Magazine article Technology & Learning

10 Ideas for Rich Academic Student Discussion Online

Magazine article Technology & Learning

10 Ideas for Rich Academic Student Discussion Online

Article excerpt

More classrooms are opening their doors to student discussion online through online collaborative projects, online courses, and blended learning. They are doing this through public social media like Facebook as well as private social media tools like Edmodo, My Big Campus, and Moodle. Whatever your school policy is--whether completely open or using the "walled garden" approach--there are general rules to follow when promoting meaningful online discussions. Here are 10 rules of thumb to get you started.

1. Keep discussions to Bloom's higher-level topics, including creating, evaluating, and synthesizing.

2. Use discussion as a formative assessment for checking both individual and group understanding. This does not mean it always has to be graded for accuracy, but more as a way for the teacher to plan. These questions may be lower on Bloom's Scale to show remembering and understanding.

3. A discussion can be graded, although it may be best to grade for participation. For example, the teacher may post and then ask students to reply to this post with a defined number of sentences. Students could also be evaluated on their comments on other student posts. Be specific on the grading criteria.

4. A class discussion is not an emulation of casual social media conversations. It is an academic forum. This forum should have the following rules:

* All students must use proper English grammar and spelling.

* All students must use complete sentences.

* All students must not use text lingo (e.g., LOL).

* All references that have been copied and pasted should be cited by name with a link to the source.

* The conversation should stay on topic. No outside or sidebar conversations.

* Thoughts and ideas should be concise and to the point (i.e., do not ramble).

* Keep statements specific and reasoned (i.e., avoid yearbook-type comments).

* Exercise proper digital citizenship (see below).

5. Students should practice proper digital citizenship. These general rules are as follows:

* All students will show respect and understanding for the diversity of other participants.

* All students will emphasize constructive, not critical, peer critique (e.g., do not simply criticize but frame comments as questions or suggestions, such as beginning with "I wonder ...")

* All comments should be academic in nature.

* Do not use personal identifying information.

* No plagiarizing. Always give the proper credit.

* Be sensitive to the fact that your words stand alone without the benefit of expression and tone found in face-to-face communication.

* Understand that posts are permanent, and viewable by all participants.

6. Vary the media used in discussions. Use documents, PDF files, movies, music, sound files, Power Points, Web site links, and images to promote the standards and concepts.

7. Keep on topic. Try to provide discussions that will support the standards and 21st-century competencies that you wish to emphasize and that will be assessed.

8. Use a rubric if providing a discussion for understanding. Make sure your students use the rubric when making any comments or replies. Consider including the 21st-century competencies of communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity. …

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