Activity Guide

Social Networking Forums: A Tool for Improvement

Many adults, including educators, are disturbed by the stories of students’ unproductive or negative use of social networking sites. In many cases, these recounted stories prevent us from seeing the potential positive educational and social values in establishing reasonable protocols and structuring activities for students to make public online comments.

This activity is designed for teachers and teacher leaders as a way to explore the possibilities of using wiki discussion forums as a teaching tool, assuring that all points of view are heard and addressed. Participants are provided with a protocol for examining their responses to a new methodology.

Reading: “Improving Writing With Wiki Discussion Forums,” Principal Leadership, November 2010, pp. 44–47.


Thinking Hats Multiple Viewpoints Protocol

  1. Distribute copies of the reading to all participants and give them time to read it after giving the following guidelines:
    • As you read the article, think about how the kind of writing you ask of your students (regardless of subject area) might occur in a wiki discussion forum like the one the teacher describes.
    • Examine the idea of wiki discussion forums using the Thinking Hats Multiple Viewpoints Protocol. Imagine yourself wearing the following thinking “hats” as you respond to what you read:
      • Black: Factual information only
      • Brown: Negative responses, problems you anticipate
      • Yellow: Positive responses, opportunities for student/teacher improvement
      • Green: Growth opportunities for you as a teacher, for the school, for students. Think of other ways this strategy could be used for better school outcomes.
      • Red: Your emotional response, opinions, and gut reactions to the ideas.
  2. Make brief notes on the chart below, recording your thinking hat responses.
Black Hat: Facts
(Main ideas, details)
Brown Hat: Negatives
(What can go wrong?)
Yellow Hat: Positives
(Possibilities, Upside)
Green Hat: Can we grow this?
Red Hat: How does this make you feel?
  1. When reading and note-taking is completed, ask for responses for each “hat” and allow everyone to contribute their responses. The facilitator (or other designated note taker) should record responses on individual charts, using hash marks to indicating when a response occurs multiple times.
    • Ex.—Students might make fun of each other’s writing.

There should be no discussion at this point, just a recording of all responses.

  1. Review/discuss the Black Hat chart: Are only facts recorded? Has anything important been omitted?
  2. Review/discuss the Brown Hat chart: Do any participants have possible answers to the negative objections? Can any of them be mitigated?
  3. Review/discuss the Yellow Hat chart: Do any of the positives outweigh the negative responses? Are there additional possibilities to add?
  4. Review/discuss the Green Hat chart: What other positive uses can you think of for discussion forums in the school (other than teaching writing)?
  5. Ask participants to now don one last hat. Tell them the Purple Hat is for pulling ideas together.
    • What are the takeaways from this discussion?
    • Are any of us willing to try out using wiki discussion forums with their students?
    • Who is willing to investigate further?
    • How will potential problems be addressed? Who will create guidelines for acceptable student behavior, for example?
    • If we go forward, how will we introduce this new practice to students, parents, and other stakeholders?
  6. Charted information should be retained, and if/as planning proceeds, it will be important to remain mindful of developing ways to satisfy as many of the objections raised as possible.
  7. Finally, ask participants for a response to the Thinking Hats protocol. Could it be useful when examining or evaluating other new ideas or programs from all angles?