Should Online Forums be Open For Business in the Elementary Classroom?

Last week in my blog, I posted a story of how a twitter exchange between a Grade 2 classroom and an author ended up in a pretty cool online sharing project. Twitter is a pretty open environment that has seen its fair share of negativity. And this may be why some educators shy away from using open forums and platforms such as Twitter with their students.

However, I do believe that by eliminating opportunities for students to connect to the outside world and discuss ideas, ask questions and learn from others is also hurting our new, online culture.

For this blog post, I’m going to do things a little differently. I want to explore the pros and cons of connecting students online in a more elementary setting (Grades 3-6) and look at different options for students to connect.

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CC Image via Pixabay by Mizter_x97

PROS FOR USING ONLINE FORUMS (mainly Twitter)

  1. Connecting to the experts. Using platforms such as Twitter, students can basically tweet out to anyone in any profession. Students can ask authors about something in a book they have written (J.K. Rowling, Peter Bently) And in some cases, their favourite characters, such as Mo Willems’ Pigeon.
  2. Following relevant hashtags. This allows students to “keep an eye” on events that show interest, without having to follow a lot of unknown people. Some examples are: #globalkids, #comments4kids and #photodujourmars )
  3. Students and classrooms can invent their own hashtags to follow a discussion and invite others to join in on the comments.
  4. Syncing Blogs with Twitter for maximum exposure. As students work on blogging, by syncing blogs to a classroom Twitter account will allow for a more open exposure to what they are writing beyond 140 characters.
  5. Students learn more about being in an online and open community and how to apply netiquette manners.
  6. Classrooms can live tweet an event that parents might not be able to attend. For example: field trips, concerts, plays, etc.

Some ideas came from the following articles:

Article 1; Article 2; Article 3

Now, these are only some of the advantages to using Twitter in the classroom as I am sure there are much more. But what are some of the Cons that scare educators away from it?

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CC Image via Pixabay by 3dman_eu

Cons For Using Online Forums (mainly Twitter)

  1. It would certainly be the “unknown” of Twitter. Teachers who shy away from using technology other than to research or type assignments often don’t understand how forums such as Twitter are used.
  2. Who is out there reading about us? If you follow pages such as Mashable or BuzzFeed on Facebook, you can almost guarantee a daily story about how Donald Trump uses Twitter to post controversial opinions and how celebrities berate him and “shut him down“using Twitter. Is this what we want our students exposed to – using an open platform to try and destroy someone else with words?
  3. Students who are not “allowed to be on the internet”. We still have a number of students whose parents will not allow them to photographed or named online. Twitter is too much of an open platform for some parents (and teachers).
  4. Does the world really need to see what we are doing on a daily basis? Is there too much exposure by using an open platform?

I’m sure there are also many more cons that come up with using Twitter in the classroom, but I believe these to be some of the main points (based on conversations with fellow colleagues and parents). But none of them deny that allowing students an opportunity to discuss what they are learning and to learn from others is a bad idea. So what are options if teachers are not comfortable using Twitter?

Closed or Limited Forum Platforms Similar to Twitter

  1. Twiducate: Twiducate calls itself the Twitter for Classrooms. I used Twiducate to do an Inter-School Novel study a couple of years back. My Grade 8 class and a class from another school were reading the same novel. We used Twiducate to discuss the novel and ask questions. Twiducate is a closed forum where students are placed into various forums. If you weren’t invited to the group, you cannot participate in it.
  2. TodaysMeet: This is more of a back-channel site where students participate during lessons. However, teachers could use it as part of an assignment where students meet with a particular login code to answer and respond to questions.
  3. Bookopolis: This is more of a limited forum. Here, students can discuss books they are reading to an open audience, however, students cannot reply to reviews and it is heavily monitored for appropriate use. This is one of the forums my Module Project group is using for our Grade 3 Treaty Education unit.
  4. Google Classroom: Google Classroom offers a “discussion” option when adding to the classroom. This discussion option allows students from the class to discuss a question or comment that the teacher posts. Only students from the class can post to this questions.

Regardless of whether you fully embrace open platforms such as Twitter in your classroom or you prefer the more closed experience, teachers agree that students need an opportunity to share what they are learning and ask questions that allow their peers to reflect and respond.

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2 thoughts on “Should Online Forums be Open For Business in the Elementary Classroom?

  1. This is a GREAT post! I love your pros and cons list and the alternative suggestions you provide. I also believe that once I actually implement some of these strategies, I will learn more completely what those pros and cons could be. Thanks!

  2. Loved your post. The pros and cons list offered alternative thoughts and left me thinking. I don’t teach in the k-12 system, however it was still valuable from a different lens. Thanks!

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