Joining an On-line Discussion Group
Once you have begun using e-mail, you may want to read and respond to messages regularly posted by other people who share your interests. There are a large number of discussion groups, or list servers, on a variety of topics where you can participate in on-going conversations over e-mail. These discussion groups provide a forum for group conversations and can be helpful for finding and establishing ongoing relationships with people who have similar interests.
- Learn how to join a discussion list.
- Learn where to find a list of available ongoing discussions of interest to educators.
- Learn where to find lists of other discussion groups.
Materials and Resources
In developing our lessons and activities, we made some assumptions about the hardware and software that would be available in the classroom for teachers who visit the LETSNet Website. We assume that teachers using our Internet-based lessons or activities have a computer (PC or Macintosh) with the necessary hardware components (mouse, keyboard, and monitor) as well as software (operating system, TCP/IP software, networking or dial-up software, e-mail and a World Wide Web client program, preferably Netscape, but perhaps Mosaic or Lynx). In the section below, we specify any "special" hardware or software requirements for a lesson or activity (in addition to those described above) and the level of Internet access required to do the activity.
- Special hardware requirements: none.
- Special software requirements: none.
- Internet access: Low-speed (less than 28,800 BPS via phone).
Discussion groups, also called discussion lists or e-mail lists, provide a forum for groups of people to communicate regularly without having to send e-mail to everyone individually. Discussion groups are setup to facilitate group communication by automatically forwarding every message posted to the list to everyone subscribed. Once you subscribe to a discussion list, you automatically receive any e-mail message sent to the list When you send a message to the list server, it is forwarded to everyone else on the list.
There are two types of on-line discussion lists:
- Moderated lists: These lists are managed by people who determine when messages posted should be passed along and when they shouldn't. If, for example, you try sending a message to a moderated educational list that has no relevance to people on that list, the moderator will probably reject it. The moderator performs a filtering function, only allowing those messages that are appropriate to be sent to everyone on the list. Moderators can also help facilitate or guide an ongoing group conversations.
- Unmoderated lists: These lists are managed by software programs, which automatically forward each message they receive to everyone on the list. No attempt is made to filter out messages in these discussion groups.
To join a discussion list, you must "subscribe" to it, kind of like subscribing to a magazine or journal, only joining an on-line discussion list is "free." This adds your e-mail address to the list and ensures you will receive all the messages posted to that list. In the event you want to remove yourself from a discussion list, you must "unsubscribe" from the list. These functions are described in the activities below.
- Finding discussion lists that are available
There are a large number of discussion groups that you can join, and keeping track of them can be a full-time job. If someone has told you about a specific discussion group and you want to subscribe to it, use one of the searchable databases of discussion groups (see Internet Resources). If you don't know which discussion groups you might want to join, use the list of available Internet discussion groups at the Websites below to find those of interest to you.
- Finding discussions lists for educators
There are also resources available on the Internet for locating and joining discussion lists of interest to specific groups. In the area of education, there are several Websites that maintain lists of discussion groups for educators (see Internet Resources). Use these resources to find discussion groups you want to join.
- Hands-on Example: Start by visiting the List of discussion groups of interest to educators (see Internet Resources below). Browse or search through this file and write down the names and subscription instructions for those discussion groups you wish to join. Let's say, for example, you are a high school science teacher looking for discussion groups on Chemistry. Searching this file for "Chemistry" will result in one discussion group, CHEMED-L-the Chemistry Education Discussion Group, which you could join.
- Joining a discussion list
Once you find discussion groups you want to participate in, you can join them by subscribing to them and receiving the messages posted to them. To join a discussion group, send an e-mail message to the list server asking to subscribe to the discussion group. Most times, you send a message with the subject "SUB discussion-list-name your-first-name your-second name" or something similar. Check the information on the discussion group to find out exactly how to subscribe.
- Hands-on Example: Let's assume you are a teacher looking for collaborating partners and you've found the KidSphere discussion group which you want to join. To join this group, send an e-mail message to the list server (email@example.com) with the subject "Like to join" and the following message content:
I would like to join KidSphere. Please add my name to your list.
Following this, you should receive confirmation from the list server that you are now subscribed to the discussion group.
- A searchable database of on-line discussion groups
Located at Nova University, these databases contain many of the available discussion groups you can join, as well as lists of discussion groups and documentation about these groups.
- List of discussion groups of interest to educators
Developed by Judi Harris and stored at the University of Michigan, this document contains descriptions of all Internet discussion groups that might be of interest to educators, with information on how to subscribe to these groups.
- List of publicly available discussion groups
Maintained by Stephanie da Silva.
- LISZT Directory of e-mail discussion groups
Another searchable database of over 54,000 Internet discussion groups.
- Mailing lists on the Internet
A 'by subject' guide to the Internet discussion groups, this Website includes information on over 7,100 groups.
- Tile.Net Lists
Another resource for locating discussion groups with alphabetical listings by subject, name, description, country, and sponsor.
- Yahoo list of discussion groups
A list of available discussion groups at Yahoo.
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