Ask a question that is tangential to the course content at the beginning of the course to teach students how to have a class discussion in low-stakes context so that students create a classroom environment that is safe for engaging in debates.

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  • Think of this as a training exercise.
    • The tangential question must have no “right” answer.
      • By being open-ended, all the answers students provide should be contended with.
      • Since the question isn’t something they’ll be tested on in class, there aren’t course repercussions for “getting it wrong.”
    • The goal is to create an environment where students are comfortable sharing their perspectives and engaging in discussions.
  • It can be extremely effective to have students learn to discuss and debate in a low-stakes context.
    • For instance, have students debate:
      • Would the be better without personal computers?
      • What might the world be like if computers had been created before books?
      • Do you think the portrayal of technology in movies is ever realistic?
  • Do this at the beginning of the course to produce a classroom environment where students feel safe engaging in debates.