Talking It Out: Online Discussion Forums in the Social Studies Classroom
Whitney G. Blankenship
Rhode Island College
As most teachers realize, classroom discussions have limitations including time restraints, reserved participants, or domineering discussants. With the advent of Web 2.0, the opportunities for class discussion have expanded to include synchronous and asynchronous discussion boards, blogs, and wikis. Discussion forums, as an extension of classroom discussions and activities, allow teachers to target multiple social studies skills while giving students opportunities to expand their own historical understandings via peer interaction. Whether the goal is to address specific historical thinking skills or push students to think about what it means to be an active citizen in a diverse society, discussion forums can play an integral role in the development of students’ understanding of society. I describe the reasons for expanding discussion into these new mediums and provide examples of students’ online discussions. Recommendations are offered for teachers who would like to begin using discussion forums in their own classrooms.
Key words: discussion, historical thinking, technology, Web 2.0, authentic intellectual work, active citizenship