Let’s give them something to talk about!

CaptureAnother Facebook debate, and still learning more about using technology in the classroom. Again, students were highly motivated to participate, in part because they could use their Facebook accounts and it’s user friendly interface (not punt intended). Giving students an option to use technology they are already comfortable using is crucial in any differentiated exercise involving new technologies.

Since I started this blended-style debate, we have acquired an iPad lab, so no more tiny screen (iPods). Great experience for both me, and the students who participated.

SH9 – Débat : Pour ou contre la fourrure [2013] – Friday January 18th, 8 :00 a.m. to midnight

Rubric based on thoughtful and education contributions to the conversation (including respect, focus on opinion, not on person, frequency of target language)

Required: mobile devices (iPads), wireless connection, Smartboard (or projector), Mozilla add-on (reloadevery – to refresh page automatically every 10 seconds), Facebook account under allias (Jean LaFourrure). Note that access to the Internet also provided students with access to usable materials for the debate. However, they were warned about plagiarizing sentences. All written contributions had to be in their own words. I have writing samples of all students by now, so it is easy for me to recognize their own writing.

Preparation: students took 2 days to read and summarize articles which provide facts for and against fur (leather, and suede). They resumed the important points on large sheets of paper and we put them up around the classroom. All in French. This educated them, and provided them with support vocabulary.

Rubrique /25:


  • DEMANDER LA PAROLE (en levant la main dans la salle) – 1 personne parle à la fois
  • pas de répétition (ajoute à la discussion)
  • pas de dénigration
  • français parlé et écrit
  • 5 contributions réfléchies et respectueuse
  • chaque personne doit illustrer sa position (affiche, boutonnière, costume, t-shirt…)

Comment gagner le débat (pour s’amuser)

  • Compte du nombre total de points pour chaque coté (blocs A & B) à la fin de la journée (minuit).

Summary :

Students were engaged in the conversation online, and in the classroom. Students who never voice their opinion in class were active online and participated well. Students used the material they had read on both sides of the argument, on top of what they had learned in Socials 9 about industrialization, the impact of media on perception, the fur trade.

Because the online conversation was created as ‘an event’ on Facebook, all friends of friends were made aware of this discussion going on, on Facebook during class. It is against the rules at Mouat to use personal devices during school hours on the campus… Only a few students could not resist participating. Most of their contributions were appropriate, even though the fact that they were using their phones in class is not permitted. 1 student used inappropriate language and was promptly called to the office by our ‘mystery guest’, who happened to be our French speaking vice principal. The student immediately removed her comment, and although she continued to use her phone during class time, she made appropriate comments relating to the discussion. 1 student appears to have taken this opportunity to bully one of my students. I will be investigating this further when I return on Monday.

Overall the experience was a positive one. Out of some 55-60 participants (2 classes), reactions to new media technology was different in both groups. Students in the first group (very weak written output in general) participated to a much higher frequency in class, orally. Students in the second group (very strong writers) were much quieter in class during the debate. Rather, they contribute online with extensive written comments, sometimes a whole paragraph long.

Students who were away sick that day joined in without being asked.


We could have used more preparation (reading more articles) but did not have more time. Day 1 we read silently for 15 minutes, then summarized on paper in small groups for 20 minutes, then had a 5 minute class discussion to resume what was summarized and to reinforce the importance of factual evidence in a debate. In total, we prepared 45 minutes for 2 days before the debate.

It would have been helpful if I had posted links on our website that students could visit during the day to help them find more facts. Next time, I will change my rubric to:

Rubrique /25:


  • DEMANDER LA PAROLE (en levant la main dans la salle) – 1 personne parle à la fois GOOD –Keep as is
  • pas de répétition (ajoute à la discussion) More structure needed. Students need to become more aware of others’ comments and need to use them as a spring board to further the discussion.
  • pas de dénigration no put downs work for my students, but not for those who infiltrated the debate. Some prior warnings need to be clear and posted on the event’s page.
  • français parlé et écrit Good – no changes needed
  • 5 contributions réfléchies et respectueuse Good – but students still don’t understand the difference between arguing against a point of vue and arguing against the personne who expresses that point of view. This could be because these students have  limited skills in French. They don’t understand that when you say ‘you’ in French, it does not infer a neutral point of vue… Rather, it is very much person-specific. We need to practice using ‘on’ and ‘nous’ and other alternative vocabulary to keep things neutral.
  • chaque personne doit illustrer sa position (affiche, boutonnière, costume, t-shirt…) Here I need to be more specific… Students wearing running shoes tried to argue that they were for leather for example… We could have taken an extra 5 minutes to discuss creating an artifact to express a particular point of view.

Comment gagner le débat (pour s’amuser)

  • Compte du nombre total de points pour chaque coté (blocs A & B) à la fin de la journée (minuit). Here I will simply count the number of contributions (no matter how small) and tabulate a total just for fun so that 1 side will ‘win’. But I will explain that in a debate, wins are highly biased depending on who is evaluating the participants’comments. For example, poles during an election…