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.)
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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. 

1 comment:

  1. To be honest, I haven't checked back since running the connecting activity, so I haven't seen the ongoing dialogue! That's one of the best possible outcomes, since there was absolutely no external pressure on the students to keep on talking. One thing I did notice was how the activity seemed to bring out a very considerate, nurturing side to some of my students--it was sweet, actually. They seemed motivated to be genuinely supportive , or at least not destructive. (Whether or not they succeeded in providing helpful feedback is a different story.) I'm eager to see how the second connecting activity plays out, as the situation is reversed. Will the power dynamic shift when Maria's ESL students comment on my ENG/A101 students? To be continued...

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