Learning with Twitter Chats and Socratic Seminars in Virtual Spaces

My fellow librarian Jennifer Lund and I had the opportunity recently to partner with IB Theory of Knowledge teachers Dan Byrne and Dr. James Glenn. Our instructional design challenge was to think about how we might help students process the first chapters of an advanced text, “The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Whyby Dr. Richard Nisbett. Inspired by our previous efforts with Socratic circles and Twitter chat with Emily Russell’s language arts classes, we all agreed this medium would help us meet our student learning targets. After two short meetings and one extended planning session, Dan and James organized three student groups (Groups A, B, and C) that combined students from both of their sections since our learning activities would take place during a period on a “block” in which both sections had the opportunity to meet together. Dan and James designed the three groups to help us facilitate inner/outer circle groups for a Socratic seminar over the readings that would also incorporate participation through a Twitter chat.  Jennifer and I developed the discussion hashtag, the Twitter Chat etiquette mini-lesson, and the logistics for organizing our space in the library learning studio to accommodate such a large group. Jennifer and I also served as co-facilitators during the chat by participating in the Twitter discussion, providing technical assistance to students, and helping them with the logistics of following the chat. We also captured an archive of the Tweets with Storify and photos of the #toknisbett chat.

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The student response to the activity exceeded all of our expectations, and we were delighted that students reacted so positively to the experience in their “grows and glows” reflections! Students enjoyed hearing multiple perspectives and opportunities to participate in the discussion, the Twitter stream, the organization of the 70-minute activity, and the physical space and setup for our Twitter chat/Socratic circle discussion. They overwhelmingly loved having the opportunity for organic and free-flowing discussion; many expressed a desire to have a longer period of time for inner circle talk.

In response to student feedback, we’ll think about how to better incorporate the Twitter stream into the face-to-face discussion as well as help students interact more in the virtual learning space; we’ll also help students think through strategies for helping “quiet” students speak up more and how they can support those who might feel awkward jumping into the face-to-face discussion.

In the video below, Dan and James share their perspective on our collaboration process, their reflections on the learning activity, and their thoughts on how this mode of learning benefited students. I invite you to take time to watch the video as they share their rich and nuanced perspective:

We are already planning our next variation of a Twitter chat and Socratic circle that will incorporate our write-around text on text strategies and a gallery walk to help students generate the talking points and questions for the next discussion. We will also continue to think about how these strategies help us elevate writing/composing processes and literacies as part of inquiry and visible thinking, particularly as we continue to reimagine our media center as a learning studio.  We would love to hear how other educators and/or librarians are using Twitter chats and Socratic seminars or something similar to help students take an inquiry stance on a text and/or topic. How are you using virtual composing practices in your library to redefine and expand literacy experiences for learners of all ages?

Photos by Buffy J. Hamilton