5 Ways to Inspire Powerful Online Discussions

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What if every single student in class participated in all activities? Sound impossible? With online discussions using social networks and mobile learning devices, it’s not impossible. In fact, it’s likely that every student will participate in any class activity that invites students to share their knowledge and opinion in online discussions.

This infographic contains insight on creating effective online discussions. Be sure to scroll to the bottom for our additional annotation. As always, share any of your own tips in our comment section, sparking our own discussion about learning, and share your thoughts on Twitter.

5 Tips to Spark Lively Online Discussions Infographic
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5 tips for powerful online discussions

  1. Break the Ice: As it should be with any activity, make online discussions about fun, before making them about academics. Encourage students to create appropriate avatars, screen names and descriptions. Embrace colorful text, if this is an option.
  2. Structure discussions: Never assume that your students understand how online discussions work. Students may like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, but this doesn’t mean they understand how to appropriately discuss a subject online. Provide step-by-step guidance. Always discuss appropriate use. Remind students to speak their minds and to never denigrate their peers’ opinions.
  3. Support critical thinking: Once students see the fun in online discussions and they understand appropriate use, ask topical questions. Stay away from rote memory stuff (“In what year did Lincoln free the slaves?”), as this will discourage participation. Ask questions that begin with “why” and “what if. . .,” as these will inspire rich conversation.
  4. Promote peer involvement: Using a tool like Today’s Meet or Twitter makes it easy to promote involvement. Call on individual students within your online discussion platform, as you would in a face-to-face in-class chat. Instruct them to ask a question or respond to something a peer said. This is a surefire way to reach 100 percent participation
  5. Offer continued assistance: While participating in the online discussion is important, it’s equally important to ensure a high degree of comfort in all participants. Walk around the room and look in on individuals and comment directly to them about their work. Ask if they need help and if they understand the goals of the discussion. Remind them that it’s okay to make a mistake. Tell them to share their opinions without fear of being judged (See tip 2).
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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series, The uNseries, and other books from some of education's most reputable teachers and leaders. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Connect with @markbarnes19 on Twitter.
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