Free chatting or structured dialogue?

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The Cloudworks Team
17 June 2008

Student discussion can be designed to be more or less structured, according to the choice of tool and the expectations and instructions set by the facilitator. When is free chatting best, and when is it appropriate to impose some form of structure? George Kahrimanis and Nikolaos Avouris suggest that free chat is most appropriate where brainstorming or divergent thinking is required – for example, in the early stages of a problem solving activity, when students are agreeing strategy and dividing up tasks. Structured dialogue, such as a requirement to define a category for each message or to use standard sentence openers or forms of argumentation, may be preferable where students need the help of such scaffolding to negotiate conflicting statements or make specific kinds of contributions to the task. See pp. 104-105, ‘Choosing the appropriate means of dialogue in a NSCL tool for synchronous collaborative learning activities’ TELL Pattern Book

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