Enriching Dialogue on OOEL: New Moves for our Dialogue Toolkit

We first launched Out of Eden Learn’s Dialogue Toolkit in 2014 with the hope of deepening students’ conversations on the OOEL platform. Co-designed with Youth Voices co-founder Chris Sloan and built on PZ visible thinking routines, the toolkit is a set of tools or “moves” that we ask Out of Eden Learn (OOEL) students to consider using as they compose comments to one another in our online community. OOEL’s emphasis on careful listening and sharing across difference is at the heart of the Dialogue Toolkit’s core dialogue moves – Notice, Appreciate, Probe, Connect, Extend, and Snip. These moves work as follows: When students comment on one another’s work on the OOEL platform, they type their responses in a comment box. Symbols and prompts representing specific dialogue moves appear in the box and are intended to “nudge” students toward intentional, meaningful dialogue.

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To date, we’ve considered the Dialogue Toolkit to be a great success. Educators consistently point to the toolkit as a valuable support for student dialogue on the OOEL platform as well as in face-to-face classroom conversations. As we have analyzed comment threads on OOEL, we’ve observed how youth leverage the toolkit’s moves – and other dialogue moves – to express their identities, to share their perspectives, and to reach for connection and understanding with youth from different backgrounds. 

Last year, we began to wonder how we might push the dialogue even further on OOEL. My prior research on young people who talk about civic and political issues on social media sites informed my interest in exploring new dialogue opportunities on OOEL.  We asked: How might we help students develop the skills and dispositions to express their stances on important public issues and engage in more challenging conversations – conversations about issues that are sensitive and polarizing today? And how might we do so while also maintaining a sensitive, respectful atmosphere in our online community?  

Guided by these questions, we developed three new dialogue moves for the toolkit: POV, Challenge, and Name.

POV

The POV move encourages students to bring their perspectives and opinions on issues into their conversations on OOEL. Our hope is to provide students with opportunities to practice expressing their opinions on timely issues or topics for an authentic audience of youth who might have very different lived experiences and perspectives.. To support constructive tone, we included suggested sentence starters to the POV move. For example, “From my perspective…” and “Some argue that… Others say…. In my opinion…”

Challenge

The Challenge move offers opportunities to practice another important skill – disagreeing with or questioning another person’s point of view. The aim of the Challenge move is to  deepen discussion – moving from simply voicing ideas to dialogue across perspectives. While we wondered about the potential risks of inviting students to challenge one another, we recognized that some OOEL students were already sharing their point of views (POVs) and sometimes posing challenges to one another’s ideas in discussions on our platform. Providing intentional supports around these moves could help students and our community achieve our goal of constructive and respectful exchange. For example, we included a few sentence starters with respectful language, such as:  “Although I appreciate your point of view, I see it differently. I think that…” and “Another way of looking at this is…”

Name

The Name move invites students to consider the source of their perspectives and POVs. Reflecting on and naming how one’s experiences, identity, and place may be informing one’s stance are practices that we believe have the potential to humanize perspectives that might be different or even directly conflicting. Suggested sentence starters include: “I am thinking of [the topic] from the point of view of someone who… ”

In January 2018, we launched a pilot of these new dialogue moves with one walking party (online learning group) participating in our Stories of Human Migration curriculum. The pilot involved students and educators in five classrooms in diverse contexts in the United States  and one classroom in Australia. In an upcoming blog post, we will share detailed insights and student work examples from this pilot. A few key themes are worth noting here. Educators perceived the new dialogue tools to be valuable additions to the toolkit—although they also acknowledged that many students did not use the Challenge move either because they were apprehensive about potential conflict OR because they did not hear any ideas they disagreed with or wished to challenge. We hope that our addition of new suggested sentence starters for both the Challenge and POV moves will help set a respectful tone. And while students may not always identify authentic opportunities to challenge one another’s ideas, they can be encouraged to ask critical questions about the ideas in the resources and articles in their learning journey.

We are excited to include the new dialogue moves in various learning journeys starting this fall. While the comment box in the image below shows the full toolkit of dialogue moves (including POV, Challenge, and Name ) not every single move will appear in every learning journey. For each learning journey, we have selected particular moves that we want to emphasize and encourage – and only those moves will appear in the comment box.

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As you invite students to try out the new moves, please make use of the following dialogue specific supports:

  • Dialogue Toolkit handout: A printer-friendly version of the full OOEL Dialogue Toolkit, including the new tools.
  • Updated curriculum instructions: In selected Footsteps of each Learning Journey, we’ve revised instructions for the Interact/Dialogue portion to suggest one or more of the new dialogue tools.
  • Models of Dialogue & Respectful Disagreement: A set of dialogue threads from Out of Eden Learn students that illustrate their use of various moves in our Dialogue Toolkit, including POV, Challenge, and Name.  (See our Annotated Educator version).
  • Updated Community Guidelines: We have revised our Community Guidelines, site-wide, to include the following principle:

Be Brave: Share your point of view, even when it’s different from what other people are saying. Disagreeing can be uncomfortable but it offers a great opportunity to learn different perspectives. We encourage you to challenge one another to think more deeply and in different ways. Just remember to express your thoughts respectfully.

As always, please be in dialogue 🙂 with us with any comments, questions, or new ideas as you and your students use these resources and dialogue tools!

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