The Resurgence of Class Forums

The Resurgence of Class Forums

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how I will continue the use of EdTech when I return to my classroom. Many are advocating for us to completely change the way we think and do our jobs. However, I am not so keen and will want to go back to how I was teaching before this pandemic.

A few years ago in a previous post I advocated the use of online class forums first with Edmodo and latterly with Google Classroom. Since moving school I haven’t used it at all, for no reason whatsoever.If I had to choose I would say that Classroom is by far the superior option. It is slick, easy to use and has everything you need to continue your lesson long after the bell. I will get it set up again as it really is a wonderful tool to complement your classroom teaching.

I had success with Classroom on a number of occasions with a large variety of classes from senior and junior students. The ease of use made it accessible for everyone and for those that were confused it didn’t take long to show them around the desktop and phone app.

I used classroom as my online class forum. I started by making sure everyone was able to access it, i even hosted a lunchtime and after school session for those that couldn’t access it at home. I started by simply posted a youtube video or a short document for pupils to watch or read prior to the next lesson. The engagement here was great with many pupils commenting on the forum, more of that later.

Once everyone was set up I started to post lesson resources that we had used that day. There is a section where you can post resources which you can use as a one stop shop for everything a student needs to know, think knowledge organisers and booklets they are using in class in case they lose theirs.

After our confidence grew I tasked some pupils with responsibility in the forum. I wanted them to lead their own learning and take control. With this in mind i tasked pupils to do a number of things. First I videoed them conducting tests and explaining how their process and thinking. This was uploaded to the forum for everyone to use for their own learning. Secondly, we began to use Classroom for homework and i tasked the pupils with reminding each other on the stream. As I had encouraged the pupils to set up notifications they would be able to see them pop up so that they didn’t forget to complete their homework. The students enjoyed reminding each other, especially the ones who were prone to making excuses.

Finally, we started to share interesting articles and videos we found online which often started some great discussions on why Usain Bolt could run so fast and what factors contributed to his successes, for example. This allowed us to communicate between lessons and continue the learning. Which contributed to the relationships in the class and kept our focus on learning at all times. This had a powerful effect on how we spoke about learning in the classroom. Perhaps I was modelling safe and effective use of social media.

This model of online learning will be one that I intend to return to, made easier by the fact all of our students are now already on Google Classroom.

For me this isn’t a replacement for face to face teaching, it works alongside highly effective teaching. There are a number of benefits for using a class forum like this.

  • It allows you to share resources, perhaps saving time in lessons
  • It shows the students that learning is something you can do all of the time and it isn’t confined to the 50-60 you spend in the classroom
  • By encouraging students to contribute (homework, for example) it helps them take control of their own learning. Some of the articles and videos they shared really made a difference
  • It allowed me to share my love for my subject with them even more
  • It models appropriate use of social media for learning

You could also use this class forum if you are an advocate of flipped learning. This could certainly buy you time in an often overcrowded curriculum. Students can read things in advance so that as soon as they enter the classroom the next day they can get to work. You could video demonstration in science, explanations of complex problems in maths, how to play a guitar riff in music, how to use 3D modelling in graphics and how to perform a fosbury flop in PE. All of which can be accessed any time by the students making learning a 24/7 event.

Once this notion was embedded with the students there were some remarkable occurrences. During one lunchtime while I was on duty a group of my students approached me displaying their phones, “Were doing the homework sir and was wondering if you could check to see we are on the right lines”. What I loved about this was that the students were discussing learning during their lunchtime and used seeing me as an opportunity to check they had it right, taking our learning outside of our classroom. This may happen a lot in other schools but it was a shift in culture where I was working. On another occasion while a student was injured and couldn’t take part in the physical aspect of the lesson they used their phone to video conversations he was having with his peers, he took it upon himself to question them on their learning and by posting it on our class forum he allowed the others to share in their learning. I was immensely proud as I didn’t task him with this, he led his own learning.

I will work hard to build this upon my return to school and feel this is the best way to incorporate EdTech into my teaching. Teachers will never be replaced by technology but through establishing the right conditions and modelling safe use of the platform we can certainly extend our reach beyond the confines of our classrooms.

About the Author
Teaching for 8 years. Blogger, Podcaster and Educator.

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