Digital Discussions

Participate in an online debate with a partner class, then continue your discussion over a live video call!
Ages 8-14 / 60+
min Activity
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  • Use Padlet to engage in an online debate with a partner class, respectfully expressing their own perspective and exploring perspectives different from their own 
  • Meet over a live video call to continue discussing the topic and learn from each other

Supporting Research

Intellectual humility is an important ability to cultivate in students, as it empowers them to feel confident in their own knowledge while also being open to new ideas and information. During this activity, students will foster perspective taking and inclusivity as they describe their perspective to others in a clear, respectful way, and also explore perspectives different from their own. 

To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.


Activity Partners

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Educator Note

Empatico offers an exciting opportunity for educators to connect their classrooms with other classes around the world. Once you have connected with another educator in the Empatico community, you can schedule live virtual exchanges to bring your students together. These cross-cultural experiences enable students to share their stories, explore different perspectives, and make new friends in another community. 

Empatico exchanges are most successful when educators plan and get to know each other beforehand. To do this, please schedule a video call to connect with your partner educator, and use this opportunity to share your goals for this experience, exchange helpful information about your students, and discuss how you will lead the exchange together. Our "Get to Know Your Partner Educator" resource provides suggested conversation prompts for your meeting.

For more tips on leading a positive, cross-cultural experience for your students, please watch our “Teacher Tips” video.

Prepare: plan for the virtual exchange.

  1. Before leading the virtual debate described in this activity, consider facilitating a “Get to Know You” session with your partner class, which will help build trust and understanding between your students and lay the groundwork for a respectful discussion during the debate. 

    Once you’re ready for the virtual debate, coordinate with your partner educator to select a discussion topic that is relevant to your students’ interests and academic curriculum. You can select a more light-hearted topic, such as: 
    • Dogs are better pets than cats.
    • Invisibility is a more useful superpower than the ability to fly.
    • Broccoli is the worst vegetable in the world. 

    Or, you can choose a more serious topic, such as:
    • Climate change is the most important issue in our world. 
    • The government should ban unhealthy food. 
    • Social media is more harmful than beneficial. 
  2. Then, make a copy of this Padlet by following the steps below: 
    • Click on the "Remix" button and make sure to select the boxes to "Copy design" AND "Copy posts".
    • Update the discussion topic to the one that you and your partner educator selected.
    • Choose the moderation setting that fits your needs (e.g., a manual review of all posts).
  3. Introduce the activity to students. You might say: “We’re going to participate in an exciting online debate with our partner class! Each person will have the opportunity to explain their opinion on a discussion board. Then, we’ll meet over a live virtual exchange to continue discussing the topic together. The goal is to help others understand our thoughts on the topic, while learning about their perspective too.” 
  4. Establish discussion norms with students, such as:
    • Treat each other with kindness and respect, even if you disagree.
    • Express your opinion using phrases like "I think" or "I feel". 
    • Be open to different ideas and viewpoints.
    • Look for things that you share in common.
    • Avoid using words that could hurt someone’s feelings.
    • Enjoy the discussion and learn from it!

    Ask students to share additional ideas for how they can practice curiosity, kindness, and respect during their online discussion. 
  5. Share the Padlet with students in both classes by using the shareable link or QR code. Students should:
    • Add a "thumbs-up" to show whether they agree or disagree with the statement.
    • Write a thoughtful paragraph supporting their opinion in the appropriate section.
    • Read their peers' responses, and add a comment to their posts to engage with them! For example, students can ask a question about what someone wrote, or mention something new that they learned from them. 

    Provide time for students to contribute to the discussion board and engage with each other. 
  6. Help students prepare additional information to share during the virtual exchange, such as: 
    • A more detailed explanation of their opinion, including any past experiences, observations, or information that have shaped their perspective. 
    • Questions and comments about what someone wrote on the discussion board.
    • General questions for their partner classmates (visit this resource for ideas!).

    Remind students that although everyone might not get a chance to speak during the virtual exchange, they will get a turn in the future!
  7. Establish and share communication norms for the virtual exchange, such as:
    • Keep yourself on “mute” (unless you are talking) to limit background noise, and raise your hand when you want to speak.
    • When it’s your turn to speak, come close to the device, say your comment or question loudly and clearly, and remain at the camera to hear your partner classmate’s response. Start by saying your name (e.g., “Hi, my name is ___. My question is...).
    • Listen attentively to the speaker and use hand signals (e.g., thumbs-up, “me too” signal, etc.) to indicate agreement or similarities.
    • Make sure that others have a chance to speak during the exchange.

    For more tips on setting up your classroom for a virtual exchange, please visit this resource.

Interact: meet your partner class over a live virtual exchange.

Facilitate the virtual exchange using Empatico’s built-in Zoom integration, or the video tool that you previously selected, and follow the suggested exchange structure below:

  1. Start the video call by greeting your partner educator, and express gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to connect with each other. Then, facilitate an introduction between students in both classes. You might have them introduce themselves, and share about their class grade, school, location, and/or a fun fact about their community.
  2. Invite students to share their opinion on the discussion topic. For example, you might ask 2-3 students from each class to explain why they agreed or disagreed with the statement, and provide the other students with the opportunity to ask clarifying questions or indicate agreement using the “me too” signal.
  3. Make sure that students in both classes participate equally, and celebrate behaviors that show respect and other strengths, like empathy, thoughtfulness, and humility. For example, express gratitude when students listen carefully to their peers.
  4. Then, encourage students to ask the general questions that they prepared for their partner class.
  5. End the exchange by asking students to thank their partner class for sharing a part of their day with them, and for the opportunity to get to know each other a little better. Then, students can say “goodbye” and express excitement for meeting again during your next virtual exchange together!

If students in both classes have individual devices (e.g., mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.)...

Use a platform such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams which allows you to screen-share during a video call. 
One educator should set up the Kahoot! game and share the code with students in both classes by following this tutorial about using Kahoot! in a remote learning environment, and share their screen so everyone can follow along.

If students in either class don’t have individual devices...

Follow the same instructions above, with one educator starting the game and sharing their screen so both classes can follow along.  
Instead of students joining the game to answer the questions, they can hold up their fingers, call out their answer, or use a paper template to indicate their response.

If you prefer not using Kahoot!...

Use this document (Spanish version) to prompt students.