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Working to transform his classroom, fifth grade teacher John Blain of Buffalo (New York) public schools infused technology into his literature lessons by adding an online literature discussion to his more traditional classroom discussion. Students were assigned to read Kate DiCamillo's books "Because of Winn-Dixie" and "The Tiger Rising". Blain then set up a threaded discussion at Nicenet (, a free online classroom assistant that is a cross between a blog and a wiki. Blain created some discussion threads and invited students to respond to the questions. He also encouraged the students to generate their own questions and discussion threads on any aspect of the book that interested, confused, or intrigued them. Students responded to the discussions at their convenience within a specified time period. Blain then used the students' comments posted online to generate classroom discussion. The discussion format proved to be an empowering activity that enabled students to take control of their learning. It gave them a voice in their learning because they could express themselves without feeling intimidated by the presence of others, including their teachers. The online discussion also created a learning place where students could read, write, and explore around the clock.


© 2009, ISTE ® (International Society for Technology in Education), <> All rights reserved.

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