For this assignment I chose to watch a presentation titled “Speak Up! Transforming Classroom Discussions.” The general overview posted stated, “Some students enjoy speaking up in class while others don’t. This is a potential situation in many classrooms. In what ways then, can we promote more students to share their ideas?” The presenter is a middle school teacher at an international school in Vietnam, and he did an action research study on face-to-face discussions and virtual discussions.
For some reason I was anticipating watching a recorded version of a speaker giving a presentation on a stage or in front of a large audience. Instead, it was a teacher reading his own research paper as different slides containing pictures or research citations appeared on my screen. This certainly wasn’t the most engaging presentation to watch, but he was straightforward and got right to the point.
Out of 21 students in his classroom, 14 were boys who often dominated the classroom discussions. What he found, however, was that virtual class discussions were more engaging for all of the students (for example, his quietest student in the class was the most vocal on her blog), particular male students were a bit more focused and appropriate in their comments compared to how they sometimes behaved in class, and that the overall quality of discussions improved when done virtually as opposed to face-to-face.
While this presentation wasn’t earth-shattering nor did it introduce a revolutionary classroom concept, it did reinforce an idea that I always have floating around in my brain throughout the school year–use some type of virtual discussion board and give students another opportunity to express themselves outside the classroom. I think we can all remember our high school experience, and depending on a variety of factors such as the classroom environment, the number of students in the class, how well you knew your classmates, your natural personality, etc., participating in classroom discussions could sometimes be an excruciating task.
I have always dabbled a bit here and there with online discussion boards, but it’s never woven itself into the fabric of my lesson plans. I really want to change that this year. There is a place for virtual discussions in my classroom, I just need to spend a bit more time thinking about its execution.
Also, I really like the idea of having so many presentations from across the world at my fingertips. This is a great professional learning tool that is very beneficial to educators.