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laptop in kitchenCourse Discussion: Context

We've been reading about nutrition and lifestyle. Conduct an inventory of your kitchen. Does it promote healthy eating practices?

Course discussions are more meaningful when placed in a context. Identify focal points that can serve as a shared experience and provide a context for learning. The focal point may be content that you identify such as a required reading or a set of photographs to examine. It may also be something selected by a student such as an article they have identified or a poem they have written.

Seek out materials that will engage learners. Also look for materials that address different learning styles or intelligences.

Establish a Context for Discussion

Identify discussion focal points that can be used as the basis for questioning, problem-solving, and decision-making activities. This list can also serve as a place to look for examples or real-world applications of course content.

Artwork. Pieces of artwork can convey emotion, reflect a time period, or inspire creative writing.

Audio program or podcast. Although you or your students may choose an entire program for discussion, you may also select a quote from a speech or an excerpt from a podcast as a focal point.

Blog postings. Blogs generally focus on current events and often provide commentary or personal insights. Select or ask students to select a book review, political viewpoint, or piece of commentary as the focus of discussion.

Data Sources. Census data, drug use statistics, and sporting event numbers could all be used in social studies or science discussion, writing exercises, or mathematics problems.

Graphics. Seek out charts, diagrams, illustration, maps, organizers, photographs, cartoons, symbols.Use photographs found on the web or those taken by you and your students.

FlagsExamine the photograph on the right. Consider the following questions:

If you're interested, we took the photo above outside a pioneer cemetery in southern Utah.

Interactives. Although interactives can be used for practice, they can also serve as the focal point for discussion. For example, you might ask students to critique the accuracy of an interactive or suggest additional elements could added to an online game.

Interviews. Ask learners to read, watch, or listen to an interview or conduct their own interview.

Literature. A chapter from a novel, an excerpt from a short story, or a poem can all serve as effective focal points.

Periodical article. Print journals, online magazines, and newspaper articles can all serve as effective discussion starters. Seek out current events: Arts & Letters Daily, Science Daily, SciTech Daily

Primary source materials. Historical documents, treaties, certificates, posters, and other original materials can bring people, places, and events to life. Use them to inspire creative writing, stimulate thinking, or pose math problems.


Examine the photograph above. Consider the following questions:

If you're interested, this is a photo of Annette Lamb's great grandmother Hazel Bolger taken in 1916.

Textbook or course reading. Course readings can be overwhelming causing key ideas to be lost in the ocean of information. Use course discussions as a way to focus on essential elements of the readings.

Video program. From the Library of Congress and PBS to SchoolTube and YouTube, a wealth of video is available online. It's not always necessary to view an entire program.

Wiki articles. Like all resources, it's important that learners carefully evaluate what they read. A wiki is an opportunity to read and critique the work of others. It's also possible modify, expand, and enhance the work of others. For instance, ask learners to read a particular article and expand the references or identify fact vs opinion. For ideas, explore Wikipedia.

For more ideas for project focus, go to Process: Project Focus at escrapbooking.com.

Identify focal points that can be used as the basis for questioning, problem-solving, and decision-making activities. Seek resources that are motivating and address individual differences.

apply itApply It!
Scan the list above for engaging focal points.

Identify three options that could be particularly motivating for online learners.

Identify three options that would address different learning styles or intelligences.

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