Sunday, January 9, 2011

Fall 2010 Reflections

I will be teaching FSG011 (College Discovery Second Semester Seminar) in the Spring 2011 semester. My goals for the Spring semester include:

1. Utilize a student-friendly web 2.0 platform (Facebook) that encourages (and enables) active communication among its members.

2. Maintain an online platform where students can offer advice and feedback to each other on issues around careers, academics and college life.

3. Facilitate students’ personal growth and knowledge in the areas of Life Skills, Career Planning, Learning and Study Strategies, and Health and Wellness.

Late last semester, I developed a brief survey to gauge students’ feelings about Blogger and the class structure. I “borrowed” some of Dr. Z’s questions and wrote a few of my own. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to solicit the group’s feedback on my questions because I created the survey so late, but all in all, I’m very pleased with the range of responses I received. There were seven questions in total with six of them requiring answers before moving on to the next one (question #7 was “optional”). Twenty-nine students completed the survey online during the last week of classes (SurveyMonkey). The questions were:

1. Describe one assignment that was fun to do and why?
2. Describe one assignment that made you learn something about something (what are those “somethings”?)
3. In your opinion, what are the advantages (if any) of completing FSM activities online (e.g., Blogger) versus in groups?
4. What are the disadvantages (if any) of using Blogger in FSM011?
5. Next semester, would you rather participate in a traditional FSG011 (CD Second Semester Seminar) or a course section that utilizes one of the social media networks (Facebook, Ning, Blogger, etc.)?
6. Overall, do you think the Blogger was a useful educational tool in FSM011? (in what ways?)
7. Please list any suggestions for future FSM011 courses.

My initial reaction was total awe and amazement. All semester long, I had second-guessed my decision to use Blogger and I (slightly) regretted for not using Facebook instead. I am extremely pleased with my decision to go with Blogger based on the students’ responses. As stated in my blog entries, some students appeared to enjoy blogging whereas others were easily distracted during in-class activities. However, most of the students did enjoy using social media for classroom assignments and found the online activities useful according to the survey. The majority of the students also reported a preference for another technology enhanced class over a traditional classroom. A few students would rather take a traditional class in the future and a couple of the students weren’t sure. See complete survey here

The biggest criticism that came out of this survey was students’ desire for groups. Even though the majority of them enjoyed blogging and online activities, several students would have liked to see more and/or participate in group activities. This is another question that I struggled with during the semester, and at times, I found it difficult to divide class time effectively between group work and individual work. It seems to be that students enjoyed those classes and activities the most where I was able to incorporate both components into a single class. In other words, first students worked in small groups, then wrote their individual reflective blog entries, and finally, processed the activity as a one large group (everybody was asked to say one thing that they had learned as a result of the activity). In theory, this structure does promote a cohesive community where students are encouraged to exchange their thoughts and feelings about college life. A problem, however, lies in the limited time I have with the group on a weekly basis (1 hr.). This structure takes up a lot of time and I often feel (felt) rushed as the turn gets passed on from student to student at the end of the class.

Overall, I do feel that blogging facilitated a greater student learning than discussions alone. “Good” writing requires one to organize his or her thoughts before articulating them in writing. The act of organizing and articulating adds an extra (and deeper) level of processing that ultimately, may enable students to internalize some of the concepts and ideas that we discussed in class. When I have done similar surveys in the past (paper-pencil), students have had difficult time identifying what they did in class and what they learned as a result of the activities. Thus, based on my personal observations and the brief survey answers, I truly believe that a small change has happened in that regard.

As a result of our Community 2.0, my blogging experience, and the survey results, I’m very enthusiastic about the continued use of technology in my seminars. I have decided to use Facebook in my Spring seminar/s regardless of the relatively positive feedback I received on Blogger. I believe that experimenting with another tool will provide me with additional reference points for future use. I’m also very pleased that I was able to design a brief survey for my seminars because this simple tool made all the work and Blogger “uncertainty” worthwhile. SurveyMonkey was very easy to use and I would recommend it to anybody who wishes to design a basic survey for their class/es. Many thanks to the Community 2.0 group for taking interest in my blog entry about assessment. That exchange really motivated me to implement a survey even if just a basic one.

1 comment: