How to Teach Students Discussion Forums

Discussion forums and threaded conversation are a basic digital literacy. I teach these using Reddit and the Wikispaces discussion forum. When students and teachers know how to communicate effectively in discussion forums, they make themselves able to join forums correctly. Often, when people join discussion forums who don't know how to use them, they make mistakes that get them shunned or even worse – flamed – by more expert users.

Discussion forums have been around a long time but I have found few schools who teach them.  Sites like Reddit and most technical support sites use this threaded discussion format. But it is easy to teach using wikispaces. Here's the video I use  to teach my students how to use discussion forums properly.

In this video, you'll notice a little trick of mine — add humor at the end. I'll know they have seen it if they say something or laugh. If they haven't, it is easy to know as well. An unlistened to video is as useless as a tuned out lecture. Make them short but give them something to look forward to at the end.

How to Use Discussion Forums

Key Points about Discussion Forums

Discussion forums are used to have conversations about topics. The topics can be specified by the web page that has the discussion “threads” or topics.
There are methods of having effective conversations on discussion forums. Some of the basic netiquette examples include:

Some of the basic netiquette examples include:

  • The thread or subject is the main topic of a discussion forum.
  • The page or subreddit topic is a larger topic that you need to relate to unless you want to have your conversation deleted for being off topic.
  • Respond to people by name to prevent confusion.
  • Remember that even if you use a pseudonym that it is pretty simple for people to track and figure out who posted things.

[callout]This is a simple one day lesson plan, but it is foundational. If students do not understand how to carry on an effective discussion, it makes it difficult to have them collaborate on a wiki, blog or any other way. Therefore, teaching discussion forums is one of the very first things you will want to do in a global collaborative project. You're setting students up for success when you teach them how to communicate.

PDF of the Assignment Page in the Learning Management System [/callout]

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere