Tech In Pedagogy

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Student Discussion Questions and Asynchronous Discussions

I wrote a post last week about Maintaining Student Work Portfolios in Google Drive. In that post, I wrote about the practice of tracking student growth with work portfolios. I described one way of how teachers can collect student work so it can be reviewed in the future for evidence of growth.

Many, but not all, of the assignments found in my students’ Drive Folders are writing assignments. In this post, I am going to discuss another student writing activity I have found useful, online student discussion questions. I stumbled upon this one when I was enrolled in an online degree program.

In the conventional classroom, participation credit is given based primarily on seat time. Students often get credit simply for being there. It isn’t really fair to give a student a zero for participation if time doesn’t permit a thoughtful response from every student. That wouldn’t be fair. At the same time, this scenario allows for some students to slip past without sharing thoughtful responses in class discussions.

This activity is an adaption of the classic Do Now. In a Do Now activity, students enter the class and respond in their note books to a question or prompt on the board. This gives the teacher a chance to take attendance and any other tasks that need to be addressed at the start of class. This is a good strategy, but there are possible issues associated with it as there is with anything. Students may have been absent or not remember an answer and may have to resort to an “educated guess”. Some will not try at all and just do nothing. There is a distinct risk that no one will volunteer an answer when the teacher asks what responses the students came up with. This may lead to the teacher inadvertently picking on a student who butchered the question. The student’s response (or lack of response) can cause other students to buckle down and refuse to participate even more.

Using asynchronous discussion questions offers an alternative to conventional discussion strategies. I employ this strategy as homework the night before so I can use it to open the next class.  Asynchronous discussions are a threaded discussion where people can respond to a question and any subsequent comments or questions from participants. It is threaded so that students can respond to the latest post or any previous posts without losing the form or flow of the discussion. Participants do not have to all be active at the same time in an asynchronous discussion. This is in contrast to a chat room where anyone not in the “room” cannot participate. Examples of asynchronous discussions that many people are familiar with include customer service with many online sellers like Amazon and the comment section in many blogs or online news articles.

I Google Groups Examplelike to use Google Groups for my asynchronous
discussions. There are other options, but I like using Google Groups for a few reasons. My students all have school Google accounts which simplifies things. I can also invite students easily since I automatically have a connection to their accounts through the district. An example of one of my Google Group assignments can be seen above.

I assign asynchronous discussion homework questions in advance of a lesson. Students are to respond to the assigned question using the following criteria:

Discussion Questions (DQ’s): Students will respond to open ended discussion questions in the Google Groups Discussion Forum.  Responses will be thorough, well-written responses of 150-300 words.  Responses will also be substantiated with credible online research and cited in APA format.

This assignment has several benefits. It requires students to seek supporting evidence from a credible source. I discuss how to evaluate sources for credibility early in the school year, so this allows students to strengthen their research skills as well as answer questions with more than an “educated guess”.

By assigning the lesson the night before, I can also review student answers for evidence of understanding or any misconceptions I need to address. Also, I can check their answers ahead of time and identify students to call on who clearly understand the question if nobody volunteers any answers in class. Students get a homework participation grade for their answer to the question. This grading format is in contrast to the seat time participation mentioned earlier.

This activity could also be done using the Maintaining Student Work Portfolios in Google Drive format I discussed last time. Students could answer the questions in a Google Doc stored in their Shared Folder. I prefer using Google Groups for this activity because I can have students look at or respond to each other’s responses later.

Do you have questions or use a similar strategy in your class? Please let me know in the comments below. If you enjoy this post subscribe to the blog and share it with others who might also benefit. Follow me on Twitter @JoshuaElliott3 for more tips and ideas.

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#techinpedagogyasynchronous discussionclass discussionclassroom strategiesclassroom technologydo noweducational technologyGoogle AppsGoogle Groupsinstructional technologytechnology in the classroom • November 16, 2015

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