Effective discussion is at the heart of every successful History and Social Studies classroom. The sharing of information and ideas encourages students to engage actively with course materials and to articulate opinions based on sound critical thinking. Fortunately, computers and the Internet open the doors to a variety of exciting new ways to discuss and communicate with your students. The conversations can start in class, but they can continue long after the bell, and students can contribute any time during the day or evening. Certainly nothing can replace the impact of face-to-face dialogue, but hopefully this section offers you new ways to generate discussion with your students both in and outside of class, and to communicate more effectively with the world outside your classroom walls.
With Web 2.0, or the “Read/Write Internet,” technology is now easier, cheaper, and more accessible than ever. Teachers have an unequaled opportunity to provide students with the tools necessary to channel the power of the Web and exploit its communication and collaboration potential. Web 2.0 enables participants to share slide shows, videos, online bookmarks, maps, charts, online audio, and more-- in other words, to create online communities. As many experts point out, youth today live in a participatory online culture, and they actively share information and ideas and publish their creations to outside audiences.
Inventive and team-oriented uses of Google Docs, blogs, wikis, social networks and other technologies spur student engagement and creativity. This student engagement, coupled with the confidence teachers demonstrate in their students, represents important ingredients of the successful twenty-first century classroom.
The Web is increasingly populated by online social networks-- places where people share information, opinions and resources on a whole range of topics. Facebook, the best known social network, is a hugely popular online community where people and organizations share information across the world with friends, colleagues, and organizations. Twitter is another extremely popular social network where users "tweet" about what they're doing and carry on conversations. These networks are largely non-academic and contain much frivolous content. So, what role can a social network play in education?
Blogging lets you and your students have written discussions and online communications. These discussions can be private or publicly available and can be archived for future use. Blogging can be used to form a discussion forum, post short current events articles, invite students' thoughts, foster communication among multiple classes, serve as a log of student progress on a research assignment, post photos and homework assignments online, and much more.
Google Apps is a tremendous platform for facilitating online collaboration in your classroom, or beyond. It is freely available on the Web, and if you are familiar with other word processors, spreadsheets, and presentation programs, you can easily use Google Docs. The chat feature on presentations makes it possible to create a "permeable classroom" by bringing experts into a lesson to interact with students online.
Class discussions provide excellent opportunities for people to listen, think and speak. They have a few problems though. First, only one person can speak at once. Second, some people are too shy to speak.
Whoever is doing most of the talking or most of the typing is doing most of the learning (and the more people listening the better).
A wiki is essentially a collaborative website. Wikis can be private in-house sites meant to serve a limited number of editors, or wide-open public sites where almost anyone can contribute. Students, teachers, and even parents could collaborate to gather, edit, and present information on a wiki. For instance, a wiki could be used to build a a list of historical definitions and class notes that constitute a study guide.
Class discussions provide excellent opportunities for people to listen, think and speak. They have a few problems though. First, only one person can speak at once. Second, some people are too shy to speak. However, email and chat can help to solve these problems.