Leading discussion

Today we are reviewing your meeting notes, providing feedback on your progress so far, then pushing to organize your discussion online and in class.

Review meeting notes

  1. Go to this Google folder and comment on the meeting notes from other groups in our class. As you do, you might consider:
    Pointing out moments that you would look forward to discussing or knowing more about.
    Asking questions — for clarity/knowledge, but also for discussion later.
    Suggesting a counter-technology, or liking one of the options listed
  2. Once you’ve read and commented on others’ meeting notes, regroup to review the comments that other made on your meeting notes. Share any new ideas you gained that might be useful to your discussion.
  3. Add a section at the end of your document called NEW IDEAS that lists them.

Planning for discussion

Once you start focusing on a specific phenomenon, it’s time to begin thinking about:

  1. which readings you’re going to make us read and
  2. how you’re going to get us to talk about them.  As for the former, you should choose a reading or readings that help us understand the complexity, history, and newsworthiness of your phenomenon.

Aim to have us read 1-2 readings that total 2,500-3,500 words (not sure what the word count is? check out the Word Count Tool).

Once you have these set, you’ll want to develop a set of questions that will be asked initially over Twitter via online chats, but carry over into the classroom. In other words, while conversations will occur online before class, your group will have a chance to push on certain threads in class before unveiling your counter-technology. As such, we want to think about the kinds of questions that make group conversation meaningful. In your experience what makes a good discussion in the classroom and out?

This handout from a Canadian university walks us through some of this:

Once your group feels like it has a strong grasp on your phenomenon, you’ll need to align 4 things:

  • your reading(s), which should get at the complexity, history, and newsworthiness (or relevance) of your chosen phenomenon
  • your Twitter chat questions, which should be focused mostly on our experiences with, opinions about, or responses to the phenomenon
  • your in-class discussion questions, which will be about the phenomenon, but more importantly the reading. These will build from the Twitter chat the night before.
  • your counter-technology, which will go beyond common-sense approaches you’d see on your local evening news broadcast.

By “align” I mean that these four elements should work together and not feel like a potpourri of topics. If you are feeling that way, it means your phenomenon is too broad; try starting with the counter-technology and work backward.

Twitter chat

As part of this project, you are going to lead part of this discussion online through Twitter and IRL. So what’s a Twitter chat? This recent blog post from Hootsuite defines it as

a public discussion on Twitter around a specific hashtag … led by a designated moderator—brand or individual—who ask questions and facilitate the discussion at a predetermined time

While we won’t be having these chats synchronously, each group will choose a hashtag as well as a set of questions with clear labels (i.e. Q1, Q2, Q3) and post them to Twitter with our class hashtag, #WRTs18. You’ll want to do this at least 2 days in advance. If you are scheduled to lead a discussion on a Monday, post them on Friday (at the latest). If you are scheduled to lead a discussion on a Wednesday, post them before class on Monday.

Before we meet in class, students will read your articles, find your group hashtags, and respond to your questions — and each other — using A1, A2, A3 so we can all keep track. Let try this with one of the above examples. Who would like to volunteer?

In the fall we tried this with a shared example (you can also look at old discussions via the Twitter hashtag last fall: #WRTf17), but let’s give you a few moments to come up with three questions for your own topic. You can add these to your original planning documents we reviewed at the start of class.


Activity: Choose a reading for your discussion and develop two sets of discussion questions: one set for Twitter and one set for in-class. Aim for 3-5 questions per set. Do this together in a Google Doc that you share with me.

You might want to review the document above on writing good questions and avoiding bad ones. You also might review the link I shared from Hootsuite on leading Tweet chats. One key suggestion is this one:

Most Twitter chats follow a Q&A format so you should also come up with five to 10 questions in advance, and try to predict answers so you have some responses prepared.

There should be a fair amount of flexibility for Twitter chats to develop on their own, but it doesn’t hurt to be as prepared as possible.

You can also create graphics or GIFs in advance to include in your chat posts, or even turn your questions into graphics to make them stand out in your followers’ feeds.


Homework for Wednesday, 3/7

Finish your discussion plans: finalize your chosen reading(s) and have drafts of both sets of questions. We’ll continue to review these in class and review the evaluation forms for your groups.