Online class discussions are a way to extend the course beyond the page – and for my Japanese classes to put what they are learning into action. Having never done a discussion I found the prospect of organizing one daunting – I should have realized that, with the assistance of my PLN, it was an ‘easy to organize’ great activity.
Platform choice – What you use depends on your resources and goals for the activity. For my Japanese class discussions I was looking for a specific platform that could be used ‘out of class’; many of my students don’t have smart phones and our school’s wireless capability in my room is dicey at best. I also wanted a secure ‘non-public’ platform. Thanks to @joedale who led me to Edmodo. As it is ‘invitation only’ the security was there for me. I could alsohave my students discuss as a group of 30 or break them into smaller groups for a more personal discussion experience.
Defined Timeframe/Participation Levels – the discussion is a two-part process. In stage one they are given 24 hours to respond at least twice. For one they must give their opinion on the topic, for the other they must respond to a classmate’s point (eg. @Julie…) Part 2 of the discussion – usually an extension of the original topic – continues for 48 hours. Students participate in this only if they have met the minimal requirements for Part 1. If the student hasn’t – they are set to ‘read only’ and are out of the activity. In Part 2 they are asked to respond/give their opinion at least 5 more times.
Easily marked – I selected rubric marking for both Part 1 and Part 2. The rubric relies not only on a minimal number of responses but also the quality of the discussion. Students know that it is not enough, for full marks, to just participate but that they must bring also incorporate class concepts into their responses. You can find all sorts of rubrics on line to aid you.
My first discussion group of 8 Japanese Honours students generated more than 88 entries in discussing whether school uniforms were a good idea or not. They cited the ability to participate at any time of day, and via cell phone, as benefits of this activity. If you wish to see the entire assignment just let me know and I’d be happy to share!