Saturday, August 11, 2007

Structures for synchronous online discussions (Protocols Part 3)

I'm just starting to use more synchronous discussion tools in my online courses. Besides the fact that the tools have improved and students (and I) have easier access to them, I found inspiration in Brookfield and Preskill's book (Discussion as a way of teaching, 1999) to help me think about some strategies for synchronous discussions.

Here are two ways to structure synchronous online discussions, modified from Brookfield and Preskill, that I particularly like.

Chatroom of Voices

(Modified from Brookfield & Preskill’s Circle of Voices protocol)

  1. Form students into groups of 4-5, and set up a chatroom for each group.

  2. Post a question, a passage, etc. that focuses the chat.

  3. After students have a few minutes of quiet time to organize their thoughts (or you can ask students to prepare in advance of joining the chat), each student in the group then has 3 minutes of uninterrupted time to respond (this can be done sequentially, or in whatever order, as long as everyone writes for 3 minutes). Modification: Each student must begin by paraphrasing the comments of the previous student, and must strive to show how his or her postings relate to the comments of the previous student.

  4. After everyone in the chatroom has had their 3 minutes, the discussion is opened up with the following ground rule: Students are allowed to contribute to the chat only about other people’s ideas, not expand on their own ideas (unless asked a direct question).

Chatroom Full of Quotes
(Modified from Brookfield & Preskill’s Hatful of Quotes protocol)

  1. 1. Set up a chatroom for use with groups of 10-20 students.

  2. Prepare 5-6 sentences/passages/quotes from the text. Assign each student a number based on the number of quotes you have (e.g., if you have 6 quotes, assign students a number from 1 to 6).

  3. Share the quotes and explain that students assigned #1 will respond to quote #1 and so on.

  4. Give students a few minutes to organize their thoughts about the quote.

  5. Call on each student (randomly, by alphabetical order or by entry into the chatroom) to share the quote and comment on it.

  6. Each student has 1-2 minutes to respond in the chatroom.

  7. Once you have called on all students to participate in the chat, you may want to have them write and post a 250-word summary describing the content of the chat session.
Note: What is interesting about this activity is that since there are only 5-6 quotes that students are reacting to, that they get to read others’ views about the quote they posted on (or will post on).

Related posts in this blog:
Discussion ground rules
Don’t jump into discussions
Engaging quieter online students
Small groups reporting out to the large group?
Karma (or inspiration) points for discussion assessment
Beyond debates and conversational roles (Protocols Part 1)
Structures for asynchronous online discussions (Protocols Part 2)
Structures for small groups reporting out to whole group (Protocols Part 4)

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