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The IF Discussion Card Game

Green Card by Shawn de Raaf

Green Card by Shawn de Raaf available on Flickr at

The Interactivity Foundation is developing a discussion card game that can be used in classrooms, the workplace, or at home to help instill improved discussion practices. This game was originally developed for a writing workshop held at Dartmouth College and facilitated by IF fellow Shannon Wheatley Hartman and Timothy Ruback, an Assistant Visiting Professor at the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy at Dartmouth College.

Many college courses are designed to help students improve their reading and writing skills by telling students to ground their thinking in the texts and ideas of others. They are told to have a “conversation with the text.” It’s a new way of reading and writing for many students, and for many, the lesson comes slowly.

It may come slowly because the analogue may not be very clear for them. Those who use this analogy presume that students might need guidance to learn how to read and write at the university level but surely they know how to converse. What if this is not the case? What if college students do not already know how to have a conversation?

Many incoming first-year students have never been in a seminar-style class before. And many struggle with the teaching and learning style that takes place in a seminar. They’re not sure how to respond to their teacher. They’re not sure how to build upon what their peers say. They do not know how to disagree productively. The have never developed ideas in collaboration with others. And they don’t know how to focus on emerging themes while avoiding tangential rabbit holes in the conversation. In short, many college students do not really know how to have a productive, developmental, or exploratory conversation.

Classroom exercises could, and should, be developed to help students hone their discussion skills. These discussion skills could be especially helpful in writing seminars where students are told to converse not just with others, but also with texts. With this idea in mind, Dr. Timothy Ruback of Dartmouth College and IF fellow Shannon Wheatley Hartman, Ph.D., developed a discussion card game to be used during a writing seminar workshop with first-year students at Dartmouth College in January 2014.

The discussion card game was presented at the Engaging Practices Conference hosted by the University of Massachusetts Boston in April 2014. Feedback from educators was overwhelmingly positive.

The discussion card game is continuing to be further developed and tested in both university classrooms (beyond writing seminars) and in other locations. The discussion card game is designed to help improve civil discussion by reminding participants of good strategies and discussion styles. For a copy of the discussion cards, please email Shannon at [email protected]. We welcome feedback on this game as well as ideas about how and where it might be implemented.