English, Cathie. "Finding a Voice in a Threaded Discussion Group: Talking about Literature Online." English Journal 97.1 (Sept 2007): 56-61.
I very much appreciate English's suggestion that any sort of online discussion is an extension of the in-class discussion (57 and 58), a forum that serves the majority of our students, with a few exceptions (those who do not want to participate period will not do so in class nor in any other venue we offer up, but as educators we must provide as many opportunities to our students to succeed; we never know which format will work for this student or that one; and if these ways don't work, well, we tried, and sometimes that's all we can do). But in a class there will be those quiet students who hardly ever will throw out an answer, or a well-developed one, or another student will interrupt, or an unscheduled announcement from the principal will break the flow. Quiet doesn't necessarily mean unintelligent; it doesn't necessarily mean genius either, but how would we know unless we have the chance to assess a kid's understanding? Because of the confidence due to this format's near anonimity (that is, the threat or anxiety that comes with the face-to-face or very public participation allows for the near-invisibility) a student is more likely to take a risk, it allows for students to "really flesh out their ideas" (Douglas, qtd. in article), and requires "students to reflect a little more and not just give a spur-of-the-moment response" (59).
I wonder what other ways (technology-based or otherwise) can we come up with to encourage the sort of particpation that English and we teachers dream of for our students? Any suggestions?