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Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age

Homepage Forums Brain Based Learning Book Clubs Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age

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    • #72680

      Sherry Turkle, professor at MIT, has written a marvelous text that I want to use with a group of teachers. As of now, I’ve read it alone, but I think at this point I am in need of some conversation around it. I concur with Britton that reading “floats on a sea of talk.” I read it, but now I really would like to have conversations around the meaning. The premise of the book is that in today’s digital age, society is losing some components of the humanistic engagement of one to one interaction. Turkle (2015) discussed how conversations make us human: “Fully present to one another, we learn to listen. It’s where we develop the capacity for empathy. It’s where we experience the joy of being heard, of being understood. And conversation advances self-reflection, the conversations with ourselves that are the cornerstone of early development and continue throughout life” (p. 3).

      The book purports that humans today rarely give each other our full attention. The connectedness, the 24/7 plugged in awareness, has robbed us from practicing the art and skill of listening, responding, picking up cues—verbal, body language, and so much more. People avoid the one-on-one conversations and awkwardness of conflict and just write an email instead. I see connections in the school to the power of conflict and trust in Lencioni (2002) The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. At the workplace, in the home, or out with friends, conversations are being replaced by online static (my word, not hers).

      Turkle is not against technology. Instead, she is for conversation. The fact that in the last 20 years there has been a 40% decline of empathy markers in college students is partly due to the fact that empathy needs to be learned through 3 dimensional relationships.

      So, fellow colleagues, have you used this text? How has technology changed the brain? What are the unintended consequences? How and how often do you have this conversation with your family or your colleagues?

      I look forward to your responses.

    • #72691
      Ernest Izard

      Craig: Have not seen this text. Struggle with my grandchildren always using technology and missing out on the interaction of a conversation. More scholarly, each of us, like you noted have a deep-seated need and yearning to be known and heard. That cannot be found in any number of bytes. What I have advocated for years is to teach parents and teachers how to listen at a deep level–to hear the meta-story of the person talking. When the listener mirrors the meta-story back to the talker, there is an aha! moment that happens and no one goes for a tech device to continue the conversation. The challenge for professionals, educators, and parents is that genuine listening requires capacity. you cannot go into another person’s story than you have gone into your own. That does not mean you have to have sinned the other’s sins or have had an identical experience in order to hear someone’s meta-story.. It means, instead, that you have to have the capacity to hear the other’s story through words, tone of voice, and body language. It means building and keeping rapport. If a listener’s plate is full, even with 100% good stuff going on in their lives, they will not be able to listen and hear another’s story. Instead, the listener will throw a circuit breaker, changing the subject, telling their own story or walking away. You cannot make listening and hearing happen when the cup is full. In order to build capacity, to make room to hear another’s story, the listener has to be able to hear their own story, or stories, with the concomitant aha! moments. This builds capacity. I am still looking for other ways to train people and have workshop exercises to practice and build capacity to hear another’s story. Perhaps you and others will be able to help me and offer suggestions. I can teach listening skills until I am blue in the face and they will not be effective without capacity. The answer is not technology which will never be a substitute for face to face, heart to heart conversations. Without those kinds of talks, we become less human.

      Best wishes!

    • #72733
      Patricia Bentolila

      Interesting topic you both brought up. I´m sharing this link * about the Millenials by Simon Sinek, the generation that cannot put down their cel- phones and ironically has to learn to communicate. Many of today´s problems are associated with difficulty in communication. Parenting, marriage, family, work… and most probable variables like the ones you are mentioning Craig, in Sherry Turtkles article, have a lot to do with it. There´s no doubt that this has brought changes in the brains, since on the other hand, the people that grew up before this technological era, have challenges with it, mainly because their brains work differently. When they need to talk to the other, or write things down on paper, or see the other party when talking….. do you relate to what I´m mentioning??????? this needs respond to their brain needs, not only to not knowing how to use some technological devices.
      I would like to suggest Ernest some exercises that I´ve used in workshops to sharpen the listening skills.
      1) Have people pair up. blind fold one, as the other person talks to the blind folded. then have the blind folded repeat in his own words what he heard. Repeat reversing roles. Discuss the process.
      2) the participants sit in a circle. the group can be small or large. Between 10 and 15 would be ideal. Let them start telling a story by adding each a part. Limit each participants input to a sentence, They should build a story that makes sense. Discuss the process.
      3) Look for “The Wright Family” text. All participants should pass a coin, left or right, when they hear the word as the story is been narrated. Fun and engaging. Discussion to follow.
      I hope this is useful to you and everyone who is reading this post.

      * Link to the Excerpt of Simon Sinek from an episode of Inside Quest.

    • #80357

      This applies not only to our daily lives with our children and grandchildren but also in schools. One of the things I constantly emphasize in all my trainings is the power of student talk. Teachers love to place students in front of a computer to do a reading program or a math program. They also love to talk all the time and do not allow students time to talk and process information. In working English Learners or with students coming from poverty, I usually hear complaints about students not having enough academic vocabulary to do well in the classroom, regardless of the content area. So, my question is; are you allowing students to practice the vocabulary and the language they need to learn to be successful? Do you think they will practice it at home? The book “Seven Steps to a Language Rich Environment” by John Seidlitz talks about structured conversations and how important they are in the classroom. We need to provide these opportunities for students to acquire academic vocabulary and the academic language they need. This year I added the piece of structured conversations to my training about meaningful interactions I developed last year. I have seen some really good teachers put this in action after one of my trainings and the engagement in the classroom was incredible. It really pays off at the end. Teachers who embrace structured conversations in their classrooms and implement them consistently throughout the content areas get much better results in benchmark testing and in standardized testing as well. Student talk, student voice, structured conversations, give you much better results.

    • #81542
      Iliana Aljure

      Hello Craig, Ernest, Patricia and Alicia!
      Thanks for bringing up the topic and the suggestion of the book. It immediately took my attention because
      if you read my recent article that is posted called – How Cooperation, Emotional Awareness And Empathy Can Build A Better Society -, that was the center of my keynote presentation in Bogotá, last september in the international pedagogy conference. I read a lot about the millenials and the centennials because they have profoundly affected the teaching-learning process. Digital citizens think differently, act differently and learn differently. That’s why my topic was -¿Train, Inform, Teach or Instruct? Considerations for Educators of (dis) Connected Students -, and I adressed the issues you are discussing in this forum. Providing students today with varied social structures which foster face to face interaction through talking and sharing opinions is crucial. Dialogues, discussions, debates and pair or group sharing, not only enables them to let their digital devices on hold, but gives them what they need to become more empathetic with their peers. Knowing their classmates is not about using whattsapp, instagram, facebook or snapchat: it requires TALKING lively. Relationships need one on one live sharing; they don’t evolve in the virtual world. Emotions cannot be recognized fully in a digital world. That only happens in a person to person conversation. Remember mirror neurons? I couldn’t agree with all of you more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, which has been a matter of my own analysis during the past years. Thanks!
      Iliana Aljure

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