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How to Transitioning from Discussions to Writing

Transitioning from discussions to writing should be done gradually, using engagement tactics for discussions and slowly increasing the amount of writing the students need to do. I will break down the process into distinct stages here and give some example activities to help students practise these skills.
Two students writing at a desk

In this step we are going to look at how we can make the transition from discussing to writing.

Timing Your Transition to Writing

Transitioning from discussions to writing should be done gradually, using engagement tactics for discussions and slowly increasing the amount of writing the students need to do. I will break down the process into distinct stages here and give some example activities to help students practise these skills.

These stages reflect the writing process for long-form exam answers. Have them practice each stage, in isolation at first, to concentrate on the skills required. They can also be combined, after they are comfortable with each stage, to help build towards the complete writing process.

Stage 1: identification

The first stage in answering long-form questions is identifying the elements of the frame in the question.

The components of the frame are:

  1. The technology
  2. The areas of impact
  3. The stakeholders

Some of these will be contained within the question itself. Others may come from a student’s prior learning or life experience. One of the first steps to writing these longer answers is giving students practice in identifying them.

You can start these activities in a very scaffolded way, giving them as many prompts as they need. Eventually, they should move on to fulfilling the whole process, being given only a technology and identifying a thorough set of the impact statements and stakeholders around that topic.

Practice activities

Where’s Wally?
Give your students a technology and an area of impact, then show a slide with lots of different impact statements. Have students take turns selecting an impact from the board that they feel matches the technology they were given. Extend this by asking them to choose a stakeholder for the statement or the technology as well.

Group dialogues
Set up stations around the room, each with a technology and some stakeholders on them. Have small groups of students go to each station in turn and add an impact statement that they feel applies to the technology and the stakeholder. Then move the groups on to the next station. Eventually you will end up with stations full of identified impacts to share with the whole class.

Stage 2: evidence and explanations

The next stage will be for students to begin supplying evidence to back up their impact statements and stakeholders. This requires students to use background knowledge to show that the technology does in fact influence the impact they have mentioned. How does the evidence link the technology or its use to the impact?

Students can rely to some extent here on the background knowledge of the examiners, and should assume that well-known truths such as increased energy use leading to increased levels of greenhouse gases will be known to them.

Practice activity

Open discussion, closed evidence
Start the class off in a discussion about an area from the computing specifications. Ask leading questions and have them identify the types of impact that need to be considered. Once they have reached a consensus, split them into groups and ask them to provide evidence for a subset of those impacts. Split them evenly among the class so all the impacts will be looked at. Once everyone has finished, have them share their evidence statements with the rest of the class.

Stage 3: summarise and conclude

The final stage of the transition is getting students used to summarising and concluding the points they have raised.

At this stage, students should be considering how the points link together, and which impacts are related, either directly or indirectly. They should also be synthesising the points together to find new insights from the discussions they have been having.

These insights, new information that was generated by comparing their points and thinking critically about how they fit together, should form the basis of their conclusion, or the answer to the question.

Practice activities

Taking minutes
During a discussion, have all the students take notes. At the end, allocate ten minutes for reflection. Have all the students write up a summary of the impacts and evidence that was discussed, summarising the findings of the whole class.

Summarise in a sentence
Proceed as above, but have students try to summarise the whole discussion in one sentence. What was the overall impression the student got from the discussion? Compare all the sentences afterwards, and have the students discuss why they took those particular insights away from the discourse.

How to transition from discussion to writing

Think of some other ideas for activities to get students working on one or more of these stages. Each stage does not have to be worked on independently.

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Impact of Technology: How To Lead Classroom Discussions

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