Getting reactions

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To get spontaneity, people need to interact in real time, in face-to-face encounters, video or audio conferences, chat rooms and elsewhere. Some years ago David Newman studied how students discussed controversial issues online and in face-to-face seminars.[1] It turned out that discussion forums helped people link ideas together and justify them. But to get new ideas, people needed the stimulus of instant responses in real time.

So if you want considered deliberation, use discussion forums or ideas mapping software. But to get instant engagement, excitement, and spark off new ideas and reveal feelings, use synchronous (same-time) technologies. In other words, use:

Realtime 'chat'
Systems that allow people to converse with others at the same time, reacting immediately to each other, wherever they happen to be. They don't need to be in the same room.

There are many electronic communication technologies that support dialogues between people who are not necessarily all in the same room, or even present at the same time. There is a choice of media: text, audio or video.

Online chat
Dozens of people type messages at the same time. Everyone's lines appear on the screen in front of you. It has been used in consultations involving all the schools in East Belfast.
Voice over the Internet (VOIP)
Talk to others over the Internet. You can set up conference calls between 2 to 5 Internet connected computers.
Video conferencing
Seeing, hearing, and questioning speakers at a distance. It is used to hold group meetings or live presentations over the Internet.
Click on the types of chat to see screenshots and find out more about them.
  1. Newman et al. (1997) Evaluating the quality of learning in computer supported co-operative learning