Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Jumping in...

What's up, y'all?

Alright.  So.  My connections this semester are between my three sections of the same class, ENG 101 (Comp I); we're using a blog, but I've adapted my original plan, to give everyone full posting access, and the uses to which we were going to put the blog*, based on students' web skills and my (in)ability to teach those skills; our connections, therefore, have been in comment threads.  The greatest success thus far was over the last week or so, which gives me hope that our Big Connection Project won't be a catastrophic failure. (I constructed the class around the idea of this project being a not-insignificant part of their major assignment, so I'm relieved.)

Students are currently working on a research-based essay, their longest of the semester (their final paper is shorter and involves less research), on their neighborhoods, and one of the first steps was some in-class writing, paragraphs wherein they described their neighborhoods from memory, then revised after really looking at/ experiencing their neighborhoods on their trip home.  They posted these paragraphs (as comments), then each engaged (via replies to comments) with at least one other student from another section who lives in the same or a nearby neighborhood.  They could also respond to students' descriptions of neighborhoods  with which they were very familiar.  This was the first inter-section (not intersection) exercise that really took off, so I've added some steps to continue the conversations they've started. I'll be able to report on that after this weekend.  It's interesting to me that this leap in effectiveness happened when it did; while it could be that it's halfway through the semester and they're hitting their individual and collective strides, it also could be due to an in-class activity, where I had groups in one class evaluate the work of groups from another class.  They were brutal to one another behind the promise of anonymity, but are now being both polite and helpful on the blog.  Participation is way up, but the caliber of the participation is what actually matters.)

The Big Connection Project is a (much later, relatively speaking) part of this essay assignment and will involve working with neighbors from other sections; we're going to Create a Wiki (I say confidently) on NYC, specifically on their neighborhoods, so I'm pleased by how well they're working with one another online.  I'd thought about getting photography students involved, but I think I'll leave forging those connections (if they want to work with a photographer rather than a camera phone) to the students, since the whole plan and schedule for this is, uh, fluid.

* File under "Lessons Learned": Call the "blog"  the "class website," and make adding users a classroom activity.

End Note:  I hate tags.  They're confining.  And I know that is good, but I don't think that way and I'm a horrible tagger.  Seriously, when I hashtag something, it's a full descriptive clause of that one thing, a tag that can never be used again.  So I need tags on this.

Connecting Activity #2

Our Connecting Activity #2 is happening tomorrow. For this round, I'm having my ENA101 students post a paragraph from their revised Midterm Essays on Facebook. Maria's ESL097 students will log on to our class page, find their partner(s) from the previous Connecting Activity, and provide some comments. This is a reversal from last round, where my students were the ones who gave feedback.

Pedagogically, the most significant new element is that I'm giving my students the responsibility to ask for the kinds of comments they'd find most helpful. As I wrote in the guideline sheet: "One of the most important skills in your ongoing growth as writers is learning how to ask for feedback. Therefore, in addition to posting your paragraph, I'd like you to ask your partner TWO QUESTIONS to guide his/her response." Since this is something I haven't asked my students to do before, I provided some sample questions: Please summarize my paragraph in 1-2 sentences; What is the paragraph's main idea? What specific idea or statement in the paragraph needs more explanation? How come? I realize some students will probably just cut and paste my sample questions, so I "strongly encouraged" them to come up with at least one original question. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

At last, I'm making progress...Better late than never

Hello all, I apologize for my absence and tardiness. Well, I guess it’s better late than never. My tentative plan is to connect with CSZ 099 - Academic Reading Strategies which is taught by Dr. Lau.  CSZ 099 prepares students for academic reading and test-taking.  I will also be collaborating with Prof. Amos who teaches CSE 120 - Reading the Biography.  CSE 120 introduces students to critical reading and evaluation of biographies autobiographies, memoirs, diaries and journals. Prof. Amos’s class is doing readings on Hitler and Churchill.    

My class (CSZ) is thematically organized with the focus on critical reading and thinking. Throughout the semester my students have been reading and analyzing various articles and excerpts surrounding the topics: politics, immigration and science. We will also examine the influence of politics on immigration and science. The objective is to create a learning environment where students can share ideas, gain background information, build critical thinking skills, and partake in constructive dialogue.  I will be using blogger with google docs as my platform.  

The CSZ students recently completed their midterm ACT exams.   So, my first connection (this will not happen until next week) will be a reflection post.   Students from both classes (Dr lau’s  and mine) will discuss how they prepared for the test, the reading and test taking strategies they used and share their overall experience and frustration with the ACT.  

In the second connection my students will do a blog post on Winston Churchill.  Students need to visit http://www.pbs.org/churchill/theman/index.html then sum up information in a blog post. Students from CSE120 class will give feedback.   

Finally, I'm making progress. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

A story of S... tatistics.

I am also late... but here I am back. I have been thinking about Community 2.0, participation, communication, and expectations.

My connection is with the CLIP class of Cyndi Casey. I visited them last Thursday to talk about the two activities we will be doing during the rest of the term. A wiki and discussion boards. It was difficult to read what are the expectations of the instructor on the other side of the connection, my expectations, and what the students think of being connected, specially not my students. I tried my best putting together the platforms and we will see how they participate.

I will post the details of the assignements very soon and the anecdotes to develop. For now you can see the wiki developing at: http://mat120hybridlaguadiacc.wikispaces.com and the discussion boards at https://piazza.com/class/hld04c2dng9pt?cid=61.

In the mean time I would like to share with you a presentation I am giving this Sunday at the NYSMATYC (New York State Mathematics Association of Two Year Colleges) and where I would try to advertise Community 2.0. All the work we do here is now a big part of any activity I have in my hybrid classes, and more ofter in my traditional classes. Thanks to all!

I promise more about my connections soon!

So, I was kicked out of my apartment...

That got you reading, right?!  Ah, a good headline, albeit not quite 100% true.  No worries, mold remediation which is why I am not in my apartment (building is one year old, weeee!)

So apologies for this post being late, I have no internet connection in my temporary housing for the past almost two weeks.  I'm behind in everything at this point.

In terms of the connecting activity, it will not occur for a little while longer.  I use the first 6 weeks to have practice speeches, focused on specific mechanics and such.  The core speeches are starting after next week.  This is when I will use the connecting activity to help them construct and evaluate their work together.

I'm still really struggling with the concept of a low stakes assignment, last semester I required it but some who didn't do it were certainly to the low value of points placed on it.  This semester, I'm doing what I'd consider moderate stakes, 20% of their speech grade comes from their interaction with each other.  While I hate to take a heavy hand, I hate even more so to allow by low value to have students not participate in something that is good for them.  Eat your vegetables.

So, the activity will happen, but in terms of the timeline I just couldn't mesh with the expectations of the group.  I apologize for that, I am a long range planner and in terms of what was best for the course couldn't make that work.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

temporary post

This is just a placeholder for now.  After conferring with my classes today, I am rethinking the next activity.  I am not sure it makes sense to try to run something before the next deadline.  We need a little more time.  In short, I also think the first activity was a bit rushed.  It was difficult to really conduct something of substance so early in the school year, although it was not a total loss and can be built upon for the second stage.  More to come...


I am teaching three MAT120 hybrid sections this semester and therefore, connected all three sections on Piazza. I posted a question on Mean and Standard deviation which is 'describe in your own words what mean and standard deviation indicate. Give examples within your major. (Note: You are not asked to describe how mean and standard deviation are calculated.) I received very interesting responses. Students wrote their own definitions and this time it was clear that students didn't copy the responses given by other students ( I had this problem last semester). Responses were unique. 

 How are you evaluating the activity’s design in terms of participation? The question is posted in a way that students have to give examples from their major. Also, I told them that there will be five discussion forums this semester and students' responses will be counted towards their grade and sometimes questions from these forums will be asked on the tests. So far, I received good response from students.

How will you build on this activity for your next connection activity? My next activity that was already posted was on Correlation Homework. It was posted last week after we had discussed the topic in class. I told students to post their questions on the HW and anyone who knows the answer can reply. This activity is mainly Q & A. It is not mandatory to post their reply. Students reply to their peers' questions. I was so glad to see that when a student posted a question regarding the HW on piazza, a student from different section responded to that question.
I will be posting my second Q&A today.

What do you wish you’d have done to promote participation? I should have posted Q&A for the topics before assigning discussion board activity. This would have helped them to connect with other students and to get them into the rhythm of participation on discussion board.
How did/will you evaluate your students’ participation? Why?
I will evaluate student's participation on discussion board. Q&A will not be included towards their grade but will be used to see the questions students have and how others are answering them. I am still exploring this section, how this could serve better in peer learning.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Connecting Activity #1 - Maria and Irwin's Classes

Irwin's Composition I FB Page
Back Story
Irwin's basic writing class and my ESL class meet in their respective computer lab classrooms at the same time on Wednesdays. Irwin's class is in the E building; we're in the B building. Irwin's group is on Facebook; we're on blogs. (BTW: Here's a link to the class blog hub; students' blogs can be accessed on the far right: Maria's ESL 097.)
When I first told my students that another class would be reading their essays and commenting, it quickened stragglers' resolve to finish (already!) setting up their blogs. My section of students this semester proved particularly challenged in setting up their blogs. Is it a coincidence that the overall Web 2.0 technology competence in this class corresponds somewhat to their English competency? Not sure, but the combined lower levels in each (Web 2.0 and English) made the integration of technology more challenging than I've experienced before or anticipated this semester. 
So knowing that they'd be "hosting" visitors (and not just each other and me) on their separate blogs really made a difference!   

Maria's ESL097 Blogs
But would that be the only difference? 
The class seemed to really perk up at the anticipation of "guests." Would it make a difference in how they "presented" themselves? That is, would they take a bit more care in what they said, how they said it, and in putting forth the best they could in terms of language and writing? 
I hope so, because I do have a theory that I've been testing over the years that participation on Web 2.0 platforms can improve multilingual writers' writing self-efficacy. 
Irwin has already described the set-up and logistics HEREThis group was keen to reply to Irwin's class and just going through I found, as Irwin already noted, that there was a lot of "communication" going on rather than perfunctory feedback. 

Design in terms of participation: The participation was pretty complete, so I'd say we did a good job with that. Irwin has 18 students; I have 25, so we did figure out which of my students could be doubled up (since I wasn't entirely sure some would actually post on time or that others would have substantive drafts). Irwin's framework for feedback was really good and he was good enough to integrate some of the response questions my students were already familiar with in responding to readings and each others' posts. 
How will we build on this? The plan is to have my students go on Irwin's students' Facebook page.  At this point, I'd like them to be able to tease out rhetorical elements/moves (e.g., introductions, main ideas, argument/thesis, supporting points, paragraphs, topic sentences, transitions, etc. that we will have talked about). While they don't have to communicate what they observe to Irwin's class, they can communicate it to each other in my class. For Irwin's students, they could comment on the content. I hope this is something pedagogically useful to Irwin's class in terms of cultivating a sense of audience, as well as metacognitive realization/understanding of their own development as writers and what goes into becoming an academic writer: writing, thinking, reading, as well as language.  
What do you wish you’d have done to promote participation? I wish I'd created more of a structure for my students to "reply". I told them to reply, but did not give them the same kind of template Irwin gave his students. Next time. ;-) 
How did/will you evaluate your students’ participation? Why? This was on Irwin's class. My guys were the receivers. The blog has been challenging for a number of my students, so while I didn't grade them per se on whether they replied or not (let alone posted in time!), I did lead a bit of a discussion on what it felt like to read the comments, to reply, and to anticipate connecting on Facebook later in the semester. And then I asked how it would help them with their essays' revisions. To be honest, I think most of them are still scrambling to get a grip on how to marshal their language and literacy skills to keep up with the rigors of this class. 
Having a grade is not even on the radar as they are focused on just passing. 
I think it's great that we connected the classes earlier in the semester so the seed is planted. We'll see what grows from it during the next weeks and what blossoms as we connect next time. 

Connecting Activity #1

I've linked my ENG/A101 (Composition I) class with Maria's ESL097 class. This is an intriguing pairing, given the disparity in writing skill between our students (in theory, at least!). For our first connecting activity, I asked my students to comment on short autobiographical essays by Maria's students, which had been posted on Blogger. Before the activity, I asked Maria for some ideas to help my students provide useful and constructive feedback. She suggested the following guiding questions:
a. "You wrote about..."
b. "You described..."
c. "Your story reminds me off..."
d. "I liked..."
e. "Why did you say...?"
f. "Tell me more about..."
g. "I didn't understand when you said..."
I liked these questions because they highlight writing as first and foremost a communicative act. I also appreciated the subtle shift towards elaboration and revision in the last three questions. Building on Maria's suggestions, I created a writing feedback handout for my students that incorporated these guiding questions. I also presented the following paragraph in the feedback instructions:
"Incorporate at least one direct quotation from your partner’s work into your paragraph. Please make sure to keep your comments HONEST, SPECIFIC, and SUPPORTIVE. Focus on the content instead of grammar or other technical errors. ESL097 is an entry-level course, which means the students are beginner-level English-language writers. Therefore, highlighting your partner’s grammar mistakes isn’t helpful or constructive."
We're currently working on the "sandwich method" in Composition I, which is why I asked my students incorporate a direct quotation from their partner's essay. I also made sure to emphasize attention to content instead of grammar, usage, or mechanical errors.

In terms of logistics, the connecting activity went fairly smoothly. Most of my students were able to get onto Blogger and find their assigned partner's work without any major hiccups. In this regard, Blogger seems user-friendly enough to not bog everyone down with technological problems. (The only source of confusion for several students was figuring out how to publish their comments, since this required logging in with a Google account. Once again, I find Google strangely indifferent to ease-of-use!)

In terms of the substance of the feedback, the results were uneven. Some students provided extensive, thoughtful, and useful comments that highlighted concrete passages and provided specific suggestions for revision. Others were overly general ("I like your essay because it was interesting."). Interestingly, quite a few students wrote more about their own life experiences than discussing their partner's writing, perhaps due to the guiding question "Your story reminds me off..." Several others commented vaguely on sentence-level errors, despite my explicit instruction not to do so, and some neglected to insert a direct quotation. These shortcomings aside, I found my students' comments generally kind, well-intentioned, and supportive, if not necessarily helpful with revision. (The one exception was a student who I suspect has some form of autism and seems inclined to harsh criticism. I intervened and helped her write a more balanced response. This raises the question of whether peer feedback is an appropriate activity for some students.)

If I had the chance to do this activity over, I'd spend some time at the beginning of class to model feedback. Above all, I'd emphasize the need to focus on specific parts of the writing when commenting. In terms of evaluation, the feedback exercise will count as one of our dozen or so "low-stakes" activities. As such, I gave it a credit or no-credit (i.e., quantitative rather than qualitative evaluation).

In all, the first connecting activity went well enough. While my students are generally much more advanced writers than Maria's ESL097 students, they are still quite inexperienced with providing thoughtful written feedback. Given this context, as well as the teaching lessons I've taken away from the first round, I think the second connecting activity will go better in terms of the quality and helpfulness.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Evaluating Criteria (Robert Bruno, Milena Cuellar, Porsha Esterene)

Quantitative Assessment of the level of participation:

Level 1: Original Post
Level 2: Reply to two other original posts.
Level 3: Reply to the reply of your original post.

Qualitative Assessment of post comments:

Within each level of the quantitative assessment:
Is the response within the appropriate level of accuracy/ relevance to the question?

WEAK  0-4
 Student did not comment appropriately.
 Student did not answer the question(s)

GOOD  5-7
 Partial comments/ responses to questions. 

 Answered all questions completely and accurately.

Robert Bruno, Milena Cuellar, Porsha Esterene

Criteria for Evaluating Web 2.0 Connections

We (Melissa, Mark, and Irwin) all pointed out the challenge of drawing out concrete, specific comments from students. Getting them to think critically about the text can be difficult, since many seem to default to vague, general comments like "I agree with everything because it was good!" We discussed the importance of presenting detailed prompts that ask for specific passages to be referenced in the feedback. In terms of evaluation, we look for: specificity, appropriate scope and length, constructiveness, and timeliness/meeting deadlines. In terms of promoting maximum participation, we talked about the incentives (or lack thereof) to vigorous response. Unfortunately, it seems to come down to grades. If students perceive no penalty or drawbacks to not fulfilling the assignment, then they might just not do it, despite our best efforts to create an interesting and meaningful activity.

October 8, 2013 Agenda

2:30     Welcome & Announcements
  • Tenure and Promotion Forum - Nov. 14, 2:30 PM, E242
  • CUNY IT Conference : 12/5 and 12/6 (we’ll be presenting; you’re encouraged to come!  Milena will presenting with us and we’ll be showcasing your connections!

2:40      I. Transitioning:
From Quiet to Participation: Alone and QUIET!
Create a GOOGLE DOC; allow it to be shared with “anyone with a link” and “comment.”  Post your link in the “comments” of this blog post.  
2:50 (20 minutes)
  1. Read the original assignments HERE . On the blog, follow the comments and replies of one colleague’s interaction of which you were NOT a part.
3:10 (30 MINUTES) In your google doc:
  1. Briefly describe what occurred in terms of the trivium (e.g., pedagogy, community, technology).
  2. How would you evaluate the activity’s design in terms of participation?
  3. How would you revise this activity for another seminar group (or for your students) to promote participation? Think of what could be added, removed, moved (organizationally), or substituted.
  4. How would you evaluate your own participation? Why?

3:40    30 minute conversation full group generating criteria for evaluating activity design and participation.

4:10    15 minute break

4:25    II. Transitioning:
From Participation to Evaluation: How Should We Evaluate Web 2.0 Connections?
Small Group Discussion (10 minutes each for 3)  (til 4:55)
  1. Each person briefly describes (or shows) what occurred in their connection activity in terms of the trivium (e.g., pedagogy, community, technology).
Given the criteria we’ve just generated to evaluate a connecting activity design and participation:   
  1. How will you evaluate the activity’s design in terms of participation?
  2. How will you build on this activity for your next connection activity this semester? What do you wish you’d done to promote participation? Think of what could be added, removed, moved (organizationally), or substituted.
  3. How did/will you evaluate your students’ participation? Why?

4:55     III. Planning connections time: work alone, with your connecting partner, or in “consultation” group
5:20     Go over homework;  technology sign up.
2. Sign up to be invited to the C2.0 Diigo platform: https://groups.diigo.com/group/dfl-20/invite

ASAP, Please: 
1. Fill in the grid CLICK HERE: (ASAP, please tell us your courses name, number, section!)
2. Create (if you do not have one already) a Twitter and Facebook account.
  • By 10/15: Post the “story” of your connecting activity on the blog (including what occurred in your connection activity in terms of the trivium (e.g., pedagogy, community, technology).
Given the criteria we’ve just generated to evaluate a connecting activity design and participation: How are you evaluating the activity’s design in terms of participation? How will you build on this activity for your next connection activity? What do you wish you’d have done to promote participation? How did/will you evaluate your students’ participation? Why?
Here are a couple of helpful and interesting links from C2.0ers and others about evaluating students’ work (mostly on blogs but could prove useful for other platforms too):
  • By 10/22: Please comment on others’ posts! Finish filling in the grid: CLICK HERE:
  • By 10/29: Please post an update on the blog: How is the planning going for your connection?
  • By 11/05: Have your next connecting activity completed; post the “story” (as above).

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Quiet! I'm cultivating habits of mind!

Image from Boston Day and Evening Academy
Why might setting aside time to be quiet and work seem less revolutionary and more copping out?
As if as teachers our job is to constantly decide the direction of our students' minds by having them in an active and doing mode and this is done by talking (or being talked at) and producing. On a basic level, couldn't teaching be about designing ways to incorporate time and space to "practice" ways of learning (habits of mind?) that students might add to a repertoire for making sense and making meaning in their lives? This seems so counter to the rush and crush of semester-life. How can we slow it down and make it meaningful? How can we trust that our students will learn and gain from this?
What I'm getting from others' posts, comments, and replies are the subtle signals and designs of curricula--from standardized exit exams to jam-packed content courses--the ways in which we have been conditioned to push for louder more than quieter and productive more than reflective. But I'm also seeing from your posts, replies, and comments (for example, see Irwin's and Nicole's) the ease with which these assumptions/practices can be pierced and the subtle ways we can make visible, resist, and redirect our classrooms--if even for a few moments or activities at a time. I think that C2.0, while possibly busy, flashy, and a little complicated at first in pulling together platforms, connections, and lesson plans (i.e., the Trivium!), could provide these quiet and reflective spaces to cultivate habits of mind. (P.S. I get a lot of my language about habits of mind from the Writing Program Association's Framework for Success in Post-Secondary Writing, click HERE but I'm intrigued by the image above, linked to the Boston Day and Evening School. There's a quiet revolution going on... And maybe not so quiet.)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

In the search of the omnificent Web 2.0 tool

It is very interesting to hear and look up the examples Wynne includes. The dictionary is just made up as a blog with different entries and organized as tabs. That is very clever. Wynne's post resonates with me at this time since I am preparing this week's online assignment for my Hybrid class. I always dread the time when I have to make my students login to several platforms, learning managing systems (LMSs), or web 2.0 tools. It adds to the hassle and confusion and even sometimes jeopardizes the success of an online assignment.  

I am in the search of the omnificent Web 2.0 tool... but I have not found it... The closest I came to it was Blackboard (Bb) by far but it lacks of the social aspect. Maybe Google+ or Google Sites  is toward that utopia... but still feels too stiff. 

In this assignment  I planned for the students to build a Wiki for terms of the chapters covered in the next exam. I created wikis before in my Statistics courses since Fall 2010 in Bb (which I lost... a sad long story). Last semester I started using Wikispaces in my Spring 2013 connection with Cyndi Casey from CLIP. I selected that wiki platform based on it easiness and social openness. 

This semester, I am trying out Piazza for my Fall 2013 connection and also as an LMS. As replacement for Bb, it allows me to add students from a different class that can be managed in as a separate group. 

I am connecting again with one of Cyndi Casey's groups from the CLIP program. The connection consists in participation of all students registered in Piazza in the Discussion Boards. During the semester, there are going to be 6 Discussion Boards with topics that vary from the usual presentation to discussion of research paper and articles about Statistics in our daily life. The main goal of the connection, is to promote critical thinking through quantitative reasoning. 

If you want to see a demo of my Piazza course, click here.

Using Piazza has been a great experience specially since it supports math language writing. Unfortunately, it is not suitable (at least for my taste) to create wikis. There are creative ways to use it for that purpose which don't convinced me. Specially, to track individual changes to a page. I cannot use Bb again since I want to leave the chance open for using the wikis as an add-on to my connection. These conditions leave me with the only option of using Wikispaces again and drop the possibility of using a great math-language writing feature. 

... I hope I can explore Piazza more to use it for wikis as well...