Product Review of Kialo Edu
Kialo Edu is the educational companion to Kialo, a free website designed to foster thoughtful debate and discussion of complex issues. Kialo Edu has been designed specifically for classroom use and allows educators to create debates accessible only to their own learners. More importantly, educators can organize learners into teams so that they can research, plan, and organize their ideas for an ongoing online debate. If you have multiple groups or sections, it’s easy to duplicate the discussion/debate in order to have smaller group sizes.
Once the debate or discussion is created, learners can join without an email address (no personal information to give). Then learners post claims (pro or con) and can either respond to each other’s posts or add new claims. Each of these claims can have further claims nested within, and learners and educators can add comments to claims. As a teacher, you can moderate the discussion and provide feedback to learners about their ideas, the structure of their arguments, or even the quality of their research. Handy visualizations offer a snapshot of how the argument is playing out and which claims are getting the most votes. Features like impact voting can help learners see how effective their claims are.
The beauty of Kialo Edu is its versatility. Though it’s possible to create public discussions, most educators will opt for private discussions and organize learners into mixed ability groups (teams) to ensure that different viewpoints are equally represented. Kialo can function as a place for debate of societal or political issues, but it can just as easily be used to discuss character motivation in a novel or the ethics of scientific research, or to help a class make a decision about something as simple as where to go on a field trip. Learners can even use Kialo to organize and visualize their ideas and arguments for essays, presentations, projects, and live debates. Most of all, though, it’s an ideal platform to practice having reasoned, respectful discussions and making arguments with reasoned evidence and analysis.
Teachers should consider focusing their instruction and assessment on skills beyond the pros and cons contributions. For instance, educators can encourage learners to get active in the comments nested within each pro or con. It’s here that learners discuss individual contributions or provide sources to further establish or debunk claims. Focusing on this layer of detail will help learners see how claims must be backed up — and that moderation is an important part of healthy online discussion.
Teachers will appreciate the many different forms of formative or even summative assessment that Kialo makes it easy to use. Teachers could develop a set of rubrics that look at things like:
- Learners’ use of evidence and examples
- Whether comments build on those of other people
- Whether responses to other participants address their arguments directly
Thankfully, it’s easy to filter each student’s individual contributions to see where and how they’ve participated, to jump to those specific contributions, and then provide feedback in context.
Kialo Edu is a highly useful tool for helping learners develop skills essential for civic participation. Learners must use critical thinking skills to evaluate information and social and emotional skills to understand different points of view. Learners also must back up claims with reasonable evidence to convince others involved in the debate of the veracity of the claim: a tremendously valuable skill that begins in elementary school and carries through all the way to 12th grade. Teachers can also easily create discussions that extend beyond traditional arguments, using the platform for fun conversation or even as an outlining tool for essays.
While almost every LMS offers discussion forums, Kialo Edu’s interface is far better-suited to organizing and assessing ongoing discussions of contentious issues. The site creates an environment for learners to share ideas, validate sound arguments, and really “listen” to each other — something lacking in a lot of social discourse online. The visualization and nesting of claims also clearly models how arguments are built, and the clear tracking and filtering of individual learners’ contributions makes it easy for educators to get a bird’s-eye view of the full spectrum of student participation.
Currently, Kialo focuses just on offering the platform for having discussions, so educators will still need to scaffold the experience with curriculum and rubrics that help learners recognize good arguments, use evidence, and disagree without disrespecting others’ viewpoints. It’d be great if Kialo offered supports for this in the future. It’d also be interesting if learners could add media — along with links — to claims. Still, as it stands, Kialo Edu is an easy-to-recommend and incredibly well-thought-out platform that educators will find useful.
Overall User Consensus About the App
Use it well and it’ll be fun; educators can create debates or discussions for any subject or topic ranging from the political to the whimsical. The design is complex but elegant and easy to use.
Curriculum and Instruction
It’s a private, well-organized, and detailed platform for learning how to have responsible, well-evidenced discussion and debate.
To take advantage of Kialo Edu’s many features, educators will need some time, but luckily the site gives educators great support to get up and running. There are ample ways for educators to assess student contribution and learning.