Saturday, December 10, 2011


I have been using Ning this semester for my Shakespeare class. The way it generally works is that I post a discussion and then students respond. Besides responding, there is little interaction beyond the occasional comment among them in the forums unless I specifically request it by saying something like "This Ning is worth 20 points: 10 for the response and 5 for each comment. Extra commenting is done out of the goodness of your heart."

Or so I thought until I read this week's reflections, which were specifically about using Ning/the usefulness of the Ning assignments. (By now the students know me enough to know that they can be--oh, so ever!--honest about what hey think of my methods/tools, etc.) I was happy to hear they thought the Ning was very useful overall in terms of making them think in creative ways, keeping them on track, etc.

What surprised me was that they reported reading each other's posts A LOT more than what their actual comments indicated (and I did not ask for a report about their activity in any way--it just came up when  they said "it was fun to read XXX's post on YY"). In fact, if it had not been for this reflection, I would have described the Ning assignments  as "Socratic dialogue" types: Me and My Pupils. But no. 

This led me to wonder: Do I care too much that I can show proof that my students are engaged? Is the current focus on assessment leading my pedagogy so that I make my students jump through unnecessary hoops just for the sake of having that data, that quote to prove that something useful is going on in my class?  Why can't I be just satisfied with their lurking? 

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