Monday, June 3, 2013

The problem with online discourse

There are a few links you may want to reference if the first half of this blog post is to make sense.

First, there was the Toronto Star article that led to comments on Twitter.

Then, there's my gaming blog, where I embedded some tweets.

After that, there's another blog post on a different blog, in response to the embedded tweets.

The blogs definitely helped clarify what sounded on Twitter like a bit of a heated exchange. However, there's still some difficulties with relying on blog posts to dialogue ... something that became much clearer to me after today.

What was special about today? Today was the first of four days that I'll be spending at OISE (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education) at the University of Toronto, facilitating a Tribes training for recent Faculty of Education graduates. I've posted about Tribes before on this blog. Tribes is a process that creates a culture that maximizes learning and human development. The four community agreements that provide the foundation for Tribes are:

  • mutual respect
  • attentive listening
  • appreciation / no put-downs
  • the right to pass
During Module 2 in the afternoon, the group and I examined some of the aspects of attentive listening: attending, paraphrasing, reflecting feelings and non-verbal communication. Some of these aspects are nearly impossible to do when relying on text-only digital communication. Going beyond the 140 character limit in Twitter helps significantly, as does elaborating on one's opinion. For instance, there are a couple of points in the other blog that I agree with (e.g. supervising students while using Minecraft - this is what we do on There are some views he expressed where we just need to agree to disagree. However, I have no clue if he was upset by my gaming blog post or not. I couldn't hear the tone of his voice, or observe his body language. Online discourse, especially in the fast-paced, immediate response Twitterverse, doesn't seem to have time for someone to paraphrase to check for understanding (and in my opinion, retweets don't count towards paraphrasing - it's a Twitter version of the Facebook "like"). 

Jared, if you read this (and I hope it's okay if we use each other's names), I wouldn't mind touching base some time in the future (be it at the Academy of the Impossible on June 20 when the topic is Minecraft in Schools, or at the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario) so that our conversation can be full of mutual respect and attentive listening on both sides. Even if we do not persuade the other with our opinions, it will still be an opportunity to overcome the obstacles surrounding online conversations. 

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