In his book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, Will Richardson identifies ten big shifts happening in education as a result of the Read/Write Web. One of those shifts is “Teaching is Conversation, Not Lecture.” The Read/Write Web has greatly influenced this shift because the Internet itself underwent this transformation. When the Internet first came out, information was contributed by a small amount of individuals who knew how to write code. Back then, the Internet was a “sit and get” type of resource similar to a classroom lecture. However, in recent years, the Internet has shifted to a conversation among users. Now, everyone, not just a select few, has the ability to create a website, blogs, wiki, etc. Everyone is able to make their ideas public and interact with others who choose to do so as well. Now, the Internet is a conversation among users rather than just a static resource.
The idea of “Teaching is a Conversation, Not Lecture” is definitely present in classrooms today. No longer do students sit and listen to the teacher talk. Now, the emphasis is on students doing the talking and also actively listening to not just the teacher, but more importantly, their peers. This shift is evident in my classroom. No matter what I’m teaching, each lesson has multiple opportunities for students to talk. Sometimes they talk with a partner and sometimes they talk in small groups. Sometimes I give prompts for the discussion and sometimes students create prompts for the discussion. Students are given a very active role in my classroom when it comes to discussion but also when it comes to learning. New content is sometimes delivered by me, the teacher, but it is also sometimes deliver through student exploration – whether it’s deciphering new content together in a small group or utilized a web-based program to uncover new material. In my classroom, the teacher is not the ultimate source of knowledge, but instead, students are taught to use other resources. This practice is consistent with teaching being more like a conversation, than a lecture because a conversation allows for multiple input.
One piece of technology I can use to facilitate this shift would be blogs. Blogs allow for students to have a virtual conversation by posting their ideas and then commenting on the ideas of others. I also think virtual chat forums such as TodaysMeet are a great way to facilitate virtual conversations among students. Whether it’s happening over the Internet or face-to-face, student interaction and discussion is a vital part of today’s classroom as students work together to connect and construct their learning.