How’s it going? (How will you know?)

Talking about live backchannels recently led to talking about feedback, which is good (in my view).  It’s feedback that offers the chance not to change, which was the first word trying to get in as I wrote this, but to decide. As in, decide whether to change or to keep on doing what you’re doing.

The difference?  Well, here are the basic steps of a process:

John Barley was a hero bold, of noble enterprise...

You can take the point-of-view elevator down (say, to the process for harvesting barley) or up (operating the Talisker distillery).  Processes go inside larger ones, link to others; an output here becomes an input there.

But you’re not getting the full picture.  You don’t know how you’re doing without feedback.  Thus items 7 and 9 on this diagram:

Looking for trouble?  A chart for examining performance

Item 9 on the diagram is feedback about the process (here’s how things are going).  You can see item 7 as both short-term and long-term feedback to the performer.  That’s the answer to “how’m I doing?”  (Sure, there’s crossover between the two, especially if it’s a single performer, but I was going for simplicity here.)

I talked recently with Dick Carlson about the backchannel.  He’s far more technically skilled than I am; he sometimes uses custom backchannel software in a session.  Each participate creates an anonymous ID (like, say, a favorite comic book character or root vegetable).  He displays the backchannel during the session, which means everybody gets to see when Granola&Grits says, “been there, declined the tshirt.”  Or when ParsnipAmazon says, “YES! ima usin this TODAY!”

Potential for an interesting bit of DIY research: do some sessions with the Veggie ID, others with name-based ID, then see if there’s discernable differences between the quality or quantity of feedback.  Okay, now, back to the post…

Not to say a backchannel is a requirement.  I have reservations, especially if most participants don’t have access to it–e.g., 60% lack devices to get to it. Shooting an anonymous remark into the stream is easier and potentially less intimidating than standing out by speaking up.

I’ve already said I’d be very distracted viewing a backchannel if I were presenting on my own.  Though on that topic, Aaron Silvers just today told me he found great value in reviewing a backchannel following a session he’d given.  During the session, he didn’t think he was doing that well, but what he saw in the stream afterward helped him see differently.

All of which is to say that software like Twitter is one way, not the way, to collect and retrieve feedback.  Which reminds me that collecting (storage) and retrieval (application) aren’t a bad way to think about the fundamentals of learning.

That’s my own “Looking for trouble?” chart.
My process diagram adapted from these CC-licensed images:
Ripening barley by net_efekt / Christian Guthier;
stills at the Lagavulin distillery by Freddie H / Frederique Harmsze;
glass of whisky by smiling_da_vince / Eelco.