Minnehaha Academy Blog

Online Discussion: 5 Tips for Creating Constructive Conversations

Posted by Rebekah Peterson on Mar 18, 2020

2020-US-Students-Online-MinnehahaAcademy-Minneapolis-Minnesota-3 copyConnecting through the internet has never been more critical than it is right now. We are thankful for this technology that can bring us together when we can't safely be together in person. We can support each other, learn from each other, and create meaningful connections with classmates, colleagues, friends, and family if we approach our conversations in a mindful way.

Upper School Sacred Studies teacher Dr. Crafton has created these guidelines for participating in constructive online conversations.

"Our online conversations can never duplicate face-to-face conversations," said Dr. Crafton. "So much of our communication is embedded in non-verbal elements: context, tone, timing and rhythm, facial and body language cues, and most importantly personal presence. However, with some effort we can create effective replacements. My hope through these guidelines is to move toward that goal."

Online Discussion Guidelines

  1. Speak your ideas online as you would in the classroom. Imagine that you are having a conversation in person with your classmates and your teacher when you write. 
  2. Respect your classmates and teacher. The same rules we have when face to face apply online; and please remember that it is easier to fall into bad habits online than it is when face to face. Here are some ways you can show respect:
    • Actively engage with your teacher and classmates by considering what others are saying and by contributing your own ideas.
    • Discuss rather than argue or debate; respond to ideas, don’t attack people.
    • Make sure that you understand what others are saying before deciding whether you agree or disagree.
    • Be honest and genuine in what you say; earnestly seek after truth.
    • Assume the best of others.
    • Snarky or derogatory comments are not allowed; be careful about using humor – it is much harder to interpret humor appropriately online than it is in person.
    • Observe confidentiality; you are encouraged to talk about ideas outside of the context of the class, but not about people who are in the class.
  3. Write in full sentences or phrases using good spelling and grammar; don’t use the shorthand typical of texting. And DON’T WRITE IN ALL CAPS – it’s annoying and sends the wrong message.
  4. Add to the communal conversation; simply posting “I agree” or “good idea” is not enough. Say why you agree or disagree.  And don’t simply repeat what someone else has said.
  5. Be brief and on point — remember that the other members of the class will be reading and responding to you, too.

Topics: Middle School, Upper School, Online Learning

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