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Classical Learning Meets Web 2.0

November 26, 2009 1 comment

According to Wikipedia, “The Socratic Method (or Method of Elenchus or Socratic Debate), named after the Classical Greek philosopherSocrates, is a form of inquiry and debate between individuals with opposing viewpoints based on asking and answering questions to stimulate rational thinking and to illuminate ideas.”

When using this classical method of teaching, the student takes initiative to drive the conversation to stimulate divergent thoughts on various topics. In my classrooms, I often use the Socratic Method to create a safe forum for students to bring out their ideas through guided questioning. When I present an idea or question, I typically stay out of the conversation and simply take notes without expressing any approval or disapproval. Often when teachers intervene in conversation, the student ends up following the thoughts of the teacher authority (soldier mentality). One of the natural outcomes of the Socratic Method is to encourage risk taking, critical thinking, and problem solving. All skills in developing leaders, not soldiers (the paper pushing worksheet teacher). The students are situated in a circle with me deliberately sitting outside it. I simply state my thought or question, and then the students take over. Obviously, it requires scaffolding and modeling at first, but when the students understand the Socratic process, the conversations go beyond any textbook, video or worksheet on the same topic. I have always preached the Apple motto of “Think Different,” and have based most of my teaching with that in mind.

Then the idea came to me that fit naturally together, the marriage between classical learning of Socrates and the collaborative real time environment of web 2.0. Hence, my name Socratech on Twitter. I began thinking how my traditional classroom setup using the Socratic Method can be integrated using educational technologies. A flurry of ideas came to me when thinking how web 2.0 is the 21st century version of the Socratic Method, where we encourage risk taking, divergent ideas, and an open forum to express our thoughts. Now I just needed to implement a lesson with middle school students that exemplifies the almost eerie similarities between Socrates and web 2.0.

One such example that has successfully remixed the Socratic Method with web 2.0 is when I hold virtual Socratic Seminars in Edmodo. Edmodo is a private social communication platform where I allow my students to converse on various topics guided by me or another student. The beauty of Edmodo is that the conversation provides real time threading with multimedia capabilities to enhance the experience. I held a Socratic Seminar using the Did You Know YouTube video. I guided the conversation by asking questions related to video that stimulated debate and other questions about technology and the Internet. The ideas expressed was beyond any teacher lead discussion on the same subject.

Its no wonder why History was my favorite subject in school. Now it is making sense…

*It is important to note that academic language is strictly enforced in any online or oral Socratic Seminar to mirror the scholarly language of classical Greece. I tell my students to use starter sentences such as “I agree” or “contrary” backing it up with always a support (because) statement.

For more information on the Socratech Seminar Method of learning, feel free to contact me.

Socratech Seminars

October 4, 2009 Leave a comment

Active sharing and dialogue in the ongoing integration of educational technology. The Socratic method encourages divergent thinking rather than convergent thinking. “Socratech Seminars” hopes to inspire students and teachers to innovate and evolve educational technology. Divergent thinking strives for new perspectives and creativity. Instead of a single method of doing things, there may be a whole host of possibilities.

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