We've discussed the importance of developing language amongst our student population, especially English Language Learners. And that language consists not only of speaking, but reading, writing, and listening. In today's society, the use of technology to spark language between strangers in seen on a global level, with YouTube, Twitter, online newspapers, restaurant reviews, college classes, and more. By starting online discussion forums in my classroom, my students could not only practice their language skills, but also greatly develop their technology skills to prepare them for these future conversations.
Each of my classes already has an Edmodo account, which we frequently use for class assignments. I can easily upload documents and share links to websites, while my students can submit their work in return. Because my students can access Edmodo on their smart phones, computers, or other device, Edmodo is great for homework too. I know that everyone can have easy access to the assignments - plus it is saving paper!
Edmodo is also a great tool for a day with a substitute. Because the students are familiar with the expectations, I can leave specific instructions for them online and they can submit all their work on the computer. The best part of this assignment is that they can comment or leave replies to ask each other questions while they are working - OR send messages to me! I have to say I am a proud teacher when I get emails from students while I'm out at a Professional Development asking about the author's purpose of a text they just read :)
One discussion forum I am interested in exploring more is Today'sMeet. Because we have such great access to technology in the classroom and my students mostly have smart phones, Today's Meet would be a great way to pose a warm-up question at the beginning of class, allow students to ask questions throughout the lesson, or even post a Check For Understanding. I think the students would really enjoy participating in this online conversation and seeing their posts in order to gain a greater understanding. Rather than a "Turn and Talk" with your partner...it becomes a "Turn and Type" your thoughts.
My students have also become more interested in Twitter, moving away from Facebook. As I try to keep up with their interests, I think by creating this class Twitter account it can allow us to meet the trends in society and post responses to daily readings. Because Twitter is only 140 characters, it would force them to think at a higher level to condense what they want to say in a succinct, yet intelligent, way.
I once took a college course where we had to pose questions on Twitter and respond to one other classmate's Tweet for homework assignments each work. I think adapting this assignment to fit the needs and instructional level of my students would make for a great learning opportunity for all of us.
Also, keeping up with this blog for parents, students, and teachers will allow other people to become members of our classroom community. I would love to have parents and students take an active role in our learning, engaged and taking it to the next level.