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.


  1. "They were brutal to one another behind the promise of anonymity, but are now being both polite and helpful on the blog." Wonderfully revealing. Accountability seems to raise discourse, anonymity seems to degrade it. Gives me hope about the human capacity for decency, so long as we foster the right conditions.

  2. I can so hear your voice in this, Leah! You could add "functional" tags. Think indexing so you (or others) could find posts from you (your name), the platform(s) you used, and a theme or two: platform feedback (?). Just a thought. :-)