Solution: As educators, we understand that learning is a social process. We design questions meant to invoke thinking and discussion and we create lessons that encourage interaction with the topics at hand. Creating a learning community isn't just about giving students the tools but using those tools in purposeful ways to engage them in learning. "If you build it, they will come" can be put in place with some careful planning and purposeful integration of the right tools. Here are some thoughts about creating learning communities.
1. Provide your students with a place to freely interact.
There are a number of technology tools available to do this - mostly categorized under the heading of learning management system (Edmodo, Schoology, Blackboard, Moodle and others). Think about the features that can maximize the attainment of your goals. How does the tool allow you to:
- engage all students
- moderate discussions
- keep students on track with requirements for the class
- gather feedback from students
- formatively assess learning
- give recognition for student's achievements (e.g. badges)
- involve parents by providing them with access to student performance and class requirements
Gathering feedback from your students involves them in the learning process. Asking them to give you feedback not only about the topics you're working on but about the use of your LMS and other tools can help to create the understanding that each student's voice matters in your learning community. If your LMS doesn't have a built in polling or quizzing feature, you might consider other tools such as a Google form or PollEverywhere to help you gather feedback that can be used to make instructional decisions.
3. Engage students in meaningful discussions.
The types of questions that you use to prompt thinking and discussion matters. If your questions require deeper thinking, the discussions will be richer and can reveal more about what your students have learned and can apply. Here are a few resources to explore:
- 5 Powerful Questions Teachers Can Ask Students
- Thinking Routines
- Using Webb's Depth of Knowledge to Increase Rigor
- Questioning Techniques
- 5 Ways to Help Students Become Better Questioners
- Asking Googleable vs Non-Googleable Questions
4. Provide frequent formative assessments.
Formative assessments help you and your students know how learning is progressing. They can happen at any time - at the beginning of class, during the lesson, as a summarization at the end of class, and at appropriate checkpoints throughout a unit of study. Many LMS's already have tools built in that provide methods of assessing student learning including multiple choice questions, true/false, or short response questions. If students have access to mobile devices, you might consider using tools such as Socrative, Verso, PollEverywhere, or InfuseLearning.
As you think about the learning community in your classroom, what would you add to this list?