September 4, 2017

Online discussion forums form a big part of a Blended classroom. Like with everything in a classroom, if you want to create a safe online environment where learners can voice their opinion freely, you have to be very clear in your expectations, right from the start. Learners also have to learn that there is an art to having a discussing, it is not only stating your opinion. In order for the staff to have a clear picture in their head of what their expectations are, I did a short training session with them.


Duration:        15 minutes
Group size:     50 teachers
Platform:        Google classroom
(We have a staff training Class, that we have been using for all our training, so everybody is already part of it.)

Question 1 – Ice breaker (5 minutes)

Set an open-ended Question (remember to set it so that learners can see other responses and edit their own).

Examples:

Dinner at my place. 
“If you could invite 3 people (dead or alive) to your dinner party, who would they be? Explain why you would invite them. 
Once you have posted your response, reply thoughtfully to at least 3 of your peers.”

My bucket-list
“What are the top 3 things on your bucket list? Motivate your choices in 2-4 sentences. Once you have posted your response, reply thoughtfully to at least 3 of your peers.”

Question 2 – Argumentative discussion (5 minutes)

For the second discussion choose a topic that people will have strong opposing opinions on.

For example:
Social media paparazzi
“Due to Social media, today’s children grow up being stalked by paparazzi, in the form of their parents. Do you agree with this statement? Motivate your answer in 2-4 sentences. Once you have posted your response, reply thoughtfully to at least 3 other responses.”

Before they responded to the second question I put some tips on the screen on how to say something substantial, how to end your response in a way that encourages discussion and how to reply in an appropriate way. Catlin Tucker’s book, Blended Learning in grade 4-12, have a whole chapter dedicated to this.
While they answered and responded I tried to respond to as many of the statements myself, to encourage discussion.

Hopefully, the teachers left this session with a clearer idea of what an online discussion entail and could start setting up guidelines for their own classes.

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