Interactivity Foundation https://www.interactivityfoundation.org Engaging citizens in the exploration and development of possibilities for public policy. Wed, 14 Oct 2020 16:52:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 176644805 Silent Thinking https://www.interactivityfoundation.org/silent-thinking/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=silent-thinking Wed, 14 Oct 2020 17:00:22 +0000 https://www.interactivityfoundation.org/?p=13069 Using silent thinking to disrupt herding behavior Yolanda Cooper was frustrated. She liked to have her students discuss concepts she presented in class. But what usually happened is that the first student’s comment became the focus of the entire discussion. The result was a very limited or even one-dimensional exploration of the topic. One day […]

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Using silent thinking to disrupt herding behavior

Yolanda Cooper was frustrated. She liked to have her students discuss concepts she presented in class. But what usually happened is that the first student’s comment became the focus of the entire discussion. The result was a very limited or even one-dimensional exploration of the topic.

One day she decided to get out of this rut. Before she broke up the class into discussion groups, she asked each student to write down at least one relevant issue to explore on an index card. When the discussion groups were ready, she distributed a copy of the cards to each of the discussion facilitators. Then she asked the facilitators to make sure that each issue was discussed. The result was a much more expansive discussion of the overall topic. When Cooper collected the cards at the end of the discussions, she was also impressed that the silent generation of issues led to a broader range of issues than previous classes had uncovered, when she would have students respond immediately.  

The first comments in a discussion often have an undue influence on the direction of a discussion. Often those comments are made by the most vocal or self-confident participants. This can lead to herding behavior, where subsequent comments all cluster around the first comment or comments. It can also lead to information cascades, where a strongly made comment deters individuals from deviating, even it if means disregarding their personal thoughts. This can be discouraging for those whose primary concerns don’t get discussed. Often, they won’t feel comfortable bringing up their issues when the rest of the group seems to have coalesced around the earliest comments. This is a recipe for groupthink, where adhering to the group consensus is more important than individual insights and critical reflection.

Students tend to censor themselves when they find they are an outlier from what seems to be the group consensus. All too often an entire group may be practicing self-censorship to fit in with the premature consensus. The result is a false sense of agreement.

We all want to be well liked by our peers, and students are no exception. In higher education, we frequently stress team work as a highly desirable skill. But students often take this as needing to be agreeable above all. Thus, the tendency not to bring up issues that diverge from what others have expressed.

The silent thinking process gives a sense of security to those who might have issues they wouldn’t feel comfortable bringing up orally. Silent idea generation also gives those who are shyer an opportunity to introduce topics that might otherwise be lost.

For the silent thinking process to work in the actual discussion, facilitators should aim to make a natural connection from one issue to another. This can help the discussion to flow, rather than creating the sense of a disconnected series of topics. The facilitator should also strive to have the group give an honest airing to each of the issues.

The silent thinking process is occasionally used in town hall meetings and political debates, but its application could be more widespread. How do you think you could put it to use–whether in classrooms or in other discussion contexts? How might it be adapted for videoconferencing discussions, where participants might feel more awkward about prolonged silences? What guidance might you offer so that anonymous responses aren’t misused as a way to raise abusive and hurtful issues? How could discussion groups avoid herding behavior and give the participants the confidence to raise issues that are important to them? Of course, those issues might be controversial and difficult for a group to deal with. Silent thinking might help a group make a transition from embracing the comfort of a premature and self-censoring consensus to embracing the discomfort of a genuine and wide-open exploration. Share your ideas and responses via Twitter @IFTalks or FaceBook @whatIFdiscussions.

 

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Thinking through things is hard work and it sometimes seems safer to follow the crowd. That blind adherence to such group thinking is, in the long run, far more dangerous than independently thinking things through. – Thomas Watson, Jr., founder of IBM


This post is part of our “Think About” education series. These posts are based on composites of real-world experiences, with some details changed for the sake of anonymity. New posts appear Wednesday afternoons. 

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Why Do People Migrate? https://www.interactivityfoundation.org/why-do-people-migrate/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-do-people-migrate Sat, 10 Oct 2020 16:42:15 +0000 https://www.interactivityfoundation.org/?p=13798 What IF?  A Discussion Summary of the 1st of a series of 4 Online Community Conversations About Migration and Coming to America This is a summary of the main ideas discussed during our Zoom event on September 17, 2020. It was the first event in our Coming to America discussion series. IF partnered with the […]

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What IF?  A Discussion Summary of the 1st of a series of 4 Online Community Conversations About Migration and Coming to America

This is a summary of the main ideas discussed during our Zoom event on September 17, 2020. It was the first event in our Coming to America discussion series. IF partnered with the Friends of India Association and the Diversity Relations Council at Leisure World in Maryland to organize a series of online community conversations focusing on stories and conversations across generations about immigration. The topic for September was “Why do people migrate?” Five volunteer storytellers from the Friends of India told their stories. Then we broke out into small groups to explore the topic further. These conversations were facilitated by IF facilitators.

Below I share some of the main themes from these conversations. We do not share any specific stories here, partly out of privacy concerns and partly because IF’s focus is on sharing a wide range of ideas. But I have to say that the stories were the beating heart of the whole event.

Below I grouped the main ideas under various headings for ease of reading.

Why Do People Migrate?

America was and still is a Great Place

  • America as destination: like a dream, so proud of it, only small population of the world, but everyone has heard of it
  • America was the place where I wanted to live
  • We [immigrants] all have similar aspirations about the US before coming—it was a dream destination then
  • To live a dream: “I’d love to be there [NYC]!”
  • Came for freedom
  • As an immigrant you could make yourself anew. You were a blank slate. In your home country you were hemmed in and predetermined by your family, etc.
  • US as promoting values of equality and fair play
  • US as forward-looking country that valued expertise (50 years later it is weakened)—a place where to succeed you just need to be/become an expert; it’s not about your family status
  • US as land of opportunity, to make yourself: “you’re a nobody here—but somebody back home”—but this means you are free to make whatever you want of yourself, where at home you were bound by limits of family status
  • Feeling lucky to come to US
  • America’s great opportunity, governance, space, and openness. But things have changed since the 1960s and 70s and prospective new immigrants now might want to think twice and consider alternative countries
  • US was at the cutting edge of innovation, open to the new (Europe seemed stuffy, stuck in old ways)
  • Back then the US seemed like the land of creativity, a place for innovation
  • US was like the big brother to the world [not in Orwell’s sense]—looking out for the rest of the world
  • Felt like an astronaut (moving here in 1970s)—making a bold step because America was a very cruel country, in that it has no real safety net and in that it treats outsiders with suspicion (contrast with home country where an outsider is treated like a welcome guest)
  • Motivation of self-improvement, to follow opportunity
  • An opportunity to have new ideas
  • Domestic migration, i.e., migration does not end when you get to this country (e.g. CA to MN)
  • “I came, but I always thought I would go back.”

For Love/Marriage/Family

  • Having anchors in the US made immigration less daunting: every family knew someone in the US
  • Brother said: you will die [figuratively] if you don’t get to the US to live
  • Need a circle of people to look out for you, you need love
  • For love
  • Emigrating from America to a place where my ancestors came from
  • Family networks of support
  • To shed the burdens of family
  • Many leave for marriage, including arranged marriage
  • Sometimes people want to stay in India—and not emigrate to America—but still do so because of (an arranged) marriage.
  • To join a spouse
  • To be with my children
  • To help raise my grandchildren
  • Taking care of each other, the role of a community

For Education

  • For my education. Coming as a student—you didn’t need as much, didn’t need to feel like you were making such a leap, didn’t feel like you had to bring everything to keep a connection to home country
  • To enable future generations to have a better education—all my grandchildren have graduate degrees
  • To follow my husband who pursued his education
  • To teach

Wanting to Change Economic Circumstances

  • To get a better job—there were opportunities if you had skills
  • To get a chance at a better life (meritocracy in the U.S)
  • Came for a business opportunity/entrepreneurship
  • ‘Chain migration’ and the development of restaurants, groceries, and other businesses that could cater to a growing Indian population in the US

Shifting US Immigration Policy

  • It seems that immigration policies in 1965 – 75 prioritized immigration for higher education and for people with advanced education and/or work skills
  • The US was more welcoming of immigrants in the 1970s; you could manage the legal application without a lawyer

Challenges Were/Are Real

  • Concerns about coming to the U.S. legally
  • There are so many troubles in coming here
  • The stress of leaving a homogenous group for a new society that is heterogeneous, where you’ll be a minority
  • Spirit of mobility—not accumulating things, just always moving
  • Immigrants carry everything [literally—so much baggage] because they don’t know when they might go back—keeping a connection to the homeland
  • Big shift for the worse in attitudes about immigrants—used to just say I was from somewhere, but I’m American—now you say you are an “immigrant” and that makes you suspect
  • Learning to live with negative perceptions
  • Means of communication with the homeland makes a big difference on how daunting immigration might be (back then it was only letters, now there’s email and social media)
  • Nostalgia—Heart is still back in India; being separated from family/kin/culture; coming to America had a price
  • The role of language and challenges of adapting to it—even if you know English
  • Need to be resilient—crises will happen.

 

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Discussion Groups Weaving Social Connections https://www.interactivityfoundation.org/discussion-groups-weaving/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=discussion-groups-weaving Wed, 07 Oct 2020 17:00:40 +0000 https://www.interactivityfoundation.org/?p=13721 Discussion groups can foster social bonds that are critical for student success Greg Johnson was a Computer Science major with a problem. He had a rather severe stuttering condition. Normally this wasn’t an issue in his CS classes, but Greg was required to take a small group communication class. The class had a heavy discussion […]

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Discussion groups can foster social bonds that are critical for student success

Greg Johnson was a Computer Science major with a problem. He had a rather severe stuttering condition. Normally this wasn’t an issue in his CS classes, but Greg was required to take a small group communication class. The class had a heavy discussion focus. Greg petitioned his advisor to substitute another communications class that didn’t require group discussions.

“Let’s see if we can make this work,” responded Greg’s advisor. “One of the complaints about IT professionals is that they don’t work well with others. But I’m going to see what our Learning Services Unit can do to help.”

When Greg met with the Learning Services Unit, they worked out a plan with the communication instructor. Greg would be assigned to a discussion group who would agree to work with him on his stuttering issue. An intern in the Learning Services Unit was a Speech Pathology major and she joined the class and was placed in Greg’s group. Throughout the semester a specialist met with Greg’s group to show them how they could help Greg. Greg also met with the specialist privately.          

As the semester progressed, Greg was able to better manage the speed of talking with the help of finger signals from his group. Each of his group also practiced breathing regulation with him. The comradery of the group also helped him reduce his anxiety. The group also was very mindful not to intervene when he was struggling with a word. But perhaps the greatest benefit of all was that Greg finally had friends on campus to socialize with. Up until that semester, he was a loner who was embarrassed by his stuttering.

Discussion groups can play an important role beyond just the classroom experience. In Greg’s case, they were a support group that was helpful in reducing his stuttering. Discussion groups can also become relationship groups, building social bonds that are critical for student success and retention.

Rather than thinking of discussions as simply an academic activity, faculty should also think about how these groups can benefit students in other ways. Discussion groups can create student enrichment opportunities in ways that traditional lecture-based classes cannot.

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“Stuttering is painful. In Sunday school, I’d try to read my lessons, and the children behind me were falling on the floor with laughter.” – James Earl Jones (An actor with one of the most famous voices in show business )


This post is part of our “Think About” education series. These posts are based on composites of real-world experiences, with some details changed for the sake of anonymity. New posts appear Wednesday afternoons. 

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Diverse Discussion Groups https://www.interactivityfoundation.org/diverse-discussion-groups/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=diverse-discussion-groups Wed, 30 Sep 2020 17:00:56 +0000 https://www.interactivityfoundation.org/?p=13620 Diversity within groups and making new discoveries? “Today we’re going to start using our class discussion groups. In a moment I’ll split you up into preassigned groups. I’ve been very careful in selecting your group members. I’m often asked how I do this. Before I give you my rationale, let me share some personal information. […]

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Diversity within groups and making new discoveries?

“Today we’re going to start using our class discussion groups. In a moment I’ll split you up into preassigned groups. I’ve been very careful in selecting your group members. I’m often asked how I do this. Before I give you my rationale, let me share some personal information. My husband and I are both avid bird watchers. Until recently, the widely held belief was that it was male birds that produced the songs. That belief was found to be false although it held sway for over 150 years.

“Why did this misconception last for so long? The ornithologists that studied bird songs were mostly white males coming from the northern hemisphere. The birds they studied were migratory birds who bred in the northern hemisphere. Breeding is when most birds sing. Birds that live in the tropics weren’t studied as much and the female of those species do sing.

“It wasn’t until the ornithologist research community diversified that these longstanding beliefs about bird songs were challenged. My colleagues have pointed to other examples where researchers’ diversity across things like race, ethnicity, gender, geographic location, and socioeconomic background have led to new discoveries.

“That’s why I’ve tried to make each discussion group as diverse as possible in different ways–to increase your chances of making new discoveries in your groups. But I have to warn you, just having a diverse group with different backgrounds isn’t a guarantee that your ideas will be better than a homogeneous group. You really have to value the way each of you think.

“Here’s your discussion topic for today: How do we capitalize on our diverse backgrounds to generate ideas that challenge the conventional beliefs about the discussion topic?”

With that introduction, Grace Midkiff sat down and the discussion groups started their work. She was looking for a range of innovative responses and she got them.

One group presented their response criteria expressed as rap lyrics. Another presented a flow chart sharing their discussion process. Another group expressed their ideas as a mission/values statement. And one group presented their idea using an analogy of preparing a seven-course meal.

Midkiff was excited to see how their plans would translate into upcoming discussions. But clearly the class was off to a good start. Diversity of participants is not a guarantee of innovative thinking, but what she saw was very encouraging. For additional thoughts about setting up student discussion groups, check out Chapter Two of the Interactivity Foundation’s Guidebook for Online Courses or the Guidebook for Student Centered Classroom Discussions.

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Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without.” – William Sloane Coffin (noted clergyman and civil rights activist)


This post is part of our “Think About” education series. These posts are based on composites of real-world experiences, with some details changed for the sake of anonymity. New posts appear Wednesday afternoons. 

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Coming to America: Stories and Conversations Across Generations About Immigration https://www.interactivityfoundation.org/coming-to-america-stories-and-conversations-across-generations-about-immigration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=coming-to-america-stories-and-conversations-across-generations-about-immigration Mon, 28 Sep 2020 21:01:01 +0000 https://www.interactivityfoundation.org/?p=13698 What IF…? Online Community Conversation Series: Coming To America – Fall 2020 The Interactivity Foundation (IF) has partnered with the Friends of India Association and the Diversity Relations Council at Leisure World in Silver Spring, Maryland to organize this Coming to America series of events with stories and conversations about immigration. We are meeting monthly […]

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What IF…? Online Community Conversation Series: Coming To America – Fall 2020

The Interactivity Foundation (IF) has partnered with the Friends of India Association and the Diversity Relations Council at Leisure World in Silver Spring, Maryland to organize this Coming to America series of events with stories and conversations about immigration.

We are meeting monthly on Zoom to hear stories by volunteer participants about one aspect of their immigration experience. We then split into breakout rooms for small group conversations for about an hour to reflect upon the stories we just heard, share our own stories, and talk about various aspects of immigration in general.

You might know that IF has a discussion guide call Human Migration. ‘But why stories?’ you might ask if you are a regular participant in IF conversations. One reason is just that often complex policy issues can be better illustrated and understood at a very human and personal level. A second reason is that I was inspired by this quote: “Storytelling forges connections among people, and between people and ideas. Stories convey the culture, history, and values that unite people.”  And finally, and importantly, our partner, the Friends of India Association, were interested in trying this approach.

We have a different sub-topic and set of questions to explore in each month’s conversation. They are:

September 17th: Why Do People Migrate?

  • What drives people to leave?
  • What pulls them to the new places?

October 15th: Being Here: What Does it Mean to Be Part of a New Country?

  • Do you believe that most communities have their own special identities? If so, what do you think determines the identity of a community and why?
  • What do you think constitutes assimilation to a local community? And why?
  • How much assimilation is enough? And why?
  • How long does it take to assimilate?
  • What are the roles of families, employment, and education?
  • We often talk about immigrants ‘assimilating’. How do you think about this? Is there a better word or a different concept you’d choose? What is it—and why?

November 19th: The Role of Family

  • Do you think keeping immigrant family’s together help or hinder their assimilation? Why or why not?
  • What do you think constitutes a family or a community? Who should decide this and why?
  • Do you think the definition of a family should be specific to each culture? Why or why not?
  • Do you think we should prioritize certain types of families and communities for immigration purposes? If so, which types? And why?

December 17th: The Future of Immigration

  • What are your questions and concerns about the future of immigration?
  • What are some of the ways to address them?

We are grateful to our partners for helping to organize this series, to all the volunteer storytellers for sharing their stories, and to all the participants for thoughtfully engaging in these conversations.

The Interactivity Foundation shares a short summary of the main ideas discussed after each event. You can find them here after each event: September 17, October 15, November 19, and December 17.

IF Facilitators for this Community Conversation series:

Ieva Notturno

Jeff Prudhomme

Pete Shively

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What IF…? The Future of Sports and Fitness–the First of Four Conversations https://www.interactivityfoundation.org/what-if-the-future-of-sports-and-fitness-the-first-of-four-conversations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-if-the-future-of-sports-and-fitness-the-first-of-four-conversations Mon, 28 Sep 2020 14:00:52 +0000 https://www.interactivityfoundation.org/?p=13683 What are different ways that sports have meaning for us, whether at a personal level or a broader societal level? The pandemic has made a lot of us think about what’s missing when sports are shut down or when we can’t do our normal fitness or sports activities. Thinking about the impact of sports on […]

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What are different ways that sports have meaning for us, whether at a personal level or a broader societal level?

The pandemic has made a lot of us think about what’s missing when sports are shut down or when we can’t do our normal fitness or sports activities. Thinking about the impact of sports on different dimensions of our lives was the heart of our explorations in the first of our four-part series of Community Conversations on the Future of Sports and Fitness. We’re aiming to be inclusive, so we’re using the term “sports” broadly to indicate whatever physical or fitness activities the participants think are relevant to consider. (We’re not just talking about team sports or competitive sports.) As always in our conversations, we’re exploring different perspectives collaboratively, helping each other to look at things beyond our own points of view. While a number of our participants started out thinking that there might not be much of importance to talk about with sports, they ended up changing their minds. As you’ll see in the summary below, they concluded that there are a lot of different dimensions to explore when it comes to sports and what they can mean for us as a society and as individuals.

We hope you’ll join these explorations in the second conversation on October 8 at 1pm-2:15 (register at this link):

October 8, 2020:  Sports and fitness for life?

  • What if we embraced the idea of “sports and fitness for life”—what could that mean for us as individuals and as communities?
  • What’s the significance of sports and fitness for our development as healthy and flourishing individuals—or as healthy and flourishing communities?
  • What questions or concerns would come to mind if we were to pursue an approach of “sports and fitness for life”?

Notes from the Community Conversation

What are different dimensions of sports for us to consider as topics of public or social concern?

 

Health and wellness

  • Developing your mind, body and soul—holistic mental and physical health
  • Key for healthy communities
  • Stress reduction—in an increasingly stressful world
  • The importance of having playful activities in our lives, throughout our lives
  • Different sports for different times of life (shifting to different sports as we age or because of injuries)
  • Aging—staying fit as we age, boosting physical and mental health
  • A treatment for depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns
  • Sports can build or destroy healthy self-esteem and ego development
  • Potential negative effects on mental health surrounding sports competition
  • For example, boys demeaned for not being good at sports at their age, or girls being excluded
  • Potential negative effects on health through injuries—especially recent concerns about brain trauma

 

Sports and Development

  • Sports as a unifier, fostering community spirit, civic pride, bridging divides
  • People come together across differences as players
  • People come together across differences as fans (even rival fans can connect over the game)
  • Sports can convey group identity, cultural identity, national identity (even if you don’t like a sport, it can bring everyone together)
  • Get to know another country or culture through their sports
  • Sports are like a second religion for some communities
  • Fostering positive social change within communities, within countries, and among countries internationally
  • Sports as a way to foster a more equitable society, combatting racism, sexism, ableism, etc.
  • Sports can be a peacemaker, a form of diplomacy, reducing conflict
  • International sports, the Olympics—a way to root for human excellence, not just national pride
  • Sports can bring opponents together in play: they have to communicate, collaborate, see each other as equally human
  • Traveling culture of some college sports brings people together across great distances
  • Sports as a divider: being antagonistic to other teams or sharpening existing divides (political, class, racial, ethnic, national divisions)
  • Sports mirror society, including all the disparities and hierarchies that cause problems in society

 

Ability status

  • The mental and physical benefits of sports are key for people with disabilities
  • Sports level the playing field, allowing people with disabilities to compete, making them feel like everyone else, like they belong
  • This powerful sense of inclusion can help better integrate people with disabilities into society
  • Disabled athletes are some of the most talented people, because they are constantly facing and surmounting challenges

 

Gender, Sex

  • Our culture has a male dominated view of sports and what counts as “sport”
  • We see types of sports through the lens of gender and gender stereotypes
  • Great damage done to unathletic males who aren’t living up to gender stereotypes for sports at a given age
  • Great damage done to females by excluding them from play, and from underfunding their sport opportunities

 

Race and Racism

  • Sports can boost racial equity in a society and foster positive relations across racial divides
  • Sports replicate existing divides: we often see teams of mostly black athletes putting their bodies on the line for mostly white team owners or white fans

 

Economics

  • Sports are big business, which gives them a big societal impact
  • There’s the business of elite sports and the entertainment industry—what people watch
  • There’s the business of recreational sports—what most people do
  • Sports as a source of revenue and development to cities and towns
  • Economics of participation: money limits participation and restricts who benefits from sports
  • Economics of college sports: who takes the risks and who benefits?
  • Revenue sports in college seem more like a business than educational endeavor, with colleges driven by priority to make money through sports
  • Professionalization of college sports, with most athletes focusing more on going pro than getting an education, blurring the lines between pro and amateur sports
  • Olympics also seem overly commercialized
  • Concern among some fans about missing “amateurism” in college and Olympic sports
  • Even non-revenue college sports can have an economic pay-off—with a scholarship
  • Money and gender—revenue sports tend to be traditionally men’s sports, with little attention to supporting women’s sports
  • Economics of developing elite athletes

 

Education

  • Sports as a way to develop ourselves as persons, fostering healthy development of our sense of selves, and healthy self-esteem
  • Different values and capabilities come from different types of sports (e.g. individual or team sports)
  • Sports develop life skills, soft skills, social-cognitive skills: learn how to persevere, work towards goals, communicate and collaborate with others, solve problems as a group, etc.
  • Learning respect for the rules of the game, for fair play, for the referees
  • Sports can help with creating school spirit
  • For some schools, sports are the be all and end all

 

Governance of Sport

  • Most countries have a Sports Ministry to coordinate sports policy
  • The US doesn’t, which means there is lots of dysfunction and missed opportunities
  • This has a negative impact on equity—e.g. most countries fund adaptive sports for disabled athletes through the sports ministry, but in the US it depends largely on private funds
  • US could learn from what works well in other countries, if sports are important
  • Assuring fair play

 

Competitive or Elite Sports

  • Different countries take different approaches to develop elite athletes
  • In China there are sports schools that focus on developing young athletes for elite competition
  • European countries have club teams and leagues
  • In the US opportunities are more haphazard and depend more on financial status (the wealthier have more opportunities)
  • Competitive or organized sports are not the whole of sports—plenty of people enjoy sports and fitness activities but don’t enjoy competition
  • People get so competitive they can lose sight of what sports are all about
  • Doping for competitive advantage

 

Families

  • Families invest a lot in kids’ sports—travel all over for sports opportunities
  • Many parents try to live through their kids’ sports, get in the way of their kid’s enjoyment of sports

 

Entertainment

  • Sports as a shared distraction

 

Language and Culture

  • Sports infiltrate our vocabulary, so many of our expressions or metaphors come from sports

 

Environment, Climate, and Geography

  • Where we live impacts the sports we play (e.g. winter sports in the north)

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Collaborative Credit? https://www.interactivityfoundation.org/collaborative-credit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=collaborative-credit Wed, 23 Sep 2020 17:00:45 +0000 https://www.interactivityfoundation.org/?p=13572 Shared credit as a way to foster genuine collaboration As students entered the classroom, there sat their professor, Walt Jenkins, playing The House of the Rising Sun through the sound system. When the song ended, Professor Jenkins began class. “Some of you expressed concern about the credit you will receive for the reports you submit […]

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Shared credit as a way to foster genuine collaboration

As students entered the classroom, there sat their professor, Walt Jenkins, playing The House of the Rising Sun through the sound system. When the song ended, Professor Jenkins began class.

“Some of you expressed concern about the credit you will receive for the reports you submit for your collaborative discussions. It seems like some of you feel that you deserve more credit for the reports than others.

“The song I just played was The House of the Rising Sun. The version I just played was the most popular version, by a British group called The Animals. The interesting thing about the song is that it has no one person who wrote it. The song is of a genre called ‘roots music.’ It evolved from singer to singer. Each singer added to the lyrics or put their own spin on the song. In effect, the song was a result of collaborations among many people over time.

“Creative collaborative discussions follow a similar developmental path. They are developed by regular people like you and me. There is no one author. Everyone who takes part in the discussion contributes something, just as every new rendition of The House of the Rising Sun added something new. There is no pride of exclusive authorship, but rather the satisfaction of sharing in a joint act of creation. The result of the collaboration is shared with others. It is meant to be passed along and to stimulate new discussions. Eventually each person will view the possibilities from their own perspective, and each can reshape them as desired. Like the Rising Sun, the possibilities you develop are a product of individuals working together—for use by other individuals, and to be passed along for new renditions and new occasions.”

For creative collaboration to work, the credit for any work product must be shared. If the concern for securing individual credit is too strong, then true collaboration will be diminished. Productive collaborations are not easy. There are those of us who tend to dominate discussions and take charge of the work product. There are others who are more followers. They will do their part, but not as leaders. Different contributions will fit together in an complementary way. Unfortunately, there are also freeloaders that go along for the ride but make few contributions.

In classroom collaboration, it may seem easiest to allocate credit based upon the group’s assessment of the contributions of each group member. But this approach threatens to negate a powerful educational experience. Students need to learn how to collaborate so that everyone is a contributor. While not everyone will have the same role, the group needs to identify and encourage each other in the role that is best suited for them. Productive collaboration will be more than the sum of the individual contributions. It will be about the interaction of their contributions.

Learning how to collaborate may be one of the most important lessons students learn. Out in the world, there are virtually no single person jobs. Most workers need to be able to collaborate productively. When students enter the workforce, they will receive performance evaluations based upon how well they participate in collaboration. Those who take charge and overwhelm others will not get a good evaluation, nor will the freeloader. You can find some ideas for group evaluation in the Interactivity Foundation’s Guidebook for Student Centered Classroom Discussions.

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“It is amazing what can be accomplished when nobody cares about who gets the credit.” – Robert Yates (NASCAR owner)


This post is part of our “Think About” education series. These posts are based on composites of real-world experiences, with some details changed for the sake of anonymity. New posts appear Wednesday afternoons. 

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Collaborative Salads? (Part Two) https://www.interactivityfoundation.org/collaborative-salads-part-two/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=collaborative-salads-part-two Wed, 16 Sep 2020 17:00:34 +0000 https://www.interactivityfoundation.org/?p=13427 Discovering lessons for effective collaboration “At the end of our last class, I asked you to come up with lessons about collaborative practices from the salad recipe experience,” Monica Weekly said as she began her next class. “Today I want you to develop your ideas of best practices. I’d like you to actually use these […]

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Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

Discovering lessons for effective collaboration

“At the end of our last class, I asked you to come up with lessons about collaborative practices from the salad recipe experience,” Monica Weekly said as she began her next class. “Today I want you to develop your ideas of best practices. I’d like you to actually use these best practices in your discussion.” (Look back at the first class experience in Collaborative Salads? (Part One)).

As the groups began their work, confusion reigned once again. It didn’t take long for a student in each group to stand up and begin facilitating their group’s discussion.

The next thing that happened was that each group developed a process for their discussions. The process focused on how best to develop practices from each of their lists. They discussed behavioral norms for things like the contributions expected of each group member, and the respect they’d show each other as group members.

They also talked about the very nature of collaboration. They focused on the end goal of their discussions, namely that their aim was to describe different possibilities. For the first session, this meant different possible salad recipes. For future sessions, it would mean developing different ways of thinking about the issues under discussion.

The idea of collaborating to describe different possibilities led the groups to talk about the value of diverse perspectives. Rather than thinking about the right or wrong way to think about an issue, they realized they needed to think about circling around topics from multiple perspectives. (You may find some of the Interactivity Foundation’s educational resources to be helpful).

Toward the end of class, Weekly reconvened the entire class.

“What you have just experienced is something I call discovery learning. I could have lectured you on collaborative practices, but I suspect my lecture may have had only minimal impact on how you took to heart effective collaborative practices. By experiencing the chaos of a discussion, you discovered for yourself how to make them collaborative.”

“One last thing”, she said. “The salad exercise you went through last class is something I call a memory anchor. I know from previous students that they have used the same exercise in their careers. Concepts are long forgotten unless you try to connect them to an experience that people will long remember.”

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“Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than in the one where they sprang up.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes (prominent former US Supreme Court Justice)


This post is part of our “Think About” education series. These posts are based on composites of real-world experiences, with some details changed for the sake of anonymity. New posts appear Wednesday afternoons. 

The post Collaborative Salads? (Part Two) appeared first on Interactivity Foundation.

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Collaborative Salads? (Part One) https://www.interactivityfoundation.org/collaborative-salads-part-one/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=collaborative-salads-part-one Wed, 09 Sep 2020 17:00:04 +0000 https://www.interactivityfoundation.org/?p=13421 Collaboration as more than a collection of competing efforts “Before we start with our regular small group discussions in class, I want to help you learn what can make collaborative discussions more effective.” So began Monica Weekly, the course instructor. “I’ve assigned each of you to a discussion group. I’ve sent each of you a […]

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Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash

Collaboration as more than a collection of competing efforts

“Before we start with our regular small group discussions in class, I want to help you learn what can make collaborative discussions more effective.” So began Monica Weekly, the course instructor.

“I’ve assigned each of you to a discussion group. I’ve sent each of you a list of food items for making a unique salad. The assignment is for each of you to create your own unique salad recipe—but you need to collaborate as a group to develop each recipe. The other rules are, 1) that you can only include items on the ingredient list, 2) that you can only use an ingredient once in your whole group, and 3) that your group as a whole must use end up using every ingredient.”

Confusion reigned as the students began developing their salad recipes. What was intended to be a collaboration became more a collection of competing individual efforts. Students soon realized that they were violating the salad making rules. Then they started over. Each student took turns in adding one item at a time to their salad.

Quickly this became a problem. Disputes arose when a student picked an item that another student was going to select later. The students then began to work together to suggest items that would work well in each other’s salads. Eventually they worked their way to creating distinct salad recipes within each group.

“Now that you have created your recipes, I want you to step back and think about what you’ve just done. You have taken an issue, making salads, and you worked together to come up with different possibilities. In this course, our discussions will focus on developing possibilities. You learned that you couldn’t create your salad possibilities unless you collaborated on their development. That’s one of the learning outcomes for this class: being able to collaborate on the exploration of possibilities.”

“Here’s the assignment for next class: reflect back on this experience and identify the guidelines you would share to improve your collaborative practices.”

Collaborative discussions don’t just happen. Fortunately, there are ways to make them more effective. Tune in to the Collaborative Salads (Part Two) to see what the students identified as effective practices–and watch this space for the launch of the Interactivity Foundation’s Collaborative Discussion Certification Program. This material will be freely available for piloting (see IF’s Educational Resources page).

* * *

Freedom and order are not incompatible… truth is strength… free discussion is the very life of truth.” – Thomas Huxley (English biologist)


This post is part of our “Think About” education series. These posts are based on composites of real-world experiences, with some details changed for the sake of anonymity. New posts appear Wednesday afternoons. 

The post Collaborative Salads? (Part One) appeared first on Interactivity Foundation.

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Breakthrough Facilitation https://www.interactivityfoundation.org/breakthrough-facilitation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=breakthrough-facilitation Wed, 02 Sep 2020 17:00:02 +0000 https://www.interactivityfoundation.org/?p=13539 How can we help students become breakthrough facilitators? Cathy began her office hour visit with some hesitation, “Dr. Sperios, I didn’t want to sound like I’m grade-grubbing, but I don’t understand my latest discussion facilitation grade. You wrote on the evaluation sheet that I did much better, but my grade was lower than the first […]

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How can we help students become breakthrough facilitators?

Cathy began her office hour visit with some hesitation, “Dr. Sperios, I didn’t want to sound like I’m grade-grubbing, but I don’t understand my latest discussion facilitation grade. You wrote on the evaluation sheet that I did much better, but my grade was lower than the first time.”

“Cathy, do you have your syllabus? Let’s take a look, so I can explain,” responded Sperios. “See the grade section. I made a point that your facilitation grades will be progressive. Notice that the round one facilitation is based on what I refer to as facilitation mechanics. You’ll see those listed as:

  • Note taking
  • Involving everyone
  • Managing the discussion time
  • Managing the flow

“You did much better on these aspects of facilitation this time.

“Now look at the round two criteria:

  • Framing the discussion questions
  • Elevating the discussion through your discussion interactions
  • Having a discussion strategy that goes beyond the obvious
  • Helping the group achieve breakthrough insights

“You’re a gymnast. What kind of score would you get if you were perfect on a low difficulty routine?”

Cathy nodded in recognition of the point.

Discussion facilitation is a progressive skill. You begin by mastering the mechanics and basic principles of facilitation. Many facilitators stop their progression at this level. They are fine at moderating a discussion. Truly great facilitators are able to get a group to go well beyond the obvious to achieve real breakthroughs. (Chapter 5 of IF’s Guidebook for Online Courses offers some guidance about how instructors might use evaluation feedback to encourage progressive skill development).

Breakthrough facilitation requires personal abilities that some people may find challenging. They need to be creative and have the ability to transfer their creativity to the discussion group. They must also be good at thinking on their feet.

Essentially facilitators need to think fluidly in different time frames: the present, the future, and the past. The present means managing what the group is saying now. The future means that the facilitator is thinking of where the discussion might go in the next 5-10 minutes—and where it might need to go by the end of the session. Oddly enough, that’s where the past comes in. To open up the future of where a group might go, the facilitator needs to hold onto the past of what the group has already said. Linking back to earlier discussion points, perhaps those that have been underexplored, can help a group make new connections or see new directions to explore.  

Breakthrough facilitators help create a discussion environment where the practical can be replaced by the possible to achieve real innovation. Breakthrough facilitators help their groups become hopeful.

Breakthrough facilitation is one of those phenomena that is hard to define but obvious to everyone involved in the discussion. Dr. Sperios was challenging his class to go beyond the commonplace and become breakthrough facilitators. What would you say it takes to facilitate discussion breakthroughs?

* * *

“The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.” – Confucius


This post is part of our “Think About” education series. These posts are based on composites of real-world experiences, with some details changed for the sake of anonymity. New posts appear Wednesday afternoons. 

The post Breakthrough Facilitation appeared first on Interactivity Foundation.

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