Conversational Competence

“Is there any 21st-century skill more important than being able to sustain confident, coherent conversation?”conversation

 As I watched my class struggle, I came to realize that conversational competence might be the single-most overlooked skill we fail to teach students. Kids spend hours each day engaging with ideas and one another through screens—but rarely do they have an opportunity to truly hone their interpersonal communication skills. Admittedly, teenage awkwardness and nerves play a role in difficult conversations. But students’ reliance on screens for communication is detracting—and distracting—from their engagement in real-time talk. (Paul Barnwell, 2014)

The author of this article, teacher Paul Barnwell, worries that without solid conversational skills our students won’t be able to manage important life conversations (e.g., job interviews, discssions with employers about salary negotiations, conversations with their partners, etc.) in their future which rely on them thinking on their feet (without access to Google!).

 MIT professor, Sherry Turkle, spends her time researching people’s relationship with technology. She wrote in the New York Times about the impact of tech-overload: “Face-to-face conversation unfolds slowly. It teaches patience. When we communicate on our digital devices, we learn different habits … we start to expect faster answers. To get these, we ask one another simpler questions. We dumb down our communications, even on the most important matters.”

I couldn’t agree more with Barnwell and Turkle. Teaching our students how communicate to solve problems, deal with emotions, and build meaningful relationships through conversations  is an essential skill which may need to be explicitly taught.

Read the entire article from The Atlantic below:

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