For this activity you will need:
- Access to an VLE such as Moodle
- A group of willing students.
The ‘carrot’ in the activity is the idea that whatever comes out of the forums will form the basis for the students own individual essays or assessments which follow on form the Forum.
When opening any Forum for use in an educational context it is wise to set ground rules.
- The forum is to be time-limited. After the allocated time it will be made available as an archive but not for on-going contributions. This gives a sense of urgency to the task.
- All students must participate and make at least (three) postings. You can tell students that part of the overall assessment grade will depend on their contribution in the forum.
- A posting can be an original idea or a development of another students posting.
- All postings, being public, must show a certain level of respect and be generally supportive. Any criticism must not be personalised or sarcastic, etc.
Often it works best to take students into a computer room for the initial launch of the forum. This will definitely speed things up and hopefully create the initial ‘buzz’ needed for students to return to the forum in their own time.
Teacher ‘seeds’ the forum with some initial comments and questions.
From my own subject – law – on a topic of reforming the law or murder I might ask:
- How satisfactory is it that we are relying on an ancient definition of such a serious crime?
- What issues are there arising from the definition?
- Is the Mens Rea for murder clear?
- What about recent cases about assisting a loved one to die or euthanasia – how satisfactory is the law?
- How might we consider reforming the law?
And so on.
Each prompt forms a thread within the Forum and students join in as many threads are they are willing and able to join.
Advantages of this Technique
- It leaves a permanent record of a discussion.
- It allows students to construct their own knowledge according to their own interest.
- It allows students across several groups to collaborate when they would normally be limited to the class group.
- It allows students to add in comments at any time.
The technique allows students to work collaboratively for a limited period of time and then use the resource to build an Individual piece of work. It works.
Nigel Briggs is Head of Law at Notre Dame Sixth Form College Leeds. Follow him @lawlecturer.