Start having better discussions

Moderating a discussion involves distributing a scarce resource — the total time available for speaking to the group. But even trained moderators can't access the information needed to promote really great discussions: Who most strongly desires to speak at a given moment? What does she plan to say? How valuable would her contribution be now, relative to the contributions that other participants would make instead?

Palaver is the first ever app for market-based automated discussion moderation. Discussion markets free both students and teachers from the cognitively demanding and — for many people — anxiety inducing aspects of moderating and participating in real-time group discussions. We believe discussion markets will radically improve the quality of group problem solving and decision making — a claim my lab hopes to prove empirically.

Palaver makes joining the discussion easier for all students, eliminates many moderator biases, and allows everyone to better focus on what's actually being said.

Student-facing features

Students can jump into the discussion queue by bidding from their initial endowment. Teachers no longer need to devote precious cognitive resources (e.g., working memory) to managing an evolving queue of speakers. They can instead devote their full attention to the content of the discussion.

Here, a student bids 33 points, placing them at the front of the queue. (They student is notified: "You will be up next"). If another student outbids them, then they will move back in the line. Of course, if her endowment permits, the student can increase her bid to get back into first place.

When students end their turn early they are 'charged' only for the time they spoke. Students are notified as they approach the teacher-configured speaking time limit, thereby solving once and for all the problem of overly dominant participants dominating the discussion at the expense of all others.

When any discussion ends, students are prompted to complete a three item questionnaire (with teacher-configurable questions), making rapid student-generated feedback instantly available to moderators. This feedback has been invaluable for TAs who have experiment with Palaver.

Moderator-facing features

When a discussion is in progress, moderators view a simple interface that shows a dynamically updated queue of students waiting to speak. (No more struggling to remember students' names!) When moderators need to interject they can pause the market and later resume it.

After a discussion concludes, moderators have an objective record of students' participation that can be used to automatically suggest students who may benefit from encouragement. This records not only who spoken and for how long, it also indicates much the participant desired to speak.

The record is also visualized in an interactive graph that makes the shape of the discussion clear. The moderator can annotate the graph with notes linked to specific moments in the discussion.

Teacher configurables

Teachers can choose between first- and second-price auctions. In second-price auctions, speakers pay the value of the highest bid after their own (similar to how goods are sold on eBay). In first-price auctions, winners pay the amount they bid. Palaver also allows teachers to configure rewards for students who make stimulating contributions to the discussion as measured by surges in the price to contribute. When no one is in line to speak, it is always free for students to enter the discussion. However, Palaver also allows teachers to incentivize students to break silences by offering a customizable reward to silence breakers.