When I signed up for this seminar I signed up as one who does not own a television, and will never buy a smart phone. I signed up as one who worries about becoming that old man who is out of touch with the ways of the world and how the next generation goes about navigating life online. I carry by nature a distrust of things mechanical and high tech. I prefer to begin writing projects in a notebook, and to engage students in a face to face Socratic style that emphasizes live interaction.
Taking this seminar has taught me several things. First, I am not one who will ever fundamentally base my pedagogy on online resources and platforms. Second, employing online resources does indeed enhance the classroom environment of even professors such as myself. Third, others have found ways to use online resources to increase the level of communal interaction in their classrooms using online platforms that challenge me to rethink further what can be accomplished online.
As the year progressed I created a larger space for online tools; I used blogger to create an online source of information regarding assignments and had my students connect to my blog with blogs of their own. I encouraged them to post links on their blogs that tied in with Environmental Ethics and gave them opportunity to announce these links in class. Some of these links generated significant discussion in the comments box. I had my students post a reflection essay on the "fracking " lecture event that was held during Green week and as a part of this assignment they also commented on each others reflections. This was an extra credit assingment and about half of my environmental students participated.
I was honest with my students during the semester that I myself was just beginning to learn about online tools and we commiserated together as we set up our blogs and solved problems often relying on the more adept students to help. The main value of this seminar for me was having my fear of the online world chipped away at and having solid guidance as I took a few steps into this water. I am thankful for having participated in this seminar even though I do not think that I took advantage of the resources available as much as I could have. Yet, creating a blog and using it to facilitate interaction was, for me at least, a large step.
Finally, I would like to note that the themes of online interaction also affected what I did in the classroom. I dedicated much more time than I have in the past to peer review exercises, especially in regards to essay development. This improved my student's writing immensely and I would not have become as aware of the value of such peer feedback activities if I had not been involved with this seminar.