TEACHnology Today

Technology Integration Newsletter-March 13, 2015

5 Tips for Facilitating Online Discussions with Students

Online discussions and forums can be a phenomenal tool in your digital learning toolbox. It helps to reach students who may be too timid to offer a response to a question in class but are more willing to type their reply or engage in a meaningful discussion in an online forum. This form of learning may help your students dive to the depth of the topic in concern. Every student should analyze the given topic critically, come up with various solutions and try to go deeper into the whole process of seeking answers. Online discussions may also offer a valuable lesson in digital citizenship because you can show your student how to respond to a "hot button" issue in a way that shows respect for all opinions. I think we've all seen how easy it is for people to offer their unrestricted opinions by hiding behind a computer screen, and we can take the opportunity to teach students the right way to respond online.


  1. Discuss: As the teacher, you set the tone and begin the discussion. Also, I'd recommend responding to a few students and engaging in the process yourself to model appropriate responses. Watch for off-topic discussions as well. Consider yourself a moderator in the process and be ready to play devil's advocate if the discussion is largely one-sided.
  2. Read Carefully: Encourage your students to read all comments and consider all voices in a conversation before typing their response. Tone is difficult to convey in an online discussion, so misunderstandings may occur during the discussion. Do your best to point these out and turn them into teachable moments that show students the importance of reading carefully and considering all sides and points before responding.
  3. Find References: Students can formulate arguments based on opinion pretty easily however it is another thing to find reputable sources that back up their views. Show students how to copy hyperlinks and post them as a reference for others to read that reinforce their position. You can also use a current event or case study as a discussion starter. I will often post an article to read and ask students to comment once to express their views on the topic. I ask them to go further than simply agreeing or disagreeing with the topic at hand. After everyone has had a chance to post their initial views, they must then respond to at least two people in the class. I require full sentences, good grammar, and a respectful demeanor when replying to posts.
  4. Understand the Technology: Before beginning an online discussion, make sure that you fully understand how to use it effectively. Do a test run and post as if you were a student so that you can see how posts will be displayed. If a student hits a snag in class, you will be better equipped to handle the situation and provide guidance. To get started, I'd recommend todaysmeet.com for an instant discussion board that requires very little setup. You could also check out classchatter.com, Google Classroom or even our school's website! You can add a discussion forum to your existing teacher web page and have students navigate there to post.
  5. Dig Deeper: Read through student responses and find ways to challenge their thinking in order to provoke more critical analysis of the topic at hand. Encourage students to come up with pros and cons for both sides of an argument to better anticipate what opposing sides will say. Students will typically attempt to agree or disagree with a post and you may need to be ready with prompts to encourage a deeper understanding of the topic.
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Digital Learning Day Resources, Lessons and Tools

Check out this link to find tools and lessons recommended by fellow educators from around the country. Find out what other educators are using for digital learning in their classrooms and adapt them to fit your needs without reinventing the wheel!

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This blog post provides screenshots and descriptions of 5 apps that you may find helpful!

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Past Editions of TEACHnology Today

September 4, 2014: Important Links, About Tech Integration, Chromebook Update and Google Classroom
September 11, 2014: Important Links, Technology Goals, Google Calendar and Chromebook Checkout, the 1-iPad Classroom and Reflector App
September 18, 2014: Important Links, Kahoot.it Tutorial, iPad App: Rhyme to Read
September 25, 2014: Digital Citizenship Image, Chromebook Checkout Refresher, iPad App: Noise Down, Bookmarking Sites: Tizmos and SymbalooEDU (with examples/resources by subject area and grade level)
October 2, 2014: Technology Goal Submission, Tutorial: Remind, Technology Workshop Opportunities, Chromebook Use Update
October 14, 2014: Technology Goal Update, iPad Spectrum, Apps for Every Classroom, Cool Tool: Planboard with Examples
October 23, 2014: Teaching Digital Citizenship and Internet Safety, iPad Reference Card (Printable), Cool Tool: Chatterpix App, Google Classroom, Apps for English and History, Sight Words on iPad, Youtube Channels for Educators
November 10, 2014: Tech Integration Request Form, Reflector and Splashtop (installation and use with your iPad and school computers), Google Calendar Refresher and links to LP School Calendars
November 18, 2014: Technology Mini-Session Poll, iPad App Suggestions with ThingLink, Thankful Turkeys with imagechef.com, Past Editions and Tech Integration Request Form
November 25, 2014: Technology Mini Session 1 Information, Planboard: Unit Planner How-To Guide, Formative Assessment with Socrative

December 4, 2014: Using Apps to Level your Classroom Library, Leveler Websites and Databases, 15 Virtual Field Trip Apps, and a Neat End of Year Activity

December 17, 2014: Survey Tools, Socrative, 30 Best Apps of 2014, WebTools with No Registration Required, Fun Classroom Timers

January 8, 2015: Technology Goal Update, iPad Student Objectives with Apps, iPad App of the Week: Phoster, A Comprehensive Guide to Classroom Blogging

January 30, 2015: Technology Half Day Ideas, Technology Half Day Form and Procedure, TED Ed Writer's Workshop Videos, iPad Volume Apps that LP has available for student or staff iPads

February 3, 2015: iPad App Request Forms, 12 Elementary Apps that Should Be on Every iPad, Learning Objective Maker, Saving Attachments to Google Drive

February 19, 2015: Websites to Teach Keyboarding Skills to Elementary Students, Elementary Math Videos by Level, 40 Reflection Questions, "Did I Plagiarize" Infographic

February 26, 2015: Preparing Students for Online Testing, Website: Shmoop, A Game Website to Help End World Hunger, 8 Formative Assessment Tools, DK in the Classroom Resources, and a List of the Best Music Education Resources

March 13, 2015: 5 Tips for Facilitating an Online Discussion, Digital Learning Day Lessons, Resources and Tools, 5 Games/Apps that Build Math and English Skills, 30 Tips for Using iPad App: Book Creator