Tools to Inspire Collaborative Discussions

Part of the December 2019 STEM Resources Digital Calendar!

More important than the learning that transpires in our classrooms is the learning we inspire beyond our classroom walls. One way to motivate students to continue using the knowledge acquired in our classes is to set up a virtual learning community. The free web tools below help teachers create a safe online class where students can access learning materials, post their work, and comment on the works of others. These platforms are online and accessible 24 hours, 7 days a week on multiple devices (computers, tablets, mobile devices and Chromebooks). Virtual learning communities enable every student to share their thoughts, ideas, and creativity with their peers in multiple formats, such as text, video, audio, and embedded media. Students are motivated to share more when they see feedback from their classmates, teachers, and parents.

ūüí°Discover more ways to integrate technology effectively by taking one of my fully accredited online courses or get one of my books!


Collaborative Discussion Tools

Flipgrid is a video response tool and app designed for schools. Students contribute a short video response to a video discussion prompt posted and can respond to others. Students can decorate their selfie videos with stickers and quickly generate QR codes for others to scan and view their videos. Flipgrid has tons of other features students and teachers love, such as accessibility with the Immersive Reader tool and the ability to create Augmented Reality videos.

Parlay Ideas is a free platform where teachers create discussion prompts with embedded materials that students review, add a response, and respond to their peers’ ideas. The free version allows teachers to set up 6 roundtable discussions. What I love about this tool is the ability for teachers to quickly add content and questions suggested by the platform.

LinoIt and Padlet are favorites among teachers and students. Teachers create a web wall where they can post questions, pdfs, files, audio, video, and images for students to quickly access on any device by clicking a url or scanning a QR code. Students post a response with different colored sticky notes. Students can share videos, pdfs, text, photos, emojis, and images. Padlet allows a limited amount of walls with the free version.

NowComment is a free tool students and teachers register for to engage in rich discussion over any uploaded document. Any sentence, paragraph, image, or video can have multiple conversations. is a tool that requires a free registration. Students highlight and discuss parts of a website, respond to peers, and vote up peer responses they like.

Active Textbook is a free iOS, Google Play, and Microsoft app with a variety of features teachers can use to create an engaging reading experience. Teachers add interactive elements such as discussion threads to existing books or documents.

Backchannel Chat allows teachers to control all aspects of an online discussion, such as removing messages, preventing posts, or pacing the discussion. Students join with a code.

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To thank you for your sharing, friendship and support over the years I am sharing free tips, learning resources, web tools and apps for 25 days in my Digital December STEM Advent Calendar. Just click on the calendar below and a post will appear for that day. NOTE! The post will not appear until that day. If you enjoy these resources, then take one of my fully accredited continuing education and graduate online courses or check out my latest book, Hacking Digital Learning Strategies with EdTech Missions!


Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell),, and on her blog,, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at

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