By Catlin R. Tucker
Discussion was the element of my college classes I enjoyed most. I loved sitting in a class with a diverse group of people discussing literature, historical events, and political issues. In those discussions, I was challenged to stretch as a student and a person. I found I learned most effectively by talking with and listening to my peers.
My belief in the power of discussion drove me to focus on it while pursuing my master's degree in education. I wanted to create a safe space in my high school classroom to lower students' affective filters and engage them in dynamic discussions to drive higher-order thinking.
Was I successful in this as a new teacher? No. In fact, I failed for seven years to make any kind of meaningful discussion happen in my classroom. Each time I presented a discussion question in class, the same three or four students dominated the discussions while the rest of the class sank low in their chairs and avoided eye contact.
I eventually decided to try using a free online-discussion
platform (I chose one called Collaborize Classroom) to replace some of
my pen-and-paper homework. I was skeptical, but desperate for a better
way to engage my students.