Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Start a #Debate and Make Connections a World Away

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Start a #Debate and Make Connections a World Away

Article excerpt

Through sites such as Periscope and Twitter, students can discuss topics with peers on another continent

This is the story of how two classes on the opposite side of the world came together, using social media to live-stream video debates.

I teach at Basingstoke College of Technology. For my critical thinking unit, I wanted my students to be immersed in real debate beyond their immediate peers. I sought collaboration with others by tweeting using hashtags such as #edchat and #edtech and by using the Periscope app. This livestreams video that is available for up to 24 hours (with an option to save it as well). I sent out the tweets like a message in a bottle and waited.

I soon had a response from Beth Sanders, a teacher at Enterprise City Schools in Alabama, US. She suggested that we share a Google Doc to exchange a few ideas. Within 24 hours, I was working with the incredibly innovative Beth and her colleagues Bridget Goodson and Amber Pope as we formulated our first debate on the topic of voter apathy in young people. We decided on the hashtag for our collaboration "across the ocean": #ATOdebate.

On the afternoon before the debate, I posted an introductory video of myself on Periscope using the #ATOdebate hashtag to ask the US students three questions. I invited them to respond via Twitter or Periscope (we soon realised that the time difference meant live debate was restricted). Bridget and Amber's students watched my introductory video and researched their answers. Then the more vocal learners responded on Periscope, with the quieter ones contributing on Twitter.

Live-stream and learn

When my students came into class that afternoon, we watched the US students' Periscope clips from the morning. My students then livestreamed their thoughts back about the differences between the UK and US, whether the causes of voter apathy were the same or different, and what issues would arise in a society born out of apathy.

I soon noticed that having a live audience (anyone seeing the stream on Twitter could watch the Periscope footage) and a playback audience (the US students) led to my learners displaying greater foresight and discernment, and a keener perception than I had seen before. Beth, Bridget, Amber and I observed our students' process as they articulated their thoughts, while we joined in ourselves on Twitter with some directed Socratic and cascaded questions, in order to formatively assess each other's students.

Some learners received favourites, retweets, replies and live comments as they expressed their views, and others continued the discussion with their transatlantic peers on Twitter long after the lectures had finished. …

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