High school students eagerly participating in class

5 online discussion tools to fuel student engagement

Online discussion tools give students a chance to connect with each other and be heard

Price: Free
Platforms: Web
Grades: 7–12

Kialo is a free platform designed to foster thoughtful debate and discussion. Students can browse for and participate in existing discussions or create their own. Once they’ve chosen a discussion, students then choose their side—pro or con—and add their own opinions via “claims.” Kialo is a good platform for teaching the importance of reasoned, respectful arguments when trying to persuade others. Most teachers likely will want to create private discussions limited to their students to focus on a curriculum- or class-related topic.

Related: 3 backchanneling websites to replace TodaysMeet

Price: Free
Platforms: Web
Grades: K-12

NowComment is a document-annotation and -discussion platform that allows students to mark up and discuss texts. Upload a document (in any number of formats) to create an online discussion area. Paragraphs for text are numbered, with the document shown on the left and the comment panel on the right. You can control when students can comment on a document and when they can see each others’ comments. For group projects or peer-reviewed activities, you can have students upload their own documents.

Price: Starts at $2.50/student for school-wide subscription
Platforms: iOS and web
Grades: 3-12

Known mostly as an online plagiarism detector, Turnitin has some lesser-known tools, too, including a built-in discussion platform. While the discussion tool may not be as robust as some other choices, Turnitin’s tool does offer anonymous posting and teacher-moderation options. Plus, if your students are already signed up and have accounts, getting started will be a cinch.

YO Teach!
Price: Free
Platforms: Web
Grades: 6–12

YO Teach! is a backchannel web app teachers can use to create and moderate chat rooms for real-time student interaction. The admin features allow teachers to delete posts, mute students, control room access, and use the interactive features. Students can interact with teacher and peer posts by sharing text messages, replying to others’ posts, voting, responding to polls, sharing and annotating pictures, and submitting drawings. YO Teach! can be an engaging way to encourage collaboration and social interaction among students.


 [Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Common Sense Education.]

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