After a more-or-less quiet week, I’ve decided the bi-weekly assignment due dates create a slow week/very active week pattern for my students. Some turned in work, and I, as always, did due diligence grading and providing feedback, and for the most part this happened with students in absentia. I look forward to seeing more activity this week.
I started this week with the following action plan in mind:
- 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” http://thenewinquiry.com/blogs/zunguzungu/against-students-stories/
Here’s how things went….
Continuing Connecting with Students
[Disclaimer: I have been distracted taking care of my grandmother this past week (and again this week), so I haven’t been filling my free time with reading online and sharing articles with my students.]
For the most part, it was a quiet week. And most of that, I feel, falls on me. I sent a few class pages this week with some links but not as many as last week. I sent the weekly email and an email reminder about the synchronous session, but mostly I feel I let the week run on autopilot. Which is fine, I guess. Some weeks will have more communication than others.
Some of my less present students did respond to pages and have been paging me questions, which is an improvement. Also, after my synchronous session, one of my students stuck around, and we chatted about the games he plays after he shared the technical difficulties he was having with his computer. This week I feel it’s time for a personalized check in email.
Designing better Discussion Board Posts
Part of the problem students have authoring substantial replies to discussion board posts is that the initial post does not illicit a strong response in the reader. Most original posts state simple answers and share whatever link or resource they used. Unless a student can connect emotionally to the subject, most students simply evaluate the effort: “Nice work.” Constructive criticism is rare within replies, especially early in the semester when students are still learning about each other, and students have not yet learned how to affirm a post’s validity by pointing out its specific strengths, such as, “I like how you specifically mentioned X to show how Y was true,” or, “Thanks for listing X and Y to prove your point Z.” Usually praise is simple, “Nice details!” or, “This is a very detailed post.” Moreover, students don’t yet have these response-frames in mind. They simply haven’t participated in online discussion forums for these patterns to be second nature.
So, I decided to tinker with the discussion prompt this week:
First, I wanted the original post to display some personality, so I asked students to change fonts and font color. Then, students needed to ask a specific question, so other students would have something to answer in their replies.
Here are the results so far from nine posts:
Seven original posts used different fonts and/or colors, and two did not, and one of those completely ignored the directions.
The replies were robust as well. Below I’ve put in bold evidence of an emotional connection, italicized evidence of cognitive engagement, and underlined where the student answers the post’s question.
- That would be awful, I cant imagine being placed in the girls section of anything. It was probably about as comftorable for her to do thagt as for me ona theater
- Hey I don’t know what a back handspring is. I doubt i could do one, much less on a beam. No I don’t think i could create something.
- I create art so I guesss I can create.
- I have never heard of her myself! I’m shocked that not to long ago the hardest trick on a beam was a back-handspring! It’s crazy how times have changed. In response to your question, I do think I have it in me to create something of my own in the dance world and by that I mean that when I get older I would hope to choreograph pieces.
- Its crazy how much sports is evolving. One minute this trick is the most adavnaced and the nect minute something else is created. It makes me very excited for what the future holds!
- Wow! I didn’t know anything about her. That is so cool that she was the first woman to perform a back-handspring on the beam in 1964. I bet you will one day!
- To answer your question… I want to be a CCM (contemporary Christian Musician), I want to write my own music. I think it is quite possible, if I put all of my heart into being a CCM.
- This is a really good summary! She is someone I really look up to. Ive been meaning to borrow her book from a friend!
- Being a lyrical dancer, she is an inspiration to me. She didn’t let anything stop her from fulfilling her dream. I love that. It’s amazing how she didn’t stop because of her body type, race, or hair type. Every single day I find stupid reasons to give up on my dream, and then I see all of my inspirations and realize they went through that too, but they didn’t give up, so I shouldn’t either. Great response. c:
- Great article _name_, it did help me umderstand a little bit more about this topic!
- What are fursuit heads? I would love to learn more about it, please post more information.
Despite typos and poor grammar/mechanics (will address these), I’m pleased with the results.
Anything to avoid this example from my own online grad school class, evidence of an English teacher’s failure to intervene:
My action plan for OneNote had three parts: 1) create a class OneNote notebook and share it with students, 2) have students use the notebook, and 3) have students read and annotate an article. For the most part, this still needs tweaking.
My first mistake was choosing such a long article. One of my weaknesses as a teacher is getting excited about a bit of material and steamrolling it out to my students without considering the assignment’s workload. It was extra, not required, work, and it was long and seemingly impenetrable. And yes, it did talk about Facebook, college, and current events, but it didn’t match many of my students’ interests. My fail. I did, however, effectively create and share the notebook.
I changed tactics for Thursday’s synchronous session: have students create a collective works cited page for the Expository Writing Discussion Board.
During the synchronous session, students were able to use the links and interact with the notebook. Only one student effectively completed the assignment. Now that more students have posted to the discussion board, I’ll advertise this activity again and hopefully students will contribute. This will also be a good place for students to post their rough drafts for other students to comment. Before I do this, however, I’ll have to lay out some guidelines.
The Synchronous Session
This week I saw students struggling with writing effective summaries and creating graphic organizers. I wanted to address these weaknesses during the synchronous session and also review MLA format and share how to use EasyBib.
To review MLA format, I created the following “Token” activity this summer. After playing, I quizzed the students. Since part of my job as an online teacher is also teaching how to use various Internet tools, I showed them EasyBib. Out of the two students, one had previous experience and knew what to do, the other, not so much. I chose not to move on until I was confident the student could use EasyBib, and in hindsight, I’m not sure this was the best move. I waited 20 minutes for what I had planned for 5, and all the student posted on OneNote was the article’s link. Now, days later, that student has not followed-up either by posting to the discussion board or by posting the correct citation on OneNote. Is this evidence of not understanding or apathy? I’m not sure.
To teach summarizing, I taught how to create a GIST statement. The hard part of writing a GIST statement is cramming who, what, when, where and why of an article (or paragraph) into 20 to 25 words. If students could successfully pare down their summaries, then they would be able to expand these same summaries into six to eight sentences for their discussion board summary. I’d almost be a relief to be allowed to write so many words! Or students could write GIST statements for each of the paragraphs and form their article summary that way. There was enough time to teach the concept and practice with the first paragraph. After running out of time, I dumped the activity into OneNote and called it extra credit. So far, no takers.
Finally, since I ran out of time for the graphic organizer, I’ll save it for the next session.
- Improved responses on the Discussion Board
- Collaboration during the synchronous session
- Use OneNote for students to share their rough drafts and get feedback on their rough drafts
- Set up norms for OneNote
- Encourage more interaction between students (through the pager? Through OneNote)