Monday, March 19, 2012

Results of First Inter-Class Connection

This week my ENG 102 class connected with students in Ximena's and Jason's classes. It was a three-part process squeezed into one week. Late Monday, Ximena's students read the common text ("I Felt a Funeral, in my Brain" by Emily Dickinson) and wrote a brief analysis that was posted on Google Docs. On Tuesday morning, my class read and discussed the poem and then formed groups to review and comment on what Ximena's students had written. Finally, that same day my students created thesis statements about the poem and posted them on a separate Google Doc that Jason's students reviewed on Tuesday afternoon, also providing comments.

My students tried hard and the first part -- where we reviewed analyses created by Ximena's class -- went really well. They used the "comments" function on Google Docs to explain why they agreed or disagreed with what Ximena's students had posted. As I walked around the room, the discussion was lively and on point and their comments were thoughtful and specific.

Part 2 felt a little more labored. They had to work fast to create thesis statements and post them by the end of class so that Jason's students could access them later than afternoon. It felt like a bit much to do another new tech-based activity during the same class session though most students were able to post and did get interesting comments back from Jason's class. I went back and added my own comments as well, mostly in the form of clarification questions.

In retrospect, it was probably too much to do in one week, during one three-hour class session, and during the second week of classes. I had never used Google Docs before and with so much else going on at the beginning of the semester, this felt like a lot of extra work for me. I probably communicated some of that stress to my students. Another quirk of Google Docs is that I couldn't always tell which comment went with which thesis statement, which could be confusing.

Now that we've tried it, I would adjust the pacing before doing it again. I would definitely do it again, though, since despite some rough patches, I think the results were quite useful. My students are now working on formal essays about the poem and I plan to ask them this week how the interactions affected their writing process (if at all). I can share their responses next time.

To refresh your memory, here are the learning objectives as posted last week (all of these objectives were met):
- to identify and understand key poetic terms in use (such as rhyme scheme, metaphor, etc.)
- to analyze the poem using those terms
- to read and comment on the analyses of other students
- to draft a thesis statement about the poem


  1. The lack of matching between thesis and comments can be remedied by having the students highlight the thesis they are commenting on. Then, when the highlight is clicked, the comment that corresponds to it changes color.

    1. I think the assignment can use some work and it might be more useful a bit later; however I wold my students that goal #1 was to practice using Google Docs. I think that focus made it a bit less hectic (though week 2 when we are still fighting with Blogger was pretty quick).

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    3. Sounds ambitious but worthwhile. I like the way they were first commenters, then immediately became commentees from another class; nice flow.