8 Ways to Engage in Meaningful Discussion Online

AmysProfessional pictouchedupBy Amy Hollinger, Director of Professional Development

One of the comments I hear from teachers who are new to exploring technology is that there is no substitute for face-to-face discussion. My response to this is almost always a question “What do you want to get out of the discussion?” If the purpose of the discussion is to build critical thinking skills, communication skills, listening skills, to develop community, to share information, or practice respectful debate – then there are almost always a number of ways to achieve those goals.

Remember, the quality of discussion hinges on the quality of the question / prompt and the quality of the instructions. The eight examples of technology tools below are available at little or no cost to everyone and focus primarily on the suite of applications available through Google Apps for Education.

1. Google Hangouts. Please click here for a tech tutorial on Google Hangouts for students.

2. Google Plus Communities. Great for sharing resources and ideas.

3. Google Moderator. Threaded discussion with a voting component. Allows group to vote for a topic.

4. Google Doc Discussion. Takes the “threads” away making all contributions simultaneously visible. Allows for a multidimensional conversation. Good way for multiple people to work on one document. This can get messy with all the scrolling to keep up with the discussion.

5. Google Groups. Another way to hold a threaded discussion.

6. Open Forum Threaded Discussion. Good way to organize an asynchronous discussion.

7 & 8. Unmoderated and Moderated Voice Thread. Adds a video and audio component to the discussion. Click here for information on creating a voice thread. It is free with your GOA Google+ account. Voice thread does cost money if you do not have a GOA Google+ Account