We had a discussion in class today about the way conversation differs via electronic media vs in face to face situations. This was in response to our Graffiti Wall activity earlier this week. Of course, this isn’t anything spellbinding in ed-tech circles. What makes this rather novel, however, is that the reflection took place in a social skills classroom.
These are students who lack some of the most basic understandings of social rules. They have a narrow vision of the world – not to mention narrow understanding of how the world views them!
In an effort to mix things up a little bit for them, I had them do an activity where they got to write “graffiti” on the whiteboard (Topic: “Ways our Families Support Us”). Once complete, I photographed it and posted on my other blog. The next day, the entire class (okay, it was only 7 kids…) met up in the computer lab to try their hand at commenting on their graffiti wall work.
They were given explicit instructions how to proceed with the logistics of commenting (as this was new territory for all but one). The computer lab was already near-full with other students, so mine just tiptoed in a found chairs wherever they were open (which was all separate). This played well into forcing the online nature of communication rather than being able to nudge the kid next to himself and ask, “what did you mean by…”
Once they got rolling, I sat back at my computer and commented on their comments as they rolled in. I really was surprised at the quantity of comments that rolled through. It came out to 48 total. I thought that was really impressive for them, although I think was expecting less production. Quality of comments was perhaps not at the highest level I was hope for, but enthusiasm was very evident.
Today, we met as a class and talked about how that 20 minutes of commenting went. “What did you learn about the format of commenting that was important?” “Why don’t we write in ALL CAPS?” “What are some main differences between online conversation and face to face talking?”
That was the question that generated some great answers. One student had the insight to notice that
online threads allow a participant to “not miss” anything anyone said. You can always look back at others’ comments to re-read if you don’t get it.
I immediately realized how powerful this could be for a class of ADHD-stricken kids who often miss large parts of conversations because they can’t listen for extended periods of time. They lose benefits of in-depth discussions because the attention is so scattered. The permanence of the written words allows for reading over and over if necessary.
Students were so excited today that they did a classroom poll: “raise your hand if you want to do blog commenting again.”
All hands up.
November 30 Update: please see student response to the activity HERE.