Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Engaging Conversations by using the tools

I sat down the other week to watch Front line's special Growing Up Online
I quite disturbed as I watched this skewed views of what is happening online when a message popped up on my twitter feed...one of my colleagues in my twitter network had started a chatroom, and the conversation about this show was flying.  I was amazed at how quickly the conversation had gotten started, how heated the discussion, how engaged we all were and how much more I learned from this show by having the opportunity to "discuss" in this manner

Then I had the opportunity to "live blog" about A Whole New Mind with Anne Smith's class... Kids home sick deciding to "blog along" with the fischbowl. I was able to listen in to the inner circle via Skype (unfortunately their MeBeam room was blocked at my location) but to hear the kids talking and see the comments that were being written was absolutely fascinating from the outside.  The thread of comments is definitely worth a read...

Time passed...
and I found myself sitting in on a conversation in a classroom that  had to do with perceptions of the US, to answer the question "Can America based on past & current events  be defined as an imperial power?"   Kids who were born in other countries, describing their views of what they expected America to be...Side conversations happening...kids trying to find their voice...coming up to me at the end of the period to defend their ideas...a teacher wishing the period, the discussion could have gone further...28 kids, engaged, but many ideas left unarchived, many kids left frustrated that they couldn't be heard

...and I started to think about how powerful this medium of "chat" can be in relevant, authentic, well structured activities and I started to investigate some of the tools.  While I enjoyed  fishbowl with "live blogging" I started to experiment with some emerging chat rooms and tools for live blogging to make the experience more realtime and authentic for the students. 
Top on my list...chatzy and coverit live... which I will cover in my next post....but, before I do, let me paint a new picture....

Looking to the future...
there are 28 kids in a classroom, 2-3 students have prepared to lead the conversation with 8-10 of their peers.  Surrounding this group is a circle of 10-15  more students...."discussing" online their thoughts about what the "inner circle" is saying.  Perhaps this outer circle has an audience using ustream from another school, state, country...perhaps they have a participatory audience, where these folks have been invited into their chat room to engage and challenge.. and let's say this conversation was archived so the inner circle could go back and read and comment on how they were being challenged.  Let's say that this method of discussion continued so all kids had the opportunity to lead, to be in the inner circle, as well as the outer circle.  And let's say at the end they needed to reflect on the experience.... to defend a point, to support their ideas to persuade us to take some action. 

Is this a good use of these tools that are often blocked in schools?  Is this a lesson that is rigorous and causes kids to have to think, learn and participate at a higher level?  Does this activity hold ALL STUDENTS accountable and give them voice?  Is this responsible protected use that teaches kids to use technology appropriately and productively? 
Think about having an archived record of these ideas and thoughts upon which they can reflect further...
Think about whether or not the students would would be engaged in the learning process...
Think about the skills that would benefit them both in the real world AND for the test...
Just think....is it worth having these conversations at your school?

Blogged with Flock


  1. Ustreamtech12:23 PM

    FIrst let me welcome you to Ustream, and also say we are thrilled that the educational community has accepted Ustream for the remarkable education tool that it was originally designed to be. If anyone has questions about ustream and how to stream your event, feel free to contact us at support@ustream.tv, ustreamtech@yahoo.com or stop by the Ustream Users Community Forum http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ustream-users-community-forum, for tips and techniques! My daughter is a teacher and I will be gald to share some of the innovative ways she is using Ustream in her district!

  2. I like your vision of the future. What I find most intriguing is that it is entirely possible. The students are ready to use these collaborative technologies and teachers are steadily following suit. The idea of 21st century teaching is here now and will only develop further.

  3. Anonymous2:10 AM

    Kristin Ive added you to my twitter
    jamesed11 hope ok and thanks *-)