Public Relations Today

How to add online discussions to your traditional classroom

Eliana Osborn wrote this on Nov 25, 2014

Students having discussions onlineMaybe tech isn’t your comfort zone. The latest district or state reporting system took you some time to learn and you’re much more confident at the white board than your keyboard. Never fear—using a discussion board doesn’t mean giving up everything you’re good at and starting from scratch. Digital has benefits for teaching, learning, engagement, and variety.

Meet Students Where They Are

Like it or not, today’s learners are growing up in an entirely different world than the one you went to school in.  They are using devices of all kinds, spending a tremendous amount of time looking at screens.  They are used to answers at the speed of light: Google, text messages, click to pay.  This means that waiting is not their strong suit.  You don’t have to be at pupils’ beck and call every moment of the day, but you can try to address issues more quickly.

You can require phones to be disabled or turned off in your classroom.  Or you can put the natural tendency of young people to comment, Twitter like, on their every move.  Want to keep track of what is happening in class for future reference, so students can go back to check in later when they have a question? Make is part of your class culture to allow students to ask questions or share something new during class, in an online discussion.  What do you say in lecture that stands out?  Did a part of your example not come across clearly?  Say so.  You can check in on the digital discussion board while students are working to see what is working and not for them.  You’ve got that last five minutes to address confusion, orally and by adding your comments to the discussion board.

Change Things Up

No matter how great your classroom demeanor, life gets stale after a while.  Before a holiday, after a big assignment, a day with glorious winter sunshine.  These are excellent moments to embrace change.  How about trying a real time online discussion board?  Picture small groups interacting with other groups in virtual silence.  You type a question, students answer—especially good for something with more than one correct response.  We talked in a previous post about discussions as an avenue for quiet students.  This works while you are all sitting in class too. 

You might get more comfortable with digital discussions after a few rounds in the classroom.  That’s the goal, right?  When that happens, the time has come to see how you could integrate this technology into every day learning.

Generating Uses

How you use a online discussion board is very flexible.  You can use it as more of a quick polling device—who do you prefer, Montagues or Capulets in Romeo and Juliet?  It can also serve as a back and forth dialog.  If you struggle with classroom control when you do traditional debates or discussions, maybe going digital can help keep things calm.  The Chalkup discussion board has a few benefits here; you can disable it during class time if you want, and it works well on smart phones.  Depending on the technology situation in your location, that can be an important consideration.

If you want to integrate digital discussion boards into your face to face classes, one of the best places to go for answers might be your students.  Chances are they’d love a chance to share ideas with you on what they’d like to see in the classroom. 

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Topics: Student Engagement, Class Discussions