This post was inspired by this post from hadleyjf. I commented on that post but felt I wanted to expound on my thoughts here.
Before you begin reading, press the play button on the Voki below this paragraph and then immediately continue reading while it speaks. Try it. It'll be educational and will barely hurt, I promise.
Get a Voki now!
This past weekend I participated in educon thru elluminate and in the past year took online courses using a similar program. In both experiences I was able to participate in a conversation that was taking place during the presentation/class using a chat window. Having done that many times now I have come to realize that I find it impossible to multitask in that way. Many times the chat session became the "front channel" and the presenter/teacher went to the back of my attention. I found that I missed some of what the presenter said while I participated in the chats. But at the same time I also find that I learn greatly from that part of the experience and I learn much from the other participants and make great connections.
At this point the Voki should be done talking. If you remember the ideas it AND the first paragraph conveyed, please tell me how in the comment section. I need the advice! In any case, I am reminded of this each time I ask a student to respond to a question in my own class who I know has missed the question because of his own distraction. At that point it becomes a lesson in attention and respect for the student. But it also serves as a reminder to me of my own learning and participation in events.
I am torn on this issue because I can see the advantages of the backchannel while at the same time see the disadvantages as it pertains to my attention to the speaker. Until I figure it out, I just hope none of the speakers or presenters puts me on the spot and asks for my answer to a question previously stated. Then again, that taste of my own medicine may be just what the doctor ordered for my Attention Overflow Disorder.