COVID Connection: One thing that teachers and students often say they miss when learning in a hybrid or asynchronous learning environment, is the student interaction. This does not have to be the case. Teachers and students can use a wide variety of technology to help keep students engaged with the course material and each other.

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This article offers suggestions for discussions to encourage student interactions in any environment by covering the following:

  • Engage Students with Discussion Prompts
  • Determine Your Discussion Parameters
  • Give Students a Way to Share their Questions with Others

Engage Students with Discussion Prompts

Regardless of the technology or digital learning platform you are using, engaging students in discussions about their learning and projects encourages them to articulate their thinking, and prompts students to continue to learn from and with one another. Here are some discussion categories and prompts to get your students talking:

Coding Conversations

  • How did your code change from the beginning of the Unit to the end? Were those changes effective? How or why?
  • What is a new computer science term or block you learned about this week? How would you explain it to a friend or family member who was not in this course?
  • What is an everyday device that uses loops or conditionals? How and why?
  • What is something you learned this week that could be applied to a previous project? How?
  • Look at this project. (Share a project and its context with students.) Do you think it will work to accomplish its goal? Why or why not? How could it be made more efficient? What do you notice that is creative or unique? 

Problem Solving and Growth Mindset

  • What is something you were struggling with this week? Why? Who can help solve this problem, and how?
  • What is a problem that you were able to solve this week? How?
  • Did you fail at any tasks this week? If so, how did you know you failed, and what did you do to learn from that failure? What will this change for you for next time?

Pseudocode and Process-Oriented Thinking

  • Did you have to explain a process to someone recently? If so, was your explanation successful in helping them understand the concept or task?
  • What is something that surprised you in what you learned this week? How did your thinking change?
  • What strategies do you use to plan your code before you begin? Which works best for you and why? What is a strategy you could try from another student?

Classroom Competition Debriefing

  • Look at the winning code, what is similar or different to your code? What impact did that make?
  • What was one effective change that you made to your code during the competition, and what was one ineffective change you made?
  • What did you learn from seeing other students’ code that you will apply to your next Challenge? How and why?

Real-World Applications

  • What other things can a robot do when it can be coded to make a decision? What real-world robots can you think of that make decisions?
  • How are human decision making and robotic decision making similar or different? What are some advantages and disadvantages of each?
  • Humans use sensory input to do many things, what are some ways that robots can use sensor data? How does the addition of sensors affect what a robot can do and how it does it?

Determine Your Discussion Parameters

Discussions can happen as a whole class, in smaller groups, or in partnerships. Teachers can choose how students are grouped depending on the focus of the interaction - pair a struggling student with one who has mastered the concept and encourage them to explain their processes to one another, or share a project’s code with the whole class and collaborate to improve its efficacy.

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Teachers can decide how to keep track of student participation in these interactions, and be mindful to account for various learning styles when you do so. You may find that you need to offer the same prompt in multiple formats during a week, in order to give students voice and choice in the ways that they engage. Whether it be a live video chat, or a digital discussion board, the goal remains the same - to take the course material off the screen and into the minds and conversations of the students, no matter where they are.


Give Students a Way to Share their Questions with Others

Throughout their coursework, students will have questions and need to engage in problem solving strategies. In order to keep the teacher from being the only place students turn for support, create a space or process that enables students to ask their questions to each other within your learning environment. This way students can share their understanding and problem solving strategies with one another in a practical and productive way. You may find that multiple students have the same question, which can give you valuable information to provide targeted feedback to a group or the whole class. Encouraging students to ask and answer questions often, can keep your class feeling connected, while also supporting students’ growing comfort with feedback and iterative learning processes.