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Exploring Collaborative Dialogue

Page history last edited by Bill 9 years, 7 months ago

Exploring Collaborative Dialogue


Readers of Teaching the iGeneration also explore the key elements of the communication practices that matter.  The differences between collaborative and competitive dialogue are discussed and suggestions for helping students to use conversations to build knowledge together are made.  Finally, tips for using both synchronous and asynchronous conversations to learn from one another are introduced.  


This resource page houses links to the handouts and services that Bill is using to teach the students in his classroom about collaborative dialogue. 





Collaborative Versus Competitive Dialogue


One of the most important skills that students must learn to be more efficient and effective learners in today's world is the difference between collaborative and competitive dialogue.  While competitive dialogue -- debates, advertisements, arguments -- have a place in our world, collaborative dialogue is far more productive for learning.  People engaged in collaborative dialogue see one another as learning partners -- members of the same team who can build new understandings together even when they disagree.  


Bill's students study the differences between collaborative and competitive dialogue by watching an interaction between presidential candidates in a 2011 debate.  


Click here to download the handout for this activity



Video to Explore:





Three Characteristics of Effective Communication


Even though participants in the best conversations see each other as intellectual equals that are worth learning from, persuasion -- trying to convince others to change their minds about the topic of study -- will inevitably make its way into most collaborative conversations.  Effective persuasion, Don Rothman argues, is not the kind of persuasion that students see modeled in most conversations.  Instead, effective persuasion is built on three key behaviors:


Respecting the views of others:  Truly changing someone's minds depends on finding connections between their core beliefs and the new directions you want them to consider.  That means the most persuasive individuals work to truly understand what other people are thinking.


Respectfully describing sources of disagreement: Changing minds also depends on being able to identify -- and then rationally explain -- the misguided arguments that people on issues.  When we understand the positions of others well enough that we can articulate them clearly and respectfully, we stand a better chance of pointing out flaws that need to be reconsidered.   


Sustaining conversations: The most persuasive individuals also collect as much information as they can about an issue before finalizing their own positions.  Doing so leads to a stronger final stance.  Collecting information depends on sustaining conversations with -- rather than silencing -- others.  As contradictory as it may seem, to be persuasive depends on careful listening.  


These handouts can be used by students to master Rothman's characteristics of effective persuasion:


Recognizing Multiple Perspectives

Collecting and Respecting Different Perspectives

Exploring Misguided Arguments

Tracking Conversation Behaviors




Exploring Student VoiceThread Conversations


Bill's favorite tool for giving students the chance to practice their collaborative dialogue skills is VoiceThread -- a service that makes hosting asynchronous conversations around quotes, images and/or video possible.  What Bill loves about VoiceThread is that it is a breeze to use.  Literally everyone has the technical skill necessary to make contributions to VoiceThread conversations.  Bill also loves VoiceThread because it allows users to add audio comments and video comments to conversations.  That adds a level of interactivity to discussions that students often appreciate -- and gives students with identified writing disabilities a comfortable entry point into classroom conversations.


Spend a minute exploring the student VoiceThread conversations titled Why Do People Hate and/or New York City Soda Ban.  Use the handout titled VoiceThread in Action to guide your reflections.







Exploring Staff VoiceThread Conversations


For school leaders, VoiceThread conversations between faculty members can be a great way to elicit valuable feedback from staff on important issues.  What's more, VoiceThread conversations can make the will of the faculty on important issues transparent to everyone.  Most importantly, however, faculty VoiceThread conversations can serve as a valuable introduction to a tool, a process, and an instructional practice that you would like to see integrated into classroom practice.  For an example of what faculty conversations in VoiceThread can look like in action, check out this conversation on grading and this conversation on professional learning communities




Structuring Asynchronous and Synchronous Conversations


Students need to learn the language of collaborative conversations before successfully participating in VoiceThread conversations. This has to be practiced extensively in class.  Students also need to learn that good conversations are collaborative. In a collaborative conversation, participants are members of a team working together to explore a topic.  They should add to the learning of their peers by listening to and challenging one another’s thinking.  Students are generally uncomfortable with these skills at the beginning of the year.


To help students develop a comfort level with the skills necessary for participating in collaborative dialogue, consider using these documents:


Exploring Asynchronous Conversation

Previewing an Asynchronous Conversation

Commenting in an Asynchronous Conversation

Reflecting on an Asynchronous Conversation

Scoring Student Participation in an Asynchronous Conversation

Tracking Synchronous Conversations


The following handouts can help teachers think through the technical and pedagogical steps necessary for structuring meaningful synchronous and asynchronous conversations in their classrooms:


Teacher Planning Checklist - Asynchronous Conversation

Teacher Planning Checklist - Synchronous Conversation





What Will YOU Take Away from These Lessons?


Now that we have worked through our lessons on collaborative and competitive dialogue, it is time to do a bit of reflecting. What lessons did you learn here that you think you will be able to use in your classroom immediately? Was there anything that made real sense? Is there anything that you’re still struggling to understand? What questions about collaborative dialogue remain unanswered for you?






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