Monday, October 4, 2010

Improving Discussion In Distance Education

I was reading a short interview that the folks at Bloomfire did with Loventrice Farrow, a communications specialist at Boeing. In it Farrow is asked about important books that tackle the issues in training at the corporate level. Farrow's offering is Discussion as a Way of Teaching, by Brookfield & Preskill. The answer Farrow gives to the last question is the one that caught my attention:

"...I used to be uncomfortable with silence and felt that voids must be filled with continuous chatter—mostly my own. Sometimes the audience eventually joined in and sometimes the silence continued. However, a skillful trainer can keep discussions going by using some of the tactics outlined in the book."

As distance education in both the corporate and higher education worlds becomes more ubiquitous, Farrow's observations and reflection on Brookfield & Preskill will become ever more prevalent. I have been in Farrow's position myself in the past, wondering just what the audience is thinking or doing when prompted to answer a question, or when a thought by the presenter/instructor is completed. I think technology (in the form of telepresence tools) will eventually step in on some level, and resolve some of the problems with attendee silence and feedback. I am interested, however, to see what Brookfield & Preskill have to offer in the interim.

I'll definitely have to give this title a look.

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