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How to Foster Meaningful Classroom Dialogue With Technology

How to Foster Meaningful Classroom Dialogue With Technology

Dr. Ann Gagne

One of the most important things that us educators can do is connect and facilitate meaningful dialogue with our students. This is the process of expanding and elaborating on course ideas to connect learners with the concepts.

However, meaningful dialogue is not the regurgitation of facts; it’s the creation of meaning from those facts. This is what many educators call “upper level learning”—a movement from memory recall to analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

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But how do we get to the place where connection happens? What can we do to foster a safe space for ideas and create a lasting dialogue?

Whether you teach in a classroom, online or in a mixed-mode delivery, such as a blended or flipped class, there are tech tools that can help you create, foster, and maintain this meaningful dialogue with your students.

When choosing what tools you want to use, consider important details such as what type of dialogue it can facilitate, whether it’s accessible to all students and more.

Facilitate Instantaneous or Delayed Dialogue

Technology can help you support meaningful dialog, both instantaneously in the classroom and delayed, where students complete preliminary work at home, and discuss it in class later.

For example, Vialogues allows you to annotate soundless video, allowing both the instructor and the students to add their own individualized meaning to what’s presented.

“Meaningful dialogue is not the regurgitation of facts; it’s the creation of meaning from those facts. This is what many educators call “upper level learning”—a movement from memory recall to analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.”

This tool is valuable for delayed dialogue, where students take time to reflect on the lesson at home or break into small groups and annotate, but it doesn’t facilitate instantaneous dialogue and feedback as a whole class.

Twitter is a better tool for encouraging instant and long-term classroom dialog. Through a carefully selected hashtag that represents your course (#mrsrogersonhistory), students and the instructor can follow discussion threads and bring in valuable related resources.

These tools, and those similar to them, encourage meaningful dialog with every student—this is especially important for students who are less likely to raise their hand or speak up in class.

Prioritize Accessibility and Privacy

Accessibility is a term that takes into account access for students with disabilities, as well as students with varying socio-economic equity. If you want to connect with your students and open that space for dialogue, your tool choice can’t inadvertently shut down that conversation for certain students.

Look for educational platforms and tools with features that utilize alternate presentation options like text only pages with large font or closed captioning for video components. This will make all the difference in how effective the dialog is.

When considering accessibility, don’t forget to look for mobile-friendly tools. A mobile-friendly tool will allow students to use their own devices. For some students, personal devices are equipped with the specialized software they need to participate. It’s our responsibility as educators to make sure all of these details are in place for our students.

“If you want to connect with your students and open that space for dialogue, your tool choice can’t inadvertently shut down that conversation for certain students.”

Use Curation to Create Connections

Open up your classroom to meaningful dialogue with a tool that allows students to bring their own resources and ideas to the discussion, like articles or YouTube videos. Use an organization tool like Evernote to store and share these resources. You can create a class account, where every student has their own “notebook,” or give each student their own account so they can create notebooks for various subject or discussion topics.

One of the best arguments for using Evernote is that you can use it to bring physical resources into the digital world. For example, a student who doesn’t have computer access at home, but reads the newspaper on a regular basis, can bring the physical clippings into class and take a picture or scan them into an Evernote notebook. This makes it easy to encourage participation and dialogue with every student.

Regardless of what tool or method you choose, technology is an efficient and engaging way to foster meaningful dialog and exchange of ideas in the classroom. Consider how you can use these tools with your students to encourage curiosity and open conversation.

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