Friday, 21 November 2014

Inquiry Topics Motivate Discussion

We just had the most incredible experience in the ECC. I led the first lesson in the year long inquiry project. This lesson is all about asking the students to think about what they would like to learn about. I asked them, if you could spend your time doing anything, what would you do? If you could learn about anything at all, what would you choose? What are you passionate about in life?

Students wrote their ideas about their 'burning passions' down on paper, and then they were asked to login to our shared online moodle site and post their 'burning passions' to the online forum. They were very enthusiastic and the excitement in the room was fantastic!

But the most incredible part of the lesson was yet to come. We have spent two weeks learning about paper blogging (see Pernille Ripp's post on this for more information!), or, for us, paper moodling (meaning I adapted the paper blogging lessons to fit our moodle site). Students have been practicing 'highway' comments, or comments that continue the conversation by asking questions or making connections to what others have said, as opposed to 'dead end' comments which end the conversation.

I asked students to read through other student replies to see if they had any connections or questions and to make at least one 'highway' comment to try to start a conversation with one of their classmates. I also mentioned that maybe, just maybe, they might find another student interested in the topic and that perhaps you could talk about learning together.

I expected most to comment and then most of those to reply back, meaning I estimated high at 120 posts in the forum after about 30 minutes. I'm usually pretty good at predicting things like that, but not this time!

I was absolutely amazed to see that after 30 minutes, posts were still flying in. Student 'burning passion' replies were much more than I expected. And student 'highway' comments were everywhere! In less than 45 minutes, we had over 250 student replies on the forum!

In all the years I've been teaching, I've never seen anything like that. I was beyond speechless and completely thrilled!

Once again, the inquiry project inspired and motivated students and worked as a context in which to teach something important, in this case, how to have a productive learning conversation online.

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