This Week @gavirtual

this weekSynchronicity

Finally! I don’t know what I did, or if it was just a combination of factors, but this week I had five (count them five: one student, two participating students, three connected students, four present students, and five very patient students who waited while I finished up a Twitter Chat). On a side note, the doorbell feature in Adobe Connect is invaluable!

So what did I do this week? What helped or what didn’t do any harm?

Last week, I started with the following action plan:

Action Plan

  • Use the survey results to plan my synchronous session.
  • Follow up with some of my 18 week students. Overall, try harder. Contact the parents and let them know my expectations, and find out more about their situation and why they are not communicating well.
  • Include Easter Eggs in my feedback because they’re fun.
  • Review my notes on Excellent Online Teaching and review the Google+ book discussion for tips on engaging students.

Here’s how things went.

The results are in…

Last week I posted the five-question survey to guide my synchronous session. Out of 21 students, I had 7 responses. So, 1/3. Not bad?

To get the word out, I posted two news items and sent several pages, but perhaps the best thing I did was to be completely transparent in showing that I used the results to guide Thursday’s lesson.

student survey 8.27 news announcement

While this was the goal of the survey, I did learn more information about how my students were doing. Most are doing well, but one or two are still getting used to the online course. All seven said they watched at least one of the recordings.

Follow up with some of my 18 week students.

Excellent Online Teaching recommends sending a check-in email to students. At first, I tried to get students to take the initiative, and some did, but for those students who aren’t as present, I went ahead with my own email.

check in email templateFirst, I typed my template on OneNote, and then copied and pasted it for individual students. Before sending it, I referred to my class roster containing students notes, like what they do and what they like, so I could personalize each email. Again, anything to let these students know that I see them as actual people and not just names and numbers.

If I was in regular contact with the student, through emails or paging, I didn’t send an email. Out of the four, I heard back from three. The other responded to feedback I left on an assignment, so there’s that.

When the students did check in, they let me know of problems they were having in the course and reassured me that they were working on turning in assignments.

Easter Eggs and other Feedback

Last year in a professional learning session, one teacher shared how she built enrichment into her feedback by providing a review of the content covered as well as some next steps or other thoughts.

feedback predictionsThe students turned in their predictions for the novel, so I included this image with their feedback.

I’m continuing with Easter Eggs, but unless students let me know they saw it, I have no way of knowing how effective it is. Perhaps near the end of the semester, I’ll have students go on an Easter Egg hunt by searching through their feedback. This will automatically make them review all of my feedback. Bwa-ha-ha!

Showing off student work

Students are also turning in their first project. Since competency-based learning environments don’t incorporate many opportunities for students to share work or collaborate, I think it’s invaluable to take the time to display what looks awesome.

So…. When I saw two spectacular student projects from students who haven’t engaged much on the discussion boards or in email, I asked in the feedback if I could share their work. They both said yes, so here’s the news item I created.

news 2a

Likewise, a few students have submitted PowerPoint collages to the Introduction discussion board, but instead of posting the picture, they attached the file. This is good, but it doesn’t let other students quickly see the collage. They have to download the file first (ugh). So… I took a screenshot of the slide and posted it in my response to their work. This hopefully lets other students see who their classmates are, and inspires them to do their own work.

In a similar vein, I also tallied up the feedback from the Introduction DB, and created this graphic for a news announcement:

fall 2015 intro

Yes, I did heavily use the news item tool this week.

Paging Students

Part of my action plan was to try harder. After continuing research on the impact of teacher presence, I decided to make myself very present through the pager. My other motivation was I kept reading interesting things online, and thought the students might find it interesting, too. Finally, after the following feedback on my survey, I sort of feel like it’s my obligation to send students random interesting things online.

survey response

So I commenced with pages:

paging students 1

Only just now do I realize how my pages grew in length over the week. Next week, I’ll continue the pages, but I’ll cut down on the word count. According to MailChimp, “8-12 words per URL is a sweet spot. Get to the point. Be concise.”

Mostly, students didn’t respond, but one did and the exchange made me chuckle:

paging students 2

Oops! At least we were able to chat a little.

The Synchronous Session

Luckily, I was able to use the content that I had already made for the previous two sessions. Since students wanted to focus on the characters in And Then There Were None, we opened with a crossword, then did some quick matching, and ended with Guess Who? The crossword works best it you determine what size font the students need. Guess Who? works best if students have a microphone.

AATWN - crossword





Guess Who AATWN - in actionWhen I began my MLA format lesson, I incorrectly assumed most were familiar and just needed a review. Once I realized students had no background knowledge, I took a couple steps back, gave some context, showed a video from Shmoop, and then tested what they had learned through a review quiz.

Weekly Weaknesses

Usually, I’ll celebrate some weekly wins, but I feel I have crammed many wins into this post already. Instead, here are some weaknesses:

  • I wasn’t consistent with hiding Easter eggs in feedback. After reviewing some of my feedback, I saw I included hyperlinks in some, but not all. I’ll make a system for this for the next assignments.
  • I let some of my students slip through the communication cracks. Must. Try. Harder. Must reach out to facilitator or department chair about students not returning calls or emails.
  • I didn’t check for background knowledge in my synchronous session on MLA format. Also, I need to make these sessions more discussion-based and allow students a chance to talk with each other. Furthermore, I need to allow time for all students to respond and contribute, especially those without microphones.

Action Plan

  • Maintain connections with students and try to connect with others.
  • Encourage more dialogue in the DB by tinkering (just a little) with the directions to encourage students to show personality and creativity and to guide students in writing more thoughtful replies.
  • Try to use OneNote to have students annotate an article about journalism and writing: “Against Students Stories”
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