This article summarizes the findings of a team of researchers who analyzed Facebook data. They found that users tended to reinforce their beliefs by "encasing themselves in environments that mesh with their own personal beliefs." How can we help students be open to new ideas and avoid social media "echo chambers"?
Author and teacher, Margaret Berry Wilson describes hearing second graders use discussion comments such as "I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with that, because . . . . " She was impressed by their ability to disagree respectfully and credits a technique called "Interactive Modeling" for teaching them how to argue and disagree while still maintaining appropriate behavior.
In this podcast, New Zealand teachers Danielle Myburgh and Rebekah Nathan talk about why hearing dissenting views and "devil's advocates" is so important in any learning situation. They believe it helps a group of students to understand a problem or concept more fully and receive more valuable feedback when they collaborate with other students who disagree with their ideas.
Kudos to fifth-grade teacher Carrie Byer for this great video on how she teaches her students to disagree respectfully. It's especially helpful that her students explain, in their own words, how they have learned to disagree in classroom discussions without offending or angering others. This could easily be modified for high school students.
If you need a quick, simple activity to teach respectful disagreement on any academic or social topic, this classroom demonstration of "Take Sides" might work for you. It could be a good way to introduce a mini-unit on how to listen respectfully to those with whom you disagree.
This exercise/activity is targeted at sixth-graders, but it can be adapted for almost any age group. Students role-play disagreement on what to make for dinner or which movie to watch, then practice active listening and acting non-judgmentally. This activity could be completed in one class period, and would probably work best if modeled by teacher and student or two students.
Blogger Jacob Pastrovich offers some intriguing suggestions for how to avoid social media "echo chambers," and some of these could be shared with your students. How about not immediately unfollowing people who post opinions you don't agree with, who have very different political views? Or consciously seeking out, and following, viewpoints very different from your own? What might be learned in the process? This could make an interesting project for students.