Image: Matthew Luskey, assistant director of the University of Minnesota’s writing across the curriculum program, wants undergraduates in his classes to talk with each other when they first encounter an essay such as Vershawn Ashanti Young’s “Should Writers Use Their Own English?” But several of his classes are blended, which means that some of the “talking” needs to happen online.

Luskey could direct students to a discussion board in the learning management system, but “talking” there tends to be linear; one student may comment, followed by one or two replies, followed by another student comment and so on. Also, when a student wants to refer to a section of the text on a discussion board, they must import the quote, where it sits apart from the rest of the essay, cutting short conversations that might have naturally emerged from the context.

For these reasons, Luskey is a proponent of online tools that facilitate

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