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Friday, September 18, 2009

Interview with Bryan Orme, E-Learning Innovators Series

Developing technologies that facilitate discussion and encourage learners to engage is critical to maintaining student engagement and motivating them to stay active in the course. Welcome to an interview with Bryan Orme, co-founder of CreateDebate, an online debate forum.

What is your name, your affiliation, and your connection to e-learning?

My name is Bryan Orme, I am a co-founder of CreateDebate. CreateDebate is an online debate forum that can be used in the classroom as a web-based virtual learning environment (VLE) to drive collaboration, discussion and critical thinking.

What is your view of how people interact and learn in the e-learning space?

In my view, the e-learning space is evolving as technology redefines how teachers and students communicate and collaborate with each other and among themselves. It's an exciting time because technology is being used in new ways to supplement traditional classroom activities and enhance the overall learning experience.

People learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process. E-learning technology has unlocked new possibilities for teachers eager to engage students with a collaborative learning approach. For instance, it is quite easy for a teacher to incorporate CreateDebate into an existing lesson plan to drive discussion and constructive reasoning through participation and collaboration.

Please give an example of a discussion that leads to a learning encounter. How do you open people's minds rather than simply reinforcing bias or rigidity?

On the topic of American Imperialism, one history teacher uses CreateDebate to enliven the instructional component by supplementing his lecture with an interactive debate. The lesson plan begins with a central question: With regard to the exploration and establishment of the United States, do the pros outweigh the cons?

As the lesson plan unfolds, students are given the opportunity to write arguments supporting the either pro or con positions. The students are also encouraged to vote for or against the arguments written by their peers. As a result, the most convincing arguments are voted to the top of each position. The net effect is a competition where students are striving to craft well-written, logical arguments.

Each time the students are given an opportunity to write new arguments and vote for the most convincing, the teacher leads a discussion in class to review the most popular arguments. As the lesson plan progresses, the students are encouraged to incorporate new ideas into their arguments and reminded that they can change their votes. By the end of the instructional component, the debate reads like a lesson plan summary.

This teacher has harnessed e-learning by providing a forum for his students to learn through competitive collaboration. As the interactive debate has been threaded throughout the lesson plan, the views of his students have been shaped through instruction and peer-collaboration. All of his students have become active participants in the learning process.

What do you see as the connection between creativity and debate?

Creativity is a mental and social process through which new ideas and concepts are generated. Debate is a method of interaction between people where ideas and concepts are analyzed, argued and judged. Creativity and debate are two dots connected by ideas and concepts.

What is CreateDebate? How does it work? What are the underlying learning theories that support its application in the elearning space?

CreateDebate in the Classroom enables teachers to customize and build an online debate community that can be easily incorporated into almost any lesson plan. Typically, teachers will create debates around questions that will build on the current course of study. The goal is to engage students and enrich the classroom conversation through peer collaboration. Debates can be conducted in the classroom “real-time” (if computers with Internet access are available) or participation can be assigned as homework and reviewed in class.

CreateDebate is built on Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, which states that when students are able to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate subjects they are learning at a much higher level than rote memorization of facts. CreateDebate is also based on James Surowiecki's theory of Collective Wisdom, which argues that the aggregation of information in groups leads to better conclusions and decisions. By engaging in collaborative debate, students are able to exchange ideas and theories that eventually lead to better conclusions than simply calling on the student that raises their hand.

Do you have any future plans? How are you planning to leverage new technologies?

We plan on expanding the CreateDebate platform to make it even more valuable and useful for both students and teachers. We are creating lesson plans that teachers can leverage to encourage debate and discussion in their classroom depending on the grade level of their students as well as the topic of study.

We also plan on enhancing our social networking features to allow teachers to collaborate on what works best in their classrooms and share ideas for how to most effectively leverage debate in their curricula. Additionally, we plan on creating functionality to allow classrooms from around the world that have the same learning objectives debate each other by using the CreateDebate platform. We are actively working with teachers to create new features that make CreateDebate even more valuable for use in the classroom.

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