Hold online classroom discussions and debates with Kialo Edu

Classroom debates are a great way to engage students with class material. It’s an interactive activity that can help students get more confident engaging with others’ arguments while building their own. By using Kialo Edu for classroom debates, you can hone students’ critical thinking skills while reinforcing lesson content and skills in a sound, pedagogical framework.

Here, students debate in a structured and monitored online environment, building branches of claims to refute or challenge each other’s contributions. Yet, it need not be all competitive! Students can also suggest improvements or sources, allowing you to combine an element of cooperation with critical thinking and argumentation.

So what are the benefits of using Kialo Edu to hold fun and meaningful class debates?

The advantages of using Kialo Edu for classroom debates

1. Keep track of each student’s contributions

The topology diagram shows students' contributions at a glance, including the number of claims, contributions, and votes of each student in the online class debate.

One of the biggest challenges with classroom debates is keeping track of students’ contributions, especially if they are speaking quickly or talking over each other. Because of that, it can be hard to remember and write down all their arguments for giving feedback later.

Kialo Edu ensures that every student’s contributions are saved and accessible at any time. That means all contributions! Their arguments, the sources they used, and even the comments and suggestions they make are all kept in the discussion — neatly and easy to refer back to.

Furthermore, you can use the activity list to select the actions of individual students, meaning your feedback can be more specific to each student!

To give feedback digitally and directly in the discussion, use Kialo Edu’s Teacher Feedback tool to make comments on individual claims that are easy for students to see and remember.

2. Help students to make sophisticated arguments

What makes classroom debates challenging sometimes is that there’s rarely enough time for students to say much! Students often end up having to fit a lot of material into two-minute speeches, which also makes it harder for them to truly engage with and refute each other’s arguments.

With Kialo Edu, students can build branches of arguments with sources. This allows students to integrate their research into their argument-making, encouraging them to verify that the websites and books they rely on are trustworthy.

A student comments under a claim to suggest adding a source to the claim. Another student replies that it's a good idea and adds a source to this claim.

The pro and con structure also encourages students to consider counterarguments to their branches and those of other students. You can assign specific arguments for individual students to develop, or just let them go free in the debate and guide them towards under-analyzed points in real time using the Discussion Chat.

Also, students can always refer back to the discussion in the days, weeks, or months after the debate is over, which makes it perfect for revision.

3. It’s easy and requires minimal prep!

The funny thing about classroom debates is that the preparation often takes longer than the activity itself! Desks and chairs need to be rearranged in the classroom, and students must prepare and write their speeches before any debating can start. Then, the lesson must end early so the classroom can be put back together before the next period.

The best thing about using Kialo Edu is that it requires no classroom setup: You can create the debate before the lesson, then all students need to do is access it and start contributing. The Instant Discussion feature makes this even faster and easier — no student account is required, so students just need to click a link to start debating!

Given that multiple students can make their contributions simultaneously, the discussion can happen quicker, leaving more time for students to actively contribute. As an extension activity, students can even go back into the debate later to look further into the arguments and sources that were used.

How to use Kialo Edu to hold classroom debates

Now that you know why it’s so great to use Kialo Edu to hold classroom debates, here are the three core steps to setting one up and getting your students involved.

1. Set up a Kialo Edu discussion online

Start by creating a Kialo Edu discussion and inviting your students to it. You can make one big debate for your entire class, or you can split your class into smaller groups with their own debates. Then, invite students to the discussion so they can start debating.

Additionally, you can create a set of top-level claims to scaffold your students’ arguments; otherwise, you can let your students decide how to structure the debate. As a follow-up activity, you can compare what different groups come up with in their small-group debates. 

2. Task students to add claims

From there, students can start to add claims in real time to start debating. Encourage them to not just add claims rapidly; they should take time to research their claims and add relevant sources. 

They should also take the time to look at the claims their classmates are making to suggest improvements or add rebuttals. You can give students a fixed amount of time to write their claims or set them Tasks, giving them a precise number of claims and sources they must make.

After students finish debating, give them some time to look through what they have created. This gives them a chance to revise all of the class material in case they missed other students’ claims while researching and writing their own. 

3. Give students feedback

You can give feedback while the debate is happening, either by using Teacher Feedback or by commenting on claims and tagging your students. Indeed, you could even ask students to implement feedback on the debate for homework!

When students give speeches, their words are lost in the here and now, so it can be difficult for them to remember and contextualize the feedback they get. It’s much easier for them to improve their future work when they can refer back to their feedback days or weeks after the debate happened.

Kialo Edu’s unique argument-mapping structure and features make classroom discussions an easily accessible activity to do with your students. Try using Kialo Edu for classroom debates soon: We have lots of ideas about the debate topics you can use! If you use Kialo Edu for classroom debates, please let us know on Twitter or Facebook, or at feedback@kialoedu.com!

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