Thursday, December 18, 2014

Schoology Discussions: Care to Chat?

Our #CCSDTech team is in schools pretty much every day of the school year.  Part of our main charge is supporting leaders, teachers, and students with Schoology implementation.  It has been quite a ride so far and we've learned a lot.

One thing we value is finding logical Schoology entry points for teachers and students.  We can train on Schoology for days, but we don't.  We do our best to create a safe entry point with logical instructional context linked to what teachers are already doing in their classrooms.  Schoology has many of these entry points: parent communication, the place kids go to access resources, a online place to post classroom updates, a place to turn in assignments and/or take tests and quizzes, and more.  Through time though, we consistently go back to one feature Schoology provides that is powerful and simple.  That's online discussions.

No matter the content area, every class has discussions and interaction.  These discussions, when done orally and traditionally, create opportunities as well as challenges and limitations.

  • There's the student that simply can't wait their turn and interrupts/blurts out/says something questionable/says the correct or incorrect response when he or she should be allowing others to reflect and think, etc.  This student can change the focus of a discussion quickly and easily.
  • There's the student that very rarely speaks up.  We know he/she would have something thoughtful to share that should be heard, but we don't want to call on him or her out of respect.  
  • There's the student that's always correct.  This is the student every other student waits for us to call on when we have asked an objective question just so everyone can move on with life.  
  • There's also the issue of time.  There are many occasions when there is simply not enough time in a class period or day to keep a great discussion going. 
Overall, discussions are complicated.  There are many factors that can impact their success.  Using Schoology's discussion tool discussions take on a whole new (and more dynamic) life in the classroom.

One, everyone has a voice.  The playing field is leveled and every student has an EQUAL chance to contribute.  There's the opportunity to have 100% participation and interaction in a discussion anytime and anyplace.  Try that without technology.

Two, options within the initial discussion setup are powerful.  From being able to assign a discussion to small groups of kids rather than the whole class to having the students reply before seeing the responses of their peers to grading responses based on a rubric to locking discussions so they're still able to been seen but not interacted with any longer and so much more.  Many options provide choice and power.

So, if you're looking for an initial entry point with Schoology integration and/or you're looking to take learning and interaction to a whole new level in your classroom consider an online discussion within Schoology.  Within just a few clicks the culture of a class can be changed.  As we all know very well, that's not an easy thing to do, but Schoology has made it possible.  Give it a try!