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Ian O'Byrne

If the structure does not permit dialogue the structure must be changed. - Paulo Freire In this week's issue of TL;DR - #dialogue

Ian O'Byrne

Oppositional Conversational Style

3 min read

As we engage in discussion or debate with others, we often come across the person that wants to argue just for the sake of arguing.

Gretchen Rubin identifies this as oppositional conversational style

Oppositional conversational style is a person, who in a discussion or debate disagrees with and corrects everything that you say. They may do this in a friendly or perhaps a belligerent manner. This may be face-to-face, or in online settings.

What does this look like?

This person will provide facts, alternative facts, beliefs, & suppositions all to suspend or carry on the debate. There is no desire to engage in a real debate. There is also no desire to come to a common ground through dialogue.

The individual may not listen in the debate. They frequently interrupt, monopolize, and/or hijack the conversation to present their own agenda. 

This may include attempts to force a dynamic in the discussion, or not moving on from a topic when both parties are not receptive. Alternatively, this may also include randomly and abruptly changing topics without transition or apparent reason.

There may be several reasons individuals engage in oppositional conversational style. It could be that emotions are causing them to act irrationally. They may be trying to cover up an incomplete understanding of the facts. They may simply not have the knowledge or intellectual fortitude to engage in discussion or debate.

What to do

In these instances, we often want to continue to debate and understand the individual...or make them understand our point of view. This is often a fruitless endeavor.

Keep in mind that it's not always necessary to change someone's mind. Do not get emotionally overwhelmed in the interaction. 

Realize that some issues are objective and some are subjective. Objective issues deal with concrete, or observable facts. If the other individual does not want to discuss facts, you may be arguing in vain.

Move on

When you find yourself in a discussion or debate with someone that utilizes an oppositional conversational style, the best course of action may be to end the discussion before it starts.

If you see any of the patterns identified above, it may be best for you to end the debate before it continues. 

I believe that it is much easier to be direct and honest with the individual. Ask them the following question:

Is there anything that I can say to change, or make you reconsider, your perspective? 

If they indicate that there is nothing you can say or do to make them change their mind, it is time to remove yourself from the conversation. 

Your relationship with the person should dictate your response. If it is a family member you may decide to ask them about their conversational style to better understand their logic. If it is a boss or co-worker, it might be better to accept their position and move on. If this is an acquaintance or someone that you don't really know, you should change the subject, or walk away. 


Image Credit

Ian O'Byrne

Thinking more about bots in education

2 min read

My line from this post:

Ultimately, this bot, and ones in the future could serve as an automatic teaching assistant that is always present and available.

Response from Katie Paciga:

So alt school uses the idea of customized playlists to help children engage in areas of interest for project based learning. To what extent do you think bots might automate some of that?

Interested to hear your thoughts.

My response:

Great question. :)

IMHO, I think that there is/should be a set of algorithms that are guiding the learner, and setting up content and curriculum that they might be interested in. Or, at least with “big data”, what students just like you might be interested in.

Of course this concerns me as you’re already limiting the scope of what the child might learn. I’d like to see a certain amount of randomness, or serendipity in the learning materials for the students. I’d also like to see opportunities where students can identify and develop their own (prescriptive or descriptive) learning pathways.

In terms of your original question, I think a bot might be able to fill specific needs. Hopefully a parent, teacher, or peer would be able to have dialogue with the child about the content and learning. In lieu of this interaction, perhaps a bot could carry on dialogue with the child.

Yes, this sounds super sci-fi and a bit impersonal, but it’s already happening. An example is with the Quartz news app. The news app acts like a messenger, or assistant with some slick AI embedded. The app/bot will share news or info that you might be interested in. It shares it in a conversational style or tone. As you carry on dialogue it will question you…and allow you to question the app.

I’d see this as a powerful opportunity to build up some smart AI in the form of a bot to support student inquiry. The app would start by asking the student what they want to learn that day. If she or he is stuck with a direction to head, the bot would suggest research they previously would be working on, or identify new fields to focus on.

Perhaps. ;)

Ian O'Byrne

Death ends a life, not a relationship. - Mitch Albom

2 min read

It is interesting to watch our considerations of death and the changes brought about by the influx of technology and social networks.

In an earlier post I wrote a bit about my own use of social networks and technology to understand how and when celebrities die. I've been struck by the loss of life of someone close to me.

My Wife worked in retail for a number of years. She managed a store and as a result became quite close to a number of the women that worked in her store, and served as assistant managers.

When we became pregnant with our first son, I was attending UConn for my doctoral work and she was working in a mall near the campus. I would often stop off at the store on the way home to visit and make sure she was fine. After our son was born, I would drive in to the store with him to see her...or pick him up there on the way home. 

She became close to one of her colleagues in particular. She would greet me and hug me whenever we saw each other. She became close to my Wife even after they stopped working together. Through the use of social networks, they routinely shared, commented, and liked content on each other's walls.

On one regular day, my Wife called me and informed me that the friend and former colleague had passed. It was totally unexpected and as a result we were unsure if it even occurred. 

Slowly in drips and drabs friends posted their condolences on her Facebook wall. This was followed by others that were learning and questioning about the details. Finally a family member somehow obtained access to her Facebook account and posted a short notice that she indeed had passed.

Over the coming days and weeks, her Facebook wall became a memorial and celebration of her life. To this day her Facebook wall is still active as loved ones routinely carry on dialogue with her after her passing. They share jokes, and music videos that she would have loved. The space provides room to reminisce and remember. 

Ian O'Byrne

Learning Event 3 (#LE3) for #WalkMyWorld 2016

For the learning events in the  Project 2016, I'm releasing tracks that would form a playlist for my life. You can review the first track here. You can review the whole playlist here on Soundcloud.

In each podcast I'll situate myself in my life and try to explain why this track is meaningful to me.

For Learning Event Three, track three of my playlist is Gallows Pole by Led Zeppelin.

The song is a re-telling of a centuries-old folk song called The Maid Freed from the Gallows

The graphic, or diagram I used to express the shape of the story is the image below titled The Day That The World Didn't End.

In trying to diagram the action of the plot, it's a challenge because most of the action and dialogue (at least in the version I shared) exists in the protagonist's head. I think the image I shared shows the torment that the speaker is experiencing. The image also does a good job of showing the movement in the journey.


The music for the bumper is Nothing to Fear by Dexter Britain shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license.