BetterBlether: The Design and Evaluation of a Discussion Tool for education

In IJAIED 9 (2): "Special Issue on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning "

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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).