The tech. + Soc. Sem. conflation

I had a conversation recently at a conference with some edtech teachers who didn’t look highly upon AVID teaching strategies. This surprised me. I credit AVID for making me a much better English teacher–especially after I attended a Critical Reading session at the AVID Summer Institute in San Diego many years ago. One of the bones the teachers had to pick with AVID was the use of Socratic Seminars.

In short, a Socratic Seminar is when students split into two circles: a small inner circle and a large outer circle. The inner circle students are the only ones who are allowed to discuss high level questions. The outer circle students take Cornell Notes concerning what the inner circle participants say. At the end of the discussion, all students write a summary.

The problem the edtech teachers have with this strategy is the outer circle students aren’t participating. Technically, the students are participating because they’re listening, taking notes, and then devising a summary at the end of the discussion–but I understand the teachers’ point: The outer circle students aren’t allowed to communicate with the rest of the class.

The solution is found in a conflation of technology and AVID. Instead of making the outer circle write Cornell Notes, the students should all have devices on which they’re backchanneling via Google+, Edmodo,  or whichever LMS of their choice. In this way they kids are communicating but not interrupting the flow of conversation that’s happening in the inner circle. Instead of traditional note taking and summary writing at the end of the Socratic Seminar, the teacher can put up the backchanneling thread on a projector, and the students can either write about or discuss what was shared during the seminar.

This is an effective combination of sound teaching with technology augmentation. I’ve found oftentimes that edtech teachers ignore good teaching strategies while AVID ignores edtech. When you begin moving across the SAMR model, the marriage of both sides becomes very appealing.