I am currently taking an instructional technology course as a part of my doctoral work at Illinois State University. While I have blogged before (sporadically), one of my current assignments is to review blogs of other educational technologists, comment, and reflect.
The blog I read was by Richard Byrne and discussed http://backchan.nl/.
The section of the blog that grabbed my interest was this: Backchan.nl is an open-source backchannel tool developed at the MIT Media Lab. Using Backchan.nl you can create an online forum through which users can exchange messages in response to a presentation they're watching. There are a lot of free services that do the same thing, but there are a couple of things that make Backchan.nl different. Backchan.nl allows you to select a start and end time for your backchannel. As the administrator of a Backchan.nl account you can create and manage multiple backchannels and schedule them to go live at different times. Backchan.nl also includes voting tools that participants can use to vote messages up or down.
My comment on the blog was: Thank you for this resource. In the past I have used Chatzy when I have done workshops or presentations. The polling option is a nice way that educators can gauge the level of understanding by students or the audience. Have you run into any major firewall problems? The chance to have the audience or students interact as a part of presentation really hits the 4 C's of 21st century learning.
While I have used other back channel utilities before, Backchan.nl presents some wonderful opportunities to educators as well as presenters. The benefits include polling options and more user controlled timing with start and stop times. When I have presented a backchat to a workshop group before, they were hesitant and questioning the attention span of themselves and their students. Once they realized that they could discuss unique aspects of my presentation, ask questions, follow related tangents, etc., they found that they were actual participants in my presentation and were actively learning, collaborating, and communicating without missing my message. It presents a powerful avenue for students to express opinions and find their voice within your class.