BetterBlether: The Design and Evaluation of a Discussion Tool for education
9 (2): "Special Issue on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning "
Communication skills play a prominent role in the primary school curriculum.
Children are first expected to acquire these skills within a supervised group environment in
which the teacher guides and sets the pace for the discussion, and later transfer them to a less
dependent setting. This paper describes BetterBlether1, a computer mediated educational
communication tool designed to facilitate and promote effective group interaction skills.
BetterBlether uses a sentence opener approach (McManus & Aiken, 1995) in order to scaffold
the use of a range of discussion skills. In so doing, it provides support for the move from teacher
dominated discussions to ones in which the pupils play a more active part. We first provide an
overview of BetterBlether before going on to describe an empirical evaluation which was
carried out in a local primary school. Finally, we compare these results with outcomes of
research on both supervised and unsupervised group discussions (Harwood, 1995).