Too often, instructors get caught up in seeing forums as a quantitative measure of how much a student has learned, gauging understanding by replying with prompts that are, frankly, as boring or as tedious as some of the material students have been asked to read.
These conversations between students have more depth and more personality because they are creating, building, having fun and interacting. They are not just replying to a prompt. They are using their imaginations. The process brings an energy and passion that engages them.
Linda Silva writes, “One of the best ways to get students more involved is by offering prompts that enable students to use their own previous education— and prod them to use their imagination.”
I’ve used a version of this idea in my professional development classes for years. I always encourage ‘teaching stories”. This is a way to help teachers see the connections between the course content and their own teaching environments. It also encourages story telling which is a very powerful way to synthesize ideas, not to mention very interesting to read (listen) to.