Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Discussion Boards.... Useful or just another chat tool?


  • What forms of student/student-instructor interactions will you implement in your course prototype (e.g. LMS forums, chats rooms, Flipgrid, blog comments/pingbacks, hashtags, Google Plus, etc.)? What justification can you provide for choosing these forms of student interaction? What guidelines or assessment practices will you adopt to ensure that interactions are meaningful, supportive, and relevant?

Since I utilize GAFE consistently in my classroom, I feel like having student to student interactions should be happening. But when I think of a discussion board, or a mode of communication other than what I have been doing I become anxious about how this tool will be misused and possibly become another distraction.

From one of our article readings this week I found the "Benefits of Using Online Discussion Boards" to be very clear.
Using a discussion board, a chat room, or any option for the students to interact to help each other, ask questions to better their understanding is a good thing. When starting with GAFE I found that all the comments we linked to an email and my inbox was constantly exploding with comment notifications. Since I was new and did not know how to manage the notifications I put a blanket ban on using the comment box, which has turned into a systematic stoppage of communication between students online.

Photo Credit: Flickr dmeyer302
OOPS! After reading the articles this week I actually facepalmed myself. I found myself reflecting and realizing how I have culled the students learning opportunities by doing this.

When thinking about our course prototype, which we are working in Google Classroom for, I am trying to think of how we can use the "Comment" section of each Assignment/Announcement/Question box to develop a better understanding of the assignment. I am certainly going to have to do some teaching around this within my classroom and I will follow the guidelines set out in the article. As a group we have discussed how we are going to utilize a blogging component to our course to ensure their is continuity between assignments. I think that through both the commenting through the announcements and the blogging our course prototype will be very inclusive and develop a more meaningful understanding of the concepts the students are learning about as they dive into their own research around their chosen topics.

As a group we have also tabled a discussion for adding another layer of communication within our course. We may incorporate a twitter feed along with our Genius Hour Project. I can see the opportunities with this being endless. With the concept of Genius Hour being all about the students interests I wonder how many serendipitous moments can happen like that of Rochelle's love or reading and how it transpired into a lengthy discussion with the author of the books she shared with a class in her building. I can see this happening frequently enough that if you took our Genius Hour Prototype into a full on classroom program you may want to create its' own Twitter account.

Within Schwier's article on Shaping the Metaphor of Communityin Online Learning Environments he shared that
Learners have control over the quality of collaboration that happens online, and if they reject the invitation to elevate their engagement with each other, we will be left with something less—a cohort, not a community (Misanchuk, Anderson, Craner, Eddy and Smith, 2000).
 I think that through using effecting communication tools, such as a safe area within the closed network of Google Classroom, a more open one of a blogging site, such as Edublog, and then an open but controlled (by the teacher) tool such as Twitter the opportunities for learning and collaborating will not only be effective but engaging for the students.