Organizing discussion

Today is our final planning day for panels. I’ll talk about writing discussion prompts and posting your readings, questions, and materials to your team’s WordPress site.

First, let’s start with this question: In your experience what makes a good discussion in the classroom and out?

Aligning your work

Once your group feels like it has a strong grasp on your phenomenon, you’ll need to align 4 things. By “align” I mean that these four elements should work together and not feel like a potpourri of topics or distinct tasks — each one responds to the next to co-create a meaningful and purposeful (yet still unpredictable) discussion. These include your:

  • reading, which should get at the complexity, history, and newsworthiness (or relevance) of your chosen phenomenon.
  • multimedia, which will be played at the start of (or at some point in) our discussion in order to focus, extend, amend, or somehow enrich the discussion.
  • discussion prompts, which will be about the phenomenon generally and the reading specifically.
  • counter-technology, which will go beyond common-sense approaches you’d see on your local evening news broadcast.

Writing discussion prompts

This handout from one university walks us through some of the different kinds of prompts or questions you can ask as a discussion leader:

Example: The Gig Economy

Reading: “Why Hasn’t the Gig Economy Killed Traditional Work?” (Planet Money from NPR, March 26, 2019)

Multimedia: In this 8+ min video essay from CNN subsidiary Beme News, Lou Folgia (Syracuse alum! Check out that accent!) discusses some of the advantages and disadvantages of the gig economy, echoing some of the points from the NPR/Planet Money piece.

General discussion prompts about the topic. Note that these are general prompts not tied to the video or reading; they are meant to get us talking from our experience, which can loosen us up. We could discuss these before showing our multimedia or they could follow right after.

Q1: Uber, Lyft, and AirBnB, are the most common examples of companies in the gig economy. What are some others, whether you’ve used them or not?
Q2: Have you used a service offered in the the gig economy? What has been your experience with them as a consumer?
Q3: Drivers, hosts, babysitters, helpers, shoppers — these are the jobs workers do in the the gig economy. Have any of you worked these jobs (or know people who do)?

Reading-based discussion prompts. Note that these prompts are tied to the reading and/or video, but then branch outward. These could also be improvised on the fly, especially as you collect info from responses to the above questions:

Q1: Both the video essay and article explain some of the differences between working for one’s self and working for “a firm” (aka a corporation or company). What are these differences and why is it important to studying them?
Q2: Arun Sundararajan, author of The Sharing Economy: The End of Employment and the Rise of Crowd-Based Capitalism is cited extensively in the NRP article. He doesn’t believe the research trends in the links at the beginning of this article. Why? How do these compare to statistic cited in the Beme video? What else does he predict about the gig economy? Which future do you believe in?
Q3: Based on information presented in both the video and article, how do different lifestyles affect whether the gig economy is a viable option for certain workers? Consider this in terms of both the short- and long-run.

Counter-technologies: Earnings calculators: AirbnbUber

Two WordPress posts: (1) your reading and (2) your plan

At least 2 days before (preferably more), you’ll stick a post with your reading to your WordPress site so that it is easy to find. This post should — at minimum — include a link to your reading and some context about it. Who or what is this source? Why is it important for us to read this text out of all the sources you could have chosen from your research? Feel free to develop this into a longer post with more details about how this reading fits into your research process; however, just make sure the link is easy for the class to find (in other words, don’t make us search for it too deeply into the post).

A second post should then be published before you lead discussion. This post will serve as a lesson plan you can project in class. It will include your:

  1. Multimedia. This is your ~10 minute video, game, app, interactive activity that frames the discussion. It will ideally focus, extend, amend, or somehow enrich the reading and/or forthcoming discussion. As with your readings post, this part of your plan might include some context.
  2. Discussion prompts. These are your questions that we can put up or access in the discussion itself (this is useful for helping people understand your questions and a place to refer back to if they are lost). Aim for a mix of generally engaging questions and questions based on your reading/multimedia (see example above).
  3. Counter-technology. Remember that by counter-technology I mean a tool, practice, process, or resource that can help writers and researchers resist, expose, or otherwise mitigate the troubling forces we’ve been discussing. Hence, this part of your team’s post will vary depending on both your topic and what you consider an effective countermeasure. This could be process, a link to a Google Doc, video, pdf, or an activity.

WordPress Widgets + Plugins. Note that for some embedded content from Google Docs or pdfs, Widgets and Plugins work really well. I can show you how to use these in class today.

Evaluating panels

As you might recall from the Unit 3 page,  this unit uses a mix of instructor and peer assessment. I use two forms for this, both of which can be found in the Unit 3 menu, above. ↑

  • 50% panel performance. This grade is determined via ratings from the Discussion Assessment Form. I use the average overall score from the class to determine this grade.
  • 30%  individual contributions. This grade is determined, in part, by Self-Assessment Form, that you and your teammates will complete after your discussion. You also have a chance to elaborate on your experience in your final individual reflection.

Benchmarks for next class

  • Read the assigned text from Team 1. To access it go to their WordPress site, which is posted on the Team page (found in the Unit 3 menu, above. ↑)
  • Continue working on your Unit 3 project, especially those WordPress blog posts.