Monday, June 13, 2011

Not Goodbye, but Hope to See you Soon


From Scientific American
It has been an exciting but hard year for me in terms of teaching and learning with technology (not to mention helping to run the seminar!). Both the excitement and the hardship come from the fact that so much of what I have been doing is experimental, and so I had to spend an inordinate amount of time making sure that the activities would be useful, engaging, but above all—work! To give you three examples:

1. Connecting with another class via Google Docs: one of the main issues we have as a group is that we are using different platforms for our classes, and, therefore, we have sometimes to ask students to join other platforms to interact with others, all of which can be a hassle. So when I invited Dr. Rogers-Cooper’s Seminar in Teaching Writing class to give feedback to my students on their summaries, I suggested that they post their comments under my students’ summaries in a Google Docs that “anyone with the link” could edit. The document was posted on my blog. My students, who were logged when they wrote on the document, had no problem posting. But Dr. Rogers-Cooper’s students experienced enough lag when interacting with the document in their lab that he decided to send me some of their responses via e-mail instead and I ended posting these in the Google Docs. Later, I tried to interact with the same Google Docs myself without signing in, and realized that, at first, there is considerable lag from the moment one types something to when is posted, but the lag diminishes notoriously in about 5 minutes. Therefore, when I repeat this type of activity, I will tell my partner that the students may want to open the Google Docs a while before they post to it and that they should expect some lag if they are typing directly on it (none if they cut and paste).

Another option I am considering: using a public wiki for interactions

2. Connecting with other classes via Google Groups: one of the basic activities we work on in DFL (2.0 or otherwise) is creating prompts that will encourage meaningful online discussion. Dr. Smith and I (and later, Dr. Vasilieou) wanted to extend this type of activity across classes using Google Groups as our medium, since all of our students could easily join discussions. Dr. Smith and I tried first with a common film, The Truman Show, but after the discussion we came to the conclusion that the analytical questions that I had written during the summer for the film (meant for face-to-face discussion with instructor input) did not work as well for online discussion across classes: the answers were too long, and so students coming later into the conversation did not read much of what earlier classes had posted. We decided, then, to create a new kind of discussion for The Matrix. Our new prompts encouraged rapid and structured discussion, and students could quickly move from one discussion to the next to read and respond to others in different classes. This second attempt also had the advantage of helping students practice writing arguments using claims, reasons, and evidence, which tied with our overall objectives for the course.

3. Creating a different type of group work that takes advantage of the online environment: I spoke at length about this experiment in my "Classes without Borders" post HERE. What I learned from struggling to do useful group work with my students this semester is that, too often, I have been translating what I do in a regular classroom to the web-enhanced classroom in a way that I did not do when I taught online. What I mean is that there are activities that work face to face, there are activities that work online only, and now I have to figure out which work in a “mixed” classroom, where we are half online and half face to face.

Also, after spending a year and a half reading the Community 2.0 blog, my one suggestion to new participants would be to follow it and post and comment on it beyond the "weekly duty," if possible. I cannot tell you how many issues we have solved through the blog, and how useful it became when you became frustrated with any of the many hard aspects of teaching (with or without technology)--there are just too many such instances. It helped me understand your worries and your triumphs. It is the pulse of the seminar, the heart of the seminar...(okay, I am waxing too lyrical, and, anyway, I cannot decide on an apt metaphor).

So, where are we headed? Good places, I think. When smart people get together and work together to the best of their abilities to encourage learning, the chances that the end result will be good are higher. And that is what I see us trying to do here, slowly but surely. :-)

C 2.0ers, it was a pleasure to read your blog entries. I hope you consider becoming affiliates and keep posting to the blog.


  1. It is great to read about how you tried so many ways to connect and overcame the obstacles and glitches of technology. Also the realization that there are certain things one can do in face to face and certain things while online. But what is more important is the reflection that leads to think what will be useful in a particular case.I can not agree more that we learned a lot and solved a lot by posting and reading each other.

  2. Dr. X kindly numbered all her main issues/ideas/concepts so I won't go ahead and repeat them here again. As a comment, I can only imagine how much time and effort it takes to coordinate this type of seminar because there are SOOO many different web tools and the field is constantly evolving. However, I do believe that it's all worth it at the end. I think online collaboration is very beneficial for the students, and as mentioned in my final reflection, I truly believe that students benefit more from technology enhanced classrooms than "traditional" classrooms (regardless of the few technology failures every now an then). Thank you and Jason for a great seminar!