The PhilosoCast: Philosophy Student’s Podcast

I have been trialling a number of new approaches this year for incorporating technology into my students’ learning. One idea that has been very successful is ‘Silent Discussions’, posting topical questions onto social media for students to answer and the wider community to view and engage with (check out Silent Discussions on Social Media!) The other new approach this year has been to record my student’s discussions and post on a public forum (YouTube), in order to capture the essence of Philosophy for others to listen to.

Now I cannot take any credit for this idea, as it was my students who took complete ownership over this one. After discussing it with them, we decided that video recording the discussions would be quite off putting (not to mention the difficulties in finding the perfect place in the classroom to film, audio interference etc.). So we decided upon audio recording the discussions instead, creating a podcast called The PhilosoCast.


Once the cast had volunteered, the topic question agreed upon and the audio recorder set up…off they went and what a surprise I got! Normally in discussions I am the ‘ring leader’ so to speak – I introduce new students into the discussion, I summarise student’s views, I make sure certain students don’t dominate – basically I control the discussion. I didn’t want this to be the case for the student’s PhilosoCast, so I took a back seat.

What happened next was amazing! The students took control, working out ways to signal which student spoke next, taking charge over who introduced and closed the discussion and who started the discussion off. The students did not speak over each other, they were articulate and clear, they listened to each other’s points and engaged with them, they drew the points back to the question and took it in turns to fairly share their points.

Overall a massive success! I hope the cast will continue to develop these podcasts throughout the year. It does take a certain kind of student dynamic for this sort of idea to work but I highly recommend giving it a go!

To listen to the two produced so far, check out:

Well done to all involved!

For other ways to promote the subject, check out: Fourth Subject Choice – Will this be the end of R.S?

Silent Discussions on Social Media!

so.pngThis school year I have thrown myself down the rabbit hole of reinventing the subject. One big area of development is through using social media, especially FB and Twitter as part of students’ learning. The spin off bonus from using a public forum = lots of promotion!

op20blogtoonparkerStudents’ lives are in-severable from the internet, their mobile phones are an extension of their arm and often now an extension of their personalities. It is the way they see the world. Rather than approaching this reality through the tainted view of an older person, who is stuck in their ways of ‘put your phone away’, ‘have a proper conversation’ or ‘social media is ruining teenagers’ – why not adapt to the undeniable changes of the millennia generation? With this in mind, what better way of promoting learning and satisfying students’ need to use their phones, than combining the two things… discussions with FB/Twitter.

Things you need:

  1. A FB page and Twitter page that students can join.
  2. School/ College permission to use social media in lessons.
  3. A way for students to access FB/ Twitter during lessons.

Setting up a discussion:

  1. Post a question that is relevant to the topic area being discussed in class. I often post between 2-4 questions over FB and Twitter, to give students a selection to engage with.
  2. Set ground rules- this is very important:
    • No memes
    • Full sentences – no one or two word replies
    • Use scholars and evidence to back up your points
    • Students do not have to join if they do not feel comfortable
    • This is a public forum therefore other people can read and join in with the discussion – do not use swear words, offensive language or display anything that may be misinterpreted.

Note: as the creator of the FB/Twitter accounts you have the power to delete/ block any students who are incapable of following these rules.

3. Sit back and enjoy the discussion (and silence).

Example from Facebook:


Example from Twitter:


I highly recommend you give it a go. Not only does it develop students’ essay writing skills – they are formulating arguments in a way that doesn’t seem like work, they are learning different views from each other and there is a paper trail they can refer back to at a later point. It is also a fantastic way for other students in the wider community to experience what Philosophy is like, in a way that makes sense to them.

Let me know how it goes if you try it 🙂

Please feel free to join in any of our discussions posted on (or advertise to your students):

FB and Twitter

Just in case you are interested in other ways of using mobile phones to promote students’ learning, here is an earlier blog I wrote “Put your mobile phone away!”: Are you Kidding?.

If you would like more ideas of ways to promote Religious Studies see: Fourth Subject Choice – Will this be the end of R.S?

Classroom Discussions are too Risky: Think again!

There are a number of issues that may prevent you from including a discussion in your lesson. These are common concerns shared at some point by most teachers.

These include:

  1. Loss of control
  2. A student with extreme views or unexpected/inappropriate comments
  3. Dominant speakers will lead
  4. Shy students will not feel confident to speak
  5. Do not have time in lessons as there is too much to cover in the syllabus
  6. Observed lesson marked down
  7. That no student speaks

Here are some of the ways I have found help to deal with such potential issues.

Continue reading “Classroom Discussions are too Risky: Think again!”

How to Plan a Classroom Discussion: Activities tried and tested

These activities are designed to encourage all students to participate, challenge their viewpoints and stretch their understanding:

  • Formal debate: (two side, four side, court case) P7071247.JPGCourt Cases can be memorable, challenging and engaging for all. Each student has their own role:judge, jury members who scribe the debate,  defence lawyers, prosecutors, criminals. Each student/ team are allocated time to prepare their points, each team then presents their points with an opportunity for opposing teams to question and raise issues. The judge decides the fate.
  • Movie make/ pictures/ film clip: students write down everything they can remember, all students contributes one point

Continue reading “How to Plan a Classroom Discussion: Activities tried and tested”

Proof of Progress: Classroom Discussions even Ofsted would recognize!

Once your classroom discussion is up and running (see earlier posts: Let’s Talk and Facilitating a Discussion) what is shared between your students must be captured. The unfolding views, thoughts and insightful ideas need to be carefully developed, monitored and …recorded!

The key theme for Ofsted, Educational Researchers and lesson observers is proof of student progress. This is more difficult to verify within a discussion. With a usual classroom task students show evidence of learning through Q/A, completion of worksheets or writing an assessment answer – with a discussion this takes on a whole new art form. How do you assess a unique piece of work to see if learning and progress has taken place? Yes you can set an essay after the discussion to assess learning but the beauty of that discussion has finished – those remarks and perceptive comments may now been lost.

So here are a few of my tips to ensure your discussion has purpose:

Continue reading “Proof of Progress: Classroom Discussions even Ofsted would recognize!”