Class discussions that can occur any time of day and students engaged in that discussion. It took me a while to get my head around ‘online’ discussion and I used the experience of other teachers in my school who’d tried it. I currently use this with my Independent Directed Study students (Japanese language) and will be expanding it to my Year 4 students next year. What to consider? Here’s a few of my thoughts:
A secure program such as Edmodo or Schoology . My key is that it comes with a free mobile app and is a secure environment. Students enjoy the ability to contribute via mobiles but I ensure that computer access is also available for those without smart phones. I am not at the point comfortable using social media for this. With regard to Twitter, I don’t feel comfortable asking students to join, for the purpose of a course, something that opens them up to outside ‘spam’ followers. Facebook I also avoid as I want to maintain a clear and professional distance from my students. For me the link between their personal Facebook, and my role as their teacher should be separate.
For me the point is to have them interacting and sharing ideas. Thus a topic that is reachable with the language that they know and just ‘controversial’ enough to court opinion. In the past we have touched on ideas such as “It’s a good idea for a high school student to have a part-time job” to “Students should take a mandatory year off between high school and post-secondary school.”
To ensure a robust discussion I like to do this not as a ‘whole’ class but rather in smaller sub-groups. I like the ‘small group’ options that Edmodo and Schoology offer so that my class of 30 can be comfortable discussing among a smaller group of 8-9. As a tip – don’t forget to include yourself in the group so that you can see their posts!
In order to ensure that students are engaged the ‘discussion’ occurs over more than 1 day – and is done in two parts. Typically I allow 4 days for on-line discussion. It starts at 7:45 on the first day and students have until midnight of Day 2 to post 1 comment stating their personal view and 1 specific response to a classmate’s comments. If a student does NOT do that then they are locked out of part 2 of the discussion and can only generate a maximum of 1 out of 5 marks for the exercise. Once they have completed part 1 – then in part 2 they are asked to extend the discussion by contributing at least 5 more posts including 2 specific references to another person. Naturally the students are aware that our district code of conduct applies – and failure that adhere to that not only removes them from the discussion but will include further school-based discipline.
I am not marking for ‘grammar’ or other technical parts but rather am looking for opinion – and the ability to quality of thought behind their responses.
- 5 POINTS - Excellent. Insightful and reflective discussion contributions; expands upon ideas presented in discussion; Multiple contributions to the discussion; language reflects concepts studied
- 3 POINTS - Acceptable. Elaboration and contribution to one or two ideas within the discussion; Participated in both halves of the discussion to the minimum amount; language mostly reflects concepts studied.
- 1 POINT - Marginal. Simple insight or contribution to the topic; only participated in Part 1 of the discussion.
I sourced the ideas for the rubric from Rizopoulos, L.A., & McCarthy, P. (2009). Using Online threaded discussions: best practice for the digital learner. Journal of Educational Technology Systems.
It’s rewarding to see my students defending their ‘ideas’ in a second language – and some of the best ‘authentic’ interaction out there! What’s your experience with the on-line discussion world?