Digital Dialogue – developing ideas

Communication takes so many different forms, but increasingly it is taking place online. The impact of digital dialogue is enormous – just look at the burgeoning networks that are being established on Twitter.

Look at the success of Facebook. If there was any doubt about the potential impact of digital dialogue, we only have to look at the social and political impact of online communication in recent months. Just look at how our teenagers (and, of course, our politicians) organize their lives and identify with others through their online communications.

The Internet has evolved from an information source, an online “encyclopedia”, to a tool for social dialogue, shared game-playing, collaboration. And it’s the dialogue that takes place that seems to be having the impact.

Dialogue? It needs more than one person. It’s using communication to bounce ideas back and forth, to exchange and develop ideas and to refine our own viewpoint.

It’s those social interactions that help us build knowledge. Mercer (The Guided Construction of Knowledge, 2011) says that knowledge is shaped by communication. Alexander (Towards Dialogic Teaching, 2014) talks about how we have moved from an emphasis on written literacy to a curriculum that values speaking and listening skills (oracy) too. He talks about how we need to develop effective learning dialogue in our classrooms to “achieve common understanding through structured, cumulative questioning and discussion” so we guide and prompt our learners with increasing effectiveness.

If you have read any of my previous blog posts, you may have noticed my interest in tools that enable collaboration between the children within my class. We use wikis, forums, voicethread, wallwisher, lineout, and a range of other tools to share our ideas, build knowledge together and give each other feedback along the way. We use these tools to collaborate with children from other classes, other countries.

I think the feedback they are able to give each other is part of what helps our learners co-construct their knowledge – true social constructivism. But I’m not always convinced we get past the “that’s great” to the “what do you need to do next” – though from what I have noticed in class, we all get better at it with practice.

So is digital learning dialogue the same as face to face, real-life learning dialogue? What is the most effective way for us to use digital learning dialogue to impact learning? Are those who are good at face to face dialogue good at digital dialogue too?

Does digital dialogue transform grunting teenagers into articulate communicators – like my teenage son giving directions, asking questions, sharing jokes as he talks to his friends through a headset when playing online with his friends on his PlayStation?

Does digital dialogue provide a means for the shyest in the class to contribute to discussions? What is the nature of effective digital learning dialogue? How do we harness the enormous potential of social digital dialogue in a learning context? Is the nature of digital learning dialogue going to be markedly different to social digital dialogue?

Prensky (Teaching Digital Natives: Partnering for Real Learning, 2010) suggests that part of a teacher’s role in effective learning dialogue will be to provide those rigorous, probing, guiding questions that ensure quality learning takes place – how do we know we are being rigorous and effective in this?

I may have been quiet on my blog over the last few weeks, but I have been reading and trying to formulate the question that will provide the basis for my Master’s research. My problem is that every time I think of a question, I think of a dozen more I need to ask, too! I’m beginning to think I have just opened a can of worms!