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Silent Synchronous Reading Sessions

Last tended on June 19, 2020
🌱 Seedling


There's an established concept called Silent Meetings.

Much like it sounds, it's a meeting where for the most part no one talks. Rather than one PowerPoint dictator lecturing to a room full of checked out people, silent meetings shift discussion into online collaborative documents.

Everyone sits quietly on their own device and comments on a "Table Read" – a shared document in Google Docs or Figma or a webpage annotated with Hypothes.is

People add comments and discussion points to the document directly. They're able to easily refer to specific parts, respond to other people's comments, and run multiple threaded discussions. Instead of one leader or instructor talking at many people, it's many people all talking to each other.

David Gasca wrote up a comprehensive manifesto on the phenomenon in 2019 that dives into the implementation details for using them at companies.

While it's a great concept for Corporateland, I'm keen to explore how we could use it for collaborative learning communities online.

Many of my Cozy Web communities are full of voracious readers. We're often looking for ways to run ad-hoc book clubs and reading groups, but the established formats are fairly vanilla. Standard Zoom calls. Or async stream discussions in Slack-esque apps.

The tools are janky. The Pattern Languages aren't well established. Systems like the Knowledge Hydrant give us good starting points, but aren't design with an online environment in mind.

One challenge of distributed learning is the coordination around timing. Async reading doesn't focus collective attention in one place at one time.

Picking a single time to 'meet' in a document gives people a structured frame to fully focus on reading, thinking, and discussing

The opportunity to follow up with a video or voice call right after also creates space for social bonding, nuanced conversations, and collaborative meaning-making. It prevents Twitter-esque brutality and presumptive misunderstandings.

I'm beginning to try this out. TBD

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Maggie Appleton © 2020