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Breathing life into a discussion

Welcome to our new blog series titled ‘itslearning in practice’! This is the first post in the series highlighting how German teacher Ulrike Behlau uses the itslearning learning platform. In this post, Ulrike explains how she uses the itslearning discussion tool to differentiate learning in her English class. As her experience shows, holding online discussions provides students with many educational benefits.

Ulrike: 'The itslearning discussions tool is beneficial to students who are slower and who would hesitate to join an in-class discussion.'

Teacher Ulrike Behlau faced a dilemma - she needed a way of engaging all of the students in her English class at Frauenlob-Gymnasium secondary school.

The problem was that a handful of the students were already fluent in English. They learned the language while on student exchanges. Other students, however, were still just learning the language and they were uncomfortable speaking aloud in class.

How would she engage these students? The answer was the itslearning discussions tool, the popular feature that moves a classroom discussion into the virtual classroom.

So she started a discussion with the question 'Why do authors use metaphors and other stylistic devices? And why are they important?' She then asked her students to log on to itslearning and provide their answers in the forum, which also allows students to comment on each other's answers.

She quickly realized that creating an online discussion at the start of the semester would also allow her to gauge student knowledge.

"The discussions tool was ideal for finding out how the students think," she explains. "They could provide their answer on their own time. They could also read their fellow students' answers and take as much time as they needed to process those and find their own answers.

"They came up with a lot of interesting answers that they would not have come up with in the classroom. The itslearning discussions tool is beneficial to students who are slower and who would hesitate to join an in-class discussion. I liked the way it worked, so I am definitely going to use it again."

What itslearning feature do you use the most? Have you ever, as a student or teacher, used the itslearning discussion tool?

Please feel free to provide your thoughts in the comment field below. And please share this post!

2 comments (Add your own)

1. Robin Phares wrote:
What a great use of the discussion tool. The teachers at Edgewood are planning on using the tool as an online "homework help" room. We are hoping that when a student has a question, they will post it on the "question" thread. Students will be able to earn extra credit for helping other students out by responding to their posts. We have been training all year for our itslearning initiative and will be rolling it out this fall. Looking forward to it!

Sat, May 25, 2013 @ 4:41 AM

2. Mark Macdonald wrote:
Thanks for commenting, Robin! The discussion tool can be used for many tasks, as your and Ulrike´s examples highlight. There is no single way of using it, which is partly what makes it such a great tool for teachers and students. The key, however, is integrating the replies back into the classroom, so the virtual and physical classrooms do not exist independently of each other. In fact, the interaction between these two learning arenas is the subject of an up-coming itslearning whitepaper on what we call the 'unified classroom'. We would like to hear more about the 'help room' after it has been up and running! Good luck with the roll out! Mark, itslearning

Fri, May 31, 2013 @ 3:48 PM

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