Giving Reluctant Students a Voice

The article by Reynold Redekopp and Elizabeth Bourbonniere discusses the use of blogs and discussion boards as tools for students to contribute to classroom discussions.  According to the authors, the tools primarily help those students who seldom or never participate in class discussions.  The reasons for not participating isn’t really defined in the article and doesn’t seem particularly important.  When given a forum that is safe, non-threatening, and perceived as equal, those reluctant participants not only participate but have insightful and thought-provoking comments.

This article reminded me of the PBS program, Digital Media*New Learners of the 21st century and the segment on the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.  Douglas Herman, a history teacher, discusses the use of chat rooms in his classroom.  He states that the students that have the least level of participation in an open discussion in the classroom become “rock stars” at posting to the forums – constantly posting their ideas and responding to others.  The instant gratification of putting an opinion out there as well as the immediate feedback and ability to respond, work for these reluctant participants. In the video the students were using these chatrooms while in class, which is counter intuitive to me.  I was thinking homework – but they were using it for classwork.  Instead of a single conversation happening, they could have 32 conversations going on simultaneously, leading to a much richer discussion.

According to the participation levels defined in the article, I would be a level 1.   I know that I talk a lot in class but I do try to formulate my comments so they are productive and helpful. Sometimes I may fall woefully short but at least I try!  I have noticed that others don’t talk.  This article made me reflect as to why.  Do I dominate the conversation so much that its like Janice was saying…”by the time I figure out how I want to [comment], the discussion is over or has moved on…”?  Sometimes I know I speak up to jump start a discussion because no one is talking and we’re supposed to be having a dialogue.  Sometimes I speak up to support a colleague who is presenting.  And, sometimes I just have an opinion to share.  Regardless, before I jump right in the next time I think I will count to 10 and give someone else a chance!  Will I be able to do it?

Stay tuned…

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