Thursday, March 17, 2011

Me again...

Now I've learned to save my posts as I go so that I don't hit the wrong button and watch them vanish into thin air! Here we go again (this is the condensed version):

The good: they're really into the FB thing and I'm happy with their responses to the first two informal writings prompts. My concern that late-posters would merely reiterate what early- posters had written has not yet come to pass, which is great. They're communicating with one another (and with me) regularly, which is also great. The one downside to creating all this cyber-community feeling is that we don't really know each other very well (even if it feels like we do) and that becomes apparent when we sit in a room together. I think this will be less of a problem over time, though. It's only week 2, after all.

The not-so-good: computer labs are built for writing on computers, not interacting with fellow students and having discussions. I've therefore dedicated a good chunk of our Mondays to writing in class but a few students have said that they think better at home and would prefer to write there. Now this could be an excuse to get some "help" outside of class but it could also be a legitimate concern. One student is worried that her lack of typing skills will hurt her grade.

Going forward: I'd like to give them access to their grades online (a la Blackboard's Gradebook, but better) but don't know how to do that securely and privately. I'd also like to use FB for peer review exercises but am not sure where to begin.


  1. I started realizing this a few years ago. When you don’t hand out materials every day and have physical groups, students can make it through the semester without knowing who is who (nor do they seem to care). So, I have a developed couple of fixes--for the first couple of weeks I pass a round a sign-in sheet so that they sign in in the order that they are sitting from my right to left. Then, while they are working I make a seating chart for the class and post it in the "Documents" folder of my class for all to see and print one copy for me. Then, as I am patrolling the class, moving from student to student and etc. I use the chart to call them by name. The seating arrangement settles down after the first week or so and then I "lock down" the seating arrangement (I like this method as they do not feel like I "assigned" seating and they have formed their own affinity groups). About the same time I point out that there is a seating chart so that they can find out who is who. In the past I also used their photos on the seating chart, but some did not like that. Now I take a photo of each student to help me quickly memorize names and I also put the photo in the Google Doc that I use as a gradebook to “personalize” it. Once studnets have hit the “comfort zone” in class--around week 4--I start to “cross-pollinate” working groups, online and off, and that seems to break the anonymity barrier. I have also considered having studnets compose a short “about me” and then video tape it and post it.

  2. Dr. M.P.: See my post under your earlier post. If you can see your earlier draft and like it more than the last one, let me know and I'll help you switch 'em. X

  3. The weird "I know you in cyberspace but not in real life" happened to me last semester by midterm--too much online interaction, not enough actual interaction.

    So this semester I made sure there is plenty of paired and group work early on and on purpose I switch pairs and groups every class. Since I post the groups as lists on the blogs, they have to go around asking, "Who's so-and-so?" and introduce each other. That system has worked REALLY well. Now they know each other in RL as well as online.

  4. Michelle--I identify with your issue of using the lab and while I admire Jason's stellar ability to create community therein, I have opted for smart classroom and all blogging etc done outside of class--so I get to know them and can still highlight blog comments and integrate them into live discussion. So far in week 2 every student but one has blogged twice and most are almost essay length which tells me they do spend time (and they have to quote from text)--they have also commented on each other's blogs--the one who hasn't posted I need to speak with to find out if it is a typing issue as you mention in your post...

  5. I haven't had them do any group work yet and I'm realizing that it's about time. We do have a regular classroom on Wednesdays so that's a good option. Plus, the computer lab we're in is a big room so I might be able to move them around and cut them loose from their screens. I admire Jason's willingness to do charts, graphs, and pictures but that's just too much for me to deal with at this point. I've gotten to know their names already but I do want them to know each other a bit better and groups is a good way to go. I like X's idea of switching them around and making them find each other. And it's good to know that Phyllis' students are into the online component even without computers in class.