How to Use TodaysMeet + Socratic Seminar to Actively Engage All Students in Class Discussion

As my amazing partner and part-time jet setter flies off to New York City to enjoy a week of MOMA, Hamilton, and high-pressure timeshare sales pitches, I've been tasked with writing this week's blog post for Project Based Awesome.  It's not a foreign thing for me; I've written posts for PBA before as well as my short-lived personal blog (which may still be discoverable and able to drag out of the dregs of the interwebs if you employ some clever googling) but most of my posts are big-picture concept pieces. Well, I wanted to try something different this time. Since our pod this week centers around the use of technology with PBA, I want to focus…(focus Chris, focus)...this blog on one specific way to use a piece of technology to enhance classroom discussion and engagement. So, I give you, how to use todaysmeet.com + Socratic seminar to fully engage all students in class discussion.

First, the two pieces

  • Socratic seminars are a way to have a student-centered classroom discussion.  I often used them on Fridays during the course of reading a class novel to discuss insights into characters, themes, etc. The physical setup is one of the main things that separates Socratic seminars from a “regular” full-class discussion. Generally the students are seated in a circle or set of concentric circles with an inner and outer ring or partners (sometimes referred to as wingmen). They probably have their books, notes, questions, etc. The discussion is being done only by the inner circle students while the outer circle is usually just taking notes, or offering their wingman ideas to add to the discussion. Honestly though, many times, the outer circle students get to coast through this part of the discussion without being very actively engaged.

  • TodaysMeet is a website where a person can set up a chat room and people can join the chat room. To set up a chat room, go to www.todaysmeet.com, click on create room, give it a name, set the time you want to leave the room open, and voila - you have yourself a chat room that anyone who has the website URL (www.todaysmeet.com/nameofyourroomhere) can access and read and make comments for the others in the room to see.

 

So how do these two things work in concert to better engage students in the class discussion? I’m glad you asked.

  • The inner circle does just what they normally do as I described above; the modification is in the outer circle. The outer circle students all have a device/laptop in front of them and they are logged into the chat room I’ve set up for them on TodaysMeet. They are having a discussion in the chat room at the same time as the inner circle is having a separate discussion out loud.  

  • To pump it up even further, the chat room is projected up onto the screen in front of the room so all students can see what's being said in the chat room conversation.  Here's why this is important: the two conversations might be completely independent of each other, but sometimes what happens is the inner circle might see something that was said in the chat room and it can be a launching point for new ideas in their conversation and vice versa.

  • After about 10-15 minutes, I would always switch inner circle to outer circle  so all students got a chance to participate in both types of conversations. Often, the students who are not comfortable talking in front of the group will be very active in the digital conversation. They feel safer there.

  • With todaysmeet.com, you can save and print a transcript of the conversation. Once the class period is done, I always saved a copy of the transcript but because we were 1:1 and using Google Classroom as our learning management system (LMS), I didn't print the transcripts. Instead, I uploaded them into Classroom so all the students could review the discussion later and remember any great ideas that came out of it that might be used as support for writing pieces later.

 

There it is. A basic how-to, step-by-step, rubber-meets-the-road use of technology and pedagogy to enhance the regular classroom discussion.  

 

I hope this helps and gives you an idea you can use in your classroom. If you still have questions don't hesitate to contact me or Erin… although, I doubt she’ll be answering emails until she returns from home from her jet-setting adventure, so I guess you're stuck with me for a bit.

 

Thanks for reading. Until next time, peace.