For as long back as I can remember we have squashed the questions that only help out the individual and focusing only upon the questions that benefit the most students. The tangential question is not allowed because it is a distraction to the learning, rather than an enhancement. The student who thinks divergently is allowed to do so only if she doesn’t speak. An environment such as this is not ripe for learning. In fact, I would make the case that it is rotten.
The students that are dependent upon one another to guide their learning may learn in an environment where only one voice is heard at a time. But it takes so much longer to get to true point of significance because each of the learners can only move as fast as the question or the answer. The backchannel allows many students to ask questions, but the learning doesn’t happen until those questions are answered. Backchannels inherently are also not very searchable or friendly to going back through and pulling out the most important elements. Rather, they are representations of the thinking going on in the background of a session or class period.
Rather, the Interdependent students need a place for an organic question and answer that they can all edit and work within. They need a collaborative document or wiki that is a constantly reworked FAQ for the content. Each student is able to learn from one another and save that learning. They are dependent upon one another for their learning, and that is the way that they wanted to be.
However, it is something so much more amazing to allow the independent questioner to come into the mainstream of the classroom or session. The Ripe Environment allows for this type of learner to engage in the experience without feeling like an outsider.
Traditionally, independent questions are a challenge to authority… and they should be. They should challenge what is truly the most important content being presented. But, rather than having students distracting everyone with a question, they will be creating learning for everyone by proposing a solution. The independent questioners most times do not really want an answer from the presenter, teacher, or workshop facilitator. They would much rather answer the questions themselves; they just need the okay to go and research it themselves and the opportunity to present what they find.
So, my proposal is this: Let learners get engaged by a divergent question. Let them find out what they can on the answer. Let them have time at the end (or middle, or beginning) of a session to present their findings. Let them be authentic. Let them create something new.
Maybe this isn’t revolutionary. Maybe this is simply building and letting the learners come. Regardless, we aren’t doing it enough, and for that I am regretful.