Implementing digital communication in the classroom

Recently we blogged about some considerations for teachers who are considering implementing digital communication learning activities in their classrooms.  We talked about why providing a digital space for communication was important and how this could be achieved using various tools. 

Google Slides Q&A Presentation Mode Presenters can start a live Q&A session with an audience during a presentation with Google Slides. You can present questions at any time, and people can ask questions from any device.
FlipGrid video discussion platform.
TriCider crowdsource and backchannel discussion
VoiceThread allows students to use images, files, and video for collaboration and discussion. *Paid subscription, free to employees in our district.
Lino is a digital corkboard where students can leave “sticky notes”, images, or video.
Tozzl  is a digital easy-to-use pinboard that enables people to collaborate with others
Google Classroom has a question feature in the classwork page to get a discussion going.  Discussions can also occur in the stream page as a regular post

But when we get down to the details of thinking about the implementation of a digital discussion in the classroom, it can sometimes be hard to picture why you’d have students discuss online rather than face to face.  Below we’ll outline some benefits of digital discussions:

Teachers can capture responses from students more easily
Sometimes brilliant student responses occur in face to face discussions but before we know it, another student has jumped in or we teachers missed the opportunity to capitalize on the comment and it becomes a missed opportunity for student learning.  Digital discussions slow down the entire process and can allow teachers to deepen and develop certain areas of learning.  Particularly meaningful comments or threads can be saved and shared with other classes, other teachers and administrators, or even parents to inform the wider community of the students’ learning. 

Teachers can incorporate learners from various classes and schools. 
Teachers who teach multiple sections of a class can easily provide additional points of view by using a discussion board to allow for student responses from various sections of a class.  Even more interesting, teachers from the same school or even other schools can collaborate and share a discussion board to bring the conversation broader than a single teacher’s class. 

Some students may feel more at ease in a digital discussion.
Students who are learning English or students are shy during class discussions may find specific value in digital discussions.  They are able to think through their responses at their own rate rather than respond on the spot and teachers will have the opportunity to hear from students they may not hear from during face to face discussions.  All students have the opportunity to be on an equal plane.

So when does the class discussion happen?  The beauty of it is that it can happen at various points throughout a unit of learning.  Teachers can use responding to discussion prompts as a method to warm up the learning during bell work.  Similarly, discussing can provide a closure opportunity to a lesson and allow the students to reframe ideas and display their own personal understanding.  Discussion boards can also be used as a station during a station rotation lesson where students make a post and respond to various other students before completing the station.  

Asking the right question of your students is a critical component of ensuring an effective digital discussion.  Be sure to pose a question that is open ended and leaves room for discussion.  Returning to the essential question of a unit, for example, as each lesson is completed is a great use for a discussion board.  Asking opinion questions or asking students to take a stand with evidence is a great use of the tool and beautifully combines the pedagogical reasons for discussion with opportunities to practice digital citizenship.

So, ready, set, discuss!   


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