Listening . . .

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February 26, 2014 by k. liz

I “attended” a couple of seminars from the British Council today {attended from the comfort of my home desk with my snacks, slippers, and sweatshirt!} The one that inspired this post was on Listening in Academic English: Listener as Interpreter and Recorder by Edward de Chazal. Now, I am not blogging on this particular seminar, I am just addressing a thought of mine that popped up while listening, and actually something I’ve thought about for the last few months.

In August, my husband and I moved back to the USA after living in Turkey for three years. We started attending church in the States again, and I found myself being what I would have thought before to be very disrespectful, whispering to Jeremy throughout the service, talking and commenting on what the speaker was saying. I was slightly aghast at myself, to be honest, my cheeks easily remembering how hot they had gotten before when people glared at me for talking during church or other social functions.

BUT, as a teacher, it did start me thinking. Over the last few years, Jeremy and I have listened to hundreds of podcasts, and lots other sermons/lectures/shows online, and we have both attended several conferences. And, here are a few things I’ve noticed:

  • When listening to podcasts, we will often pause the player and talk about a comment that the speaker just made, expanding it, applying it to our lives, discussing it, or criticizing it.
  • When listening to other lectures (live-streamed or recorded), we often speak during these presentations to clarify or again expand these ideas and personalize them.
  • At conferences, both of us #interact quite #actively on #twitter or facebook with other attendees, asking questions, sharing quotes, and saving links.

As I’ve started looking at this, I’ve wondered how some of these practices could positively benefit our students. Rather than the traditional speaker to listeners one-dimensional listening practices we’ve embraced in the past, what if we allowed students to actively listen by interacting with partners or an online community? Now, don’t get me wrong, as a teacher, I would really struggle to have a constant murmur in my class while teaching, but in the end, I wonder if we wouldn’t increase student learning if they were able to personalize the material as it was coming at them.

The world of #hashtags and twitter chats has helped me to internalize and understand talks when I may space out for a minute. These also provide a documented and reviewable resource that students could go back and look at again after the lecture. Does this offer something akin to collaborative note-taking?

Now, utilizing #hashtags for note-taking purposes of course is going to give you the same students that do nothing during the lecture but sit there and daydream, but would it possibly allow the students who fit the profile of my husband and I, to get so much more out of the lecture because they are actively interacting with it instead of simply receiving it and taking it in? Also, does it give more weight and respect to the students by letting them voice their thoughts and possible disagreements with the speaker during the lecture? (And coming from an admitted introvert, I interact much more on social media than I would if I had to raise my hand and speak in a crowded room!)

What do you think? Would you considering lecturing with a #hashtag, or allowing students to talk and take notes in groups, even if it meant that you did not have their undivided attention? Do we have to change our view of what proper listening etiquette is? Do you see potential problems with a practice like this? (I do, by the way, but I am not sure yet whether they outweigh the benefits.)

What are your thoughts?


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