The key component in any classroom is the discussion students have with their teacher and with their peers. Many educators feel the discussion is a magical part of learning concepts and should be fostered in as many ways possible. One such way to engage students in a discussion is to use today’s technology. From simple text tools like a real time chat room and an asynchronous discussion forum, video chatting, or recording voice messages for other students to hear, there are plenty of options in technology to engage students in discussions.
Text based tools like chat rooms and discussion forums are a simple and great way to introduce a layer of technology in a class. Text based chat sessions or forums also give a channel for students to explore a topic that arose during a class discussion but the class ran out of time to explore it deeper. Chat sessions and discussion boards (forums) also give a voice to students that may not as vocal in front of peers in a face to face class setting.
Another tool that can facilitate student discussions is voice recording technology. Technologies that are already packaged in Blackboard such as Wimba are great ways for students to hear a person. There are other audio recording tools like Audacity that are free and can have more robust features like cleaning up audio, adding effects, or saving as different file formats. An example a of class that uses voice recording tools for discussion are language courses. Language courses use audio recording tools because it gives the students the opportunity to hear the way they are speaking or pronouncing a word. They can also get feedback from the instructor or their peers on how they can improve their grammar or pronunciation. Music classes may use voice recording technology as a way to critique other peers on diction and technique when singing. Voice recording technologies can also be used in communications classes as a way to give peers feedback on their speech and speaking techniques.
Video chat technologies can be used to connect face to face with people that can not travel to the classroom or as a way to meet as a group if the weather is hazardous. Video chat can add a human touch to a discussion. Video chats have been used to connect guest speakers with students and also used in classroom activities to foster student relationships with other students, other campuses or schools that are a distance away. There are plenty of applications to choose from to connect via video chat with others such as Skype (or Skype built into Facebook) or Google + hangouts. Deciding which application to use for the entire classroom may be difficult, but you have to make sure that all your students have access to it and are able and comfortable in using the technology.
One or all three of these options can be used in the classroom to produce great results. Discussion is a vital processes in education. Try one of these options and see how you reach your students and make the classroom discussion a more fulling experience and environment.