Encouraging Dialogue

This evening my blog became a place of heated dialogue surrounding two of my posts, Politics and Education and The #140 Character Conference.

Interestingly, the dialogue is less about my post and more a dialogue amongst commenters. It started as a dialogue between myself and a frequent commenter on blog and turned into an all out comment war.

I hate war.

The commenter often presents a view that is contrary to my posts. I appreciate his comments because he doesn't always agree with me, and I like to see things from as many angles as possible. However, his latest comment was full of extreme language and statements.  I felt the need to respond strongly.  His response was a repeat of the extreme language and tone with many references to education and business and pop culture with an underlying distrust for all educators and education itself.

I replied, "We'll just have to agree to disagree :)" I felt that going back and forth with him would waste both of our time since it was obvious (especially after reading his blog) that we would not find much to agree on in general.  I am not a fan of arguments for the sake of arguments, and blog comments are not the best forum for deep and meaningful discussion when two people disagree so much. We can't read each others' body language or facial expression, or most importantly, tone of voice.

Then, my PLN got involved in the conversation. I learned so much from the dialogue that started there. But again, I didn't learn more about my viewpoint on the posts, but rather my viewpoint on dialogue itself.

I love dialogue in my blog comments. I have often been forced to look at things differently based on comments left on my posts. Just recently, on my post, Fitting Creativity into Assessment, my friend Chad Sansing pushed me to rethink my definition of creativity, and my friend Gerald Aungst reminded me that I am lucky to live in a country where politics can be discussed freely in his comment on my Politics and Education post. As I stated in this post, "If no one ever challenges my ideas, how will I know what I truly believe?"

As a result of the dialogue that occurred tonight, I decided to come up with a list of blog commenting tips.

When commenting on a blog, DO

  • Use your name. Anonymous comments are meaningless and are often a way for someone to say something they would never say face to face while hiding their identity
  • Read the post carefully and respond ONLY to the post itself. Adding additional arguments to your comment that are unrelated don't help create dialogue.
  • Refrain from using extreme language that can detract people from the point you are trying to make.
  • Re-read your comment to check for spelling errors or statements that could be misconstrued or are vague.
  • Use good manners. Pretend you are speaking to the post author or fellow commenter face to face and act accordingly.
  • Know when to let it go. Don't get caught up in back and forth arguments and know when to end it when you become uncomfortable or the conversation goes in a direction that strays from the topic at hand.
One of the most amazing things about blogs is that anyone can read them and anyone can comment.  You are opening up yourself to the world, so you must prepared for what it has to offer.  At the same time, as digital citizens, we must remember that we need to maintain professionalism in the online world just as we would face to face.

In addition, we need to model for our students and other young people (and sometimes adults) how to comment appropriately and construct a meaningful dialogue.

I want to thank all of you who have left comments on this blog for your encouragement, for challenging my ideas, for asking good questions to help me build my own knowledge and understanding of teaching, learning and life.

I want to personally thank Paul Bogush for his level-headed advice and for reinforcing the importance of accepting all opinions, even if we don't agree with them.

I also want to thank Wm Chamberlain for inspiring me to write this post.

And of course, feel free to comment!


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