"Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results." ~John Dewey.
Digital discussions have become regular practices in our everyday lives. From text messages and social media posts to blog and YouTube comment streams there are continued learning and sharing opportunities with global connections on a regular basis. Many of us are often hyper-active in daily digital discussions as we connect with friends, family, and world-wide audiences.
As we continue to implement the Jeffco Generations skills and Transform Tasks, digital dialogue and discussion opportunities present engaging opportunities to authentically develop skills and concepts beyond the basic acquisition of facts. Through participation in digital discussions with global audiences we are exposed to the challenges of content application, concept justification, and social understandings in our ever changing world.
The New York Times provides a number of incredible resources to educators and students for elevating digital discussion opportunities that engage learners in relevant and meaningful topics. Through The Learning Network, they began in 2014 with 200 Prompts for Argumentative Writing which grew to 650 Prompts for Argumentative Writing in 2016 and is now over 1000 Writing Prompts for Students in 2018. The prompts are broken up by topic areas such as Social Media and Smartphones, Gender Issues, Dating and Sex, Music, Literature and Art, Being a Teenager, School, Health and Nutrition, Science and Animals, Government and Leadership, Personal Character and Morality, and more. Under each topic is a list of questions that are linked to a short articles followed by more specific questions for students to consider and answer. The list of 650 prompts are also available via a handy PDF for easy access and sharing.
So how does this apply to our daily instruction as educators? Francis Bacon said, "Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man". Reading, writing and discussion are a critical components of our everyday learning and growth processes. As educators we know high quality instruction in any content area or discipline contains regular opportunities for learners to engage in reading, writing, and discussion to further develop critical and creative thinking skills.
Using the resources above, learners can be given a prompt and the associated article to read. Following the reading, learners can engage in a short writing activity to gather thoughts and develop ideas. Learners can then share their thoughts with others and ideas to seek feedback for further development and discussion. Some ideas might include:
Reading, writing and dialogue can and should take place in all disciplines, not just literacy. For example, math teachers can leverage prompts like #327 which centers around a distribution graph of how many A's schools hand out or #289 "Are You Afraid of Math?" and #290 "Do We Need A Better Way To Teach Math?". Science teachers can leverage the wide variety of prompts in Science & Health (1,066-1,146) involving Science and The Environment, Animals and Pets, or Exercise and Health. Art teachers have a vast array to choose from in Arts and Entertainment (75-248). Whichever discipline you teach, there can be resources for you to leverage to support students with engaging in reading, writing, and dialogue.
How will you leverage digital discussions as a way to Transform the Task and support learners with developing the Jeffco Generations skills? The Jeffco Ed Tech team is available to support you in thinking through ways you can leverage reading, writing and discussion with students in your instruction. We would also love to hear from you around how you are already leveraging digital discussions or have done so in the past. We learn a great deal from examples and experience so we invite you to share with us as we continue to grow together.