online teaching and learning settings. Cheri was a co-host of Women of Web 2.0, and is a founding member of the new iteration, Women of Web 3.0, an EdTechTalk Network webcast.

Sharon Peters, Hebrew Academy

Sharon Peters is the Director of Technology at the Hebrew Academy, in Montreal, QC, but is moving to the American International of Mozambique in August 2010. Her research has focused on online collaborative learning for high school students and has worked as an independent consultant creating English Language Arts curricula for the online school in Quebec. During the summers of ’08, and ‘09, she led teams who facilitated professional dev. workshops with Education Beyond Borders (formerly Teachers Without Borders Canada) to educators in the townships of South Africa and rural Kenya; she returns to South Africa in June and July of 2010. Her students have participated in several award-winning international web-based collaborative projects with classes around the world using technology to support the learning goals. Sharon is also a founding member of Women of Web 2.0, now Women of Web 3.0, which has begun its fourth season on the EdTechTalk Network.