Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Final Reflection

The Community 2.0 seminar was extremely helpful in terms of supporting faculty to explore the use of social online tools in classroom. I always wanted to use social online tools in my classroom, especially in a Hybrid class, not only to enhance student learning but also to bring them closer to the actual world through online tools so they are well prepared to enter the real world. Joining the Community 2.0 Seminar this year helped me explore, learn and share the tools in my classes.

As an educator I consistently try to align the first four levels of Bloom’s taxonomy-knowledge, comprehension, application, and analysis – with concept questions. Classifying course content, I designed four levels or types of questions; these four levels are overlapping and integrative. At the first level, basic knowledge questions require my students to demonstrate their understanding of fundamental definitions such as statistics, sample, population, random sampling, and so on. The next level of questions moves beyond simple memorization of definitions to comprehension of concepts, i.e., determining standard deviation or finding probability of success or failure. At a more challenging level, application concept questions involve making necessary assumptions and applying prior knowledge. Finally, analysis concept questions evaluate the degree of higher-level applications of content.

I taught at least one MAT120 Hybrid section in Spring I and Fall I 2013 in order to use social tools to enhance hybrid learning. In Spring I, I taught one regular section and one hybrid section of MAT120. My primary goal in teaching these sections is to compare students’ performance and to connect them online using a web tool. Since this was the first time I connected my classes thru Google groups my major challenges were to get familiar with a new web tool in one semester and the type of questions that should be posted in order to increase student contribution and avoid plagiarism. I did post questions but received similar responses from students. Lesson learnt- I didn’t want to use Google groups for my classes again.
In Fall I, I taught three Hybrid sections of MAT120. I used Piazza this time and connected all my sections. Two of the activities that were posted were open-ended questions and was mandatory for students to post in order to receive credit. I felt that the students were more involved in responding to the questions. In summer, I reviewed different articles on how to post questions for statistics to students and I felt this helped significantly in Fall semester.

Overall, I feel it is challenging to make students join web tools for their course work. MAT120 is very intense, and there is hardly any time for doing extra activities. Students are already using Educosoft, an online education tool for tutorials, homeworks, quizzes, and tests; and often show negative attitude to sign up for additional online tools. Using a social tool every semester requires lot of time and planning. Learning the tool and posting the assignments in one semester was sometimes stressful especially during tests. However, the Community 2.0 seminar was great and it helped build my confidence in trying new web tools as I was hesitant to do so for over years. Also having summer break really helped me catch up with what questions I want to post and what tool I want to use for my class.   

In next 5 years or 10 years, I am sure I will not be using Piazza or Google Groups. I want to keep trying new web tools in general and a new tool every semester in particular, if possible; to enhance student peer learning.

Once again, thanks to Maria Jerskey and Priscilla Stadler for an interactive Community 2.0 seminar.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

December 3, 2013 Agenda


Group Presentations
Here are the groups (although we don’t need to present in this order!-)


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End-of-Year Celebration!


A big thank you to those who have already had their students fill out the post survey!

If you have not yet had your students fill out the survey, please be sure to do so immediately.

Please make sure to do this in class or verify that students have actually completed the survey.  This input from your students is crucial for sustaining Community 2.0's future!

Students' survey link:


Reading in the Digital Age
Looking back at my posts, the one underlying goal that I have been focused on was building my students’ abilities to analyze and interpret text on an inferential level and using one another to do so. Despite the fact that the final goal of the course was to take the ACT Compass Reading Exam, I felt that a student’s ability to independently analyze text is the key to better comprehension regardless of the task presented. I had high hopes of formulating lesson plans that would successfully cater to my students’ needs while continuing to build their strengths. My posts seem to reflect a somewhat general understanding of pedagogy and premature ideas of connecting communities and tinkering with platforms. Vygotsky still holds true for me now as it did in the previous semester. Teaching a basic skills course comes with the task of having to compartmentalize student needs with the added bonus of primary first language, and cultural norms. How do I reach such a diverse group of students without confusing half and boring the other half? You guessed it, Build, build, build:
       What can students do independently?
       What students cannot do independently?
       What can they do with assisted help/instruction.?
Assessing their needs based on their abilities to help build better reading comprehension. I constantly come across students who claim to express understanding of the material, but those “understandings” are poorly translated onto paper. Better comprehension=Better expression.

The first semester I connected with Melissa Greenaway’s CSZ 099 course from the same department on blogger. Both of our courses take the ACT at the end of the semester. We linked our students to our BLOG in order to provide a space for them to share ideas. Students also worked in groups on an ACT GUIDE in Google Drive in order to create ideas together.  
Their responses to the blog questions were good, but when they were asked to respond to each other’s posts, the wording became more bland and phrased, i.e. “I agree with u”. I was hoping for more. Looking back, I didn’t ask for enough. I realized they were sharing…..but not communicating (or is it the same thing?), Now I was left wondering if I assisted them enough in explaining and discussing the question prompt.
With scaffolding as the approach, practice tests assigned prior to this served to analyze which types of questions they frequently get incorrect and how do they eliminate incorrect answer choices. Based on this, a combination of weaker/stronger students were placed in groups and assigned a question type Ex: ACT: INFERENCE It was exciting to see the difference in student engagement compared to the use of the Blog. What I observed was an increase in student concern with what their peers understood about the task. I assume it’s because they were being graded as a group, but what truly translated for me was that towards the end of the semester students began to express more their rationalizations for their answer choices when doing ACT review. They weren’t just waiting for me to give them the answer. They were beginning to take a more active role in their learning.
My approach for the fall was the earlier the better. Earlier Google account registrations and assignments on Blogger (yes I went back to Blogger, because I saw how it could be used effectively, despite its semi-hurdles. I was better prepared for the (expected) glitches.
Working with William Kurzyna’s CSE 110: Literacy and Propaganda, in my approach to using ZPD this semester I moved away from a strategy based approach towards a contextually based approach. I assessed what students knew about themes based on what they’ve read in FAHRENHEIT 451. Most of them were able to identify examples of the theme, but not explain the connection between the two (What can students do independently?, What are students not able to accomplish?) Students connected to CSE 110 through a description of the equally dystopian novel “1984” on blogger. CSE110 BLOG. These students assisted my students in better understanding their novel by providing connections to our current society in their posts. My students in turn were better able to fill in those blanks where the explanations should be as well as discuss their presentation with one another and present a collaborated piece. Here is an example of the finished product. FREEDOM OF SPEECH
What I enjoyed observing was how when they were explicitly informed that the 110 group would be reading their posts DeeperConnections13, they frequently called me over to check their work. “Is this right?”. “Am I answering the question correctly?”  I didn’t observe this so much in the first semester, but I wonder if it’s because of the topics that they were writing about?
Community: Honestly, I don’t know if a solid sense of community was established across courses, but this seminar opened my mind to viewing what I am able to accomplish despite not reaching the intended tangible goal. Even though the cross course connection became muddled, the students became closer as a unit within the course. I saw improvements in the quality of class discussions of the novel which translated on to ACT Prep discussions as well. Students began to analyze passages for the purpose of making inferential connections, not just to get it done. Even with this however, I’m still up in the air about how conscious students were about the use of technology in their comprehension. Again, I blame myself. Is that something that’s taught, or is it learned? I empathized with student frustration at putting in effort and not seeing the product of your work (platform glitches). I was left thinking will this turn them off from broadening their horizons with technology? In the end I am working to improve upon choosing a platform that is the most conducive to my course goals, but more importantly being flexible in having to change it if necessary.

I am looking forward to continuing to implement the trivium not only in my lecture classes but my tutoring sessions as well. I believe that in the end having faith and not underestimating your students without expecting the ideal results is your best bet gaining the most from your students.What this seminar did for me was open eyes to the possible approaches to teaching and learning. It made me look at my class as meeting at  a halfway point in order to create a foundation that they can build upon. In my past year teaching, I would have never thought that I would be able to implement these tools (as much as I wanted to) in an effective way. Community 2.0 has built my confidence in who I am as an instructor and how I present myself to my students.  

Year-End Reflection – Can Personal Experience and Dialogue with Peers Lead to Transforming Aspects of One’s Teaching?

As a co-leader of C2.0, I provide support for faculty seminar participants as they explore learning opportunities that may potentially influence their practice as educators in useful and profound ways. C2.0 faculty spend a year learning to use social web tools to connect groups of students with each other, enabling learning interactions that would not be possible otherwise.  While we accomplished and learned a lot this year, what stands out is the powerful role that personal experience can play for educators in the context of C2.0, and how the articulation of that experience, and the input of one’s colleagues, can translate into transforming one’s pedagogy.  

Bass and Elmendorf’s “Designing for Difficulty: Social Pedagogies as a Framework for Course Design in Undergraduate Education”, a reading in this year’s seminar, addresses the centrality of learners’ experience in conjunction with the ability to comprehend their understanding or learning. While the excerpt we read focuses on faculty designing activities for student learning, many of the concepts also hold significance for faculty learning in a professional development setting such as C2.0. For example:
 “Since social pedagogies ask [learners] to articulate and discuss understanding, to position themselves in relation to knowledge in the context of audience and community, they can also open up a set of filters or conditions for...learning – such as prior knowledge, identity, connections to experience…” p. 7 [emphasis mine]

We were able to model this approach to social pedagogies through the series of online and f2f activities we developed related to Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. The “Quiet” material was multifaceted and included a book review, Cain’s TED talk, and even a (somewhat tacky) quiz about where one is on the introvert/extrovert spectrum. Introduced in C2.0 a couple of years ago by Prof. C. Jason Smith, one of the original leaders of the seminar, Cain theorizes that extroversion is idealized in contemporary life in the U.S.:
“The archetypal extrovert prefers action to contemplation, risk- taking to heed-taking, certainty to doubt. He favors quick decisions, even at the risk of being wrong. She works well in teams and socializes in groups. We like to think that we value individuality, but all too often we admire one type of individual—the kind whoʼs comfortable “putting himself out there”…Introversion, along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness – is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology…[s]ome of our greatest ideas, art, and inventions – from the theory of evolution to van Gogh’s sunflowers to the personal computer – came from quiet and cerebral people who knew how to tune in to their inner worlds and the treasures to be found there.”

Excerpt from Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Engaging with the   materials made it almost impossible not to reflect about one’s own relationship with the spectrum of introversion and extroversion. And connecting one’s personal experience led seamlessly to the topic of working with students. 

While the issue of providing introverted students with more opportunities for participation is often mentioned as an advantage of online activities, exploring introversion and extroversion as personal experience offered a new perspective for us. Engaging with this material helped participants examine their experiences as learners, and in some cases, prompted them to examine their own assumptions about how their students were learning.

Not only were the materials provided in various forms, but Maria and I also offered a range of ways for participants to engage with the theme of introversion: an multi-staged reflective blog post that included replying to and synthesizing each others’ posts; a f2f activity where we all agreed to be quiet for 25 minutes; writing about and discussing the experience of being quiet; and, using the multimodal tool VoiceThread to respond to images of introversion and extroversion in a visual and sometimes entertaining way to approach the topic. 

At its core, the theme of introversion and extroversion engaged us. In examining the staged postings and responses, an activity we did during one of our f2f meetings, I followed C2.0 participant Nikki McGee’s process. After engaging with the Quiet materials,  Nikki wrote in a thoughtful blog post that she realized some of her students – the introverts – would greatly benefit by having individual time as well as group time to develop ideas.  She also noted that “While Web2.0 platforms are ideal for collaboration and publicity, perhaps I can find ways to encourage students to use these platforms for individual thinking. One idea is to have students create private posts or blogs, and then ask them to excerpt just a piece for public viewing. This way, students are offered and opportunity (and actually required) to take time to think out problems, issues, etc on their own before contributing to a larger discussion.”

After receiving a fruitful set of replies from colleagues, including Maria’s synthesis, Nikki responds by sharing the ways she has integrated the Quiet materials, including the implementation of a “think before you speak” policy in class. Nikki then refers to her own need to gather her thoughts before responding, referencing a characteristic of introverts mentioned by Cain. Although she seems annoyed with herself for not realizing her bias towards extroversion in the learning environment sooner, she has clearly found interesting and creative ways to integrate the learning based on her own experience, the Quiet materials, and the interactions with her C2.0 colleagues.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Final Reflection

Bass and Elmendorf’s description of “authentic audience” has resonated with me all year. They urge teachers to create learning activities that gives students the chance to develop “their knowledge in contexts that centrally ask them to think of their audience as someone other than their professor...whether it is other students or some external audience" (Bass and Elmendorf 2). As I’ve mentioned in one of my early posts, I’ve struggled throughout my teaching career to impart the sense that writing an essay involves communication, not just performance. As such, the student author must provide his/her reader with the necessary background information throughout the discussion. Despite my persistent efforts, far too many students over the years have seemed unable to make the crucial cognitive and imaginative leap into their reader’s mind. In hindsight, this failure wasn’t too surprising, since I’d been creating a completely fictional rhetorical situation. I was most likely the only person who'd ever read their work, and they knew it. Moreover, even students exchanged drafts within the class for peer response, they would still be writing for someone who was generally familiar with the subject matter, the essay question, and the readings being discussed. Given my past frustrations, the possibility of having my students actually write for that elusive “authentic audience” through Facebook was intriguing and exciting.   

In the Fall, I had my ENG101 students exchange “sandwiched” paragraphs with Thomas Meacham’s ENG101 students. (These are analytical paragraphs built around a key quote from the reading. The quotation is preceded by a “top slice” that provides a general introduction to the subject matter, and it’s followed by a “bottom slice” that explains, discusses, or comments on the material.) When performing the connecting activity, I was struck by how much more time, care, and effort my students were put into drafting and polishing their work. In a class where I had usually needed to nudge students to take their writing a bit more seriously, I actually had to extend the allotted activity time from 30 minutes to a full hour because they were so absorbed in their work. Even better, I was very satisfied at their paragraphs, which were largely clear and well-developed. Here’s a fairly representative sample:

In his article “How Do You Know When It’s Love?” writer and blogger Harris O’Malley emphasizes that love comes in more than just one form and we often mistake genuine love for its various cousins that look a lot like love. He points out that lust and infatuation can sometimes be misunderstood and taken for the real thing. O’Malley uses a metaphor, saying that “mistaking lust or infatuation for love is like mistaking the ignition for the car” (74). He explains, that the noise catches our attention, but it is only a part of the whole. Love is much more “gradual emotion” than we tend to believe. Love may start with sexual desire and attraction, but it has to grow into something bigger and deeper. Just like an ignition will not take you far without a car, relationships that are based only on lust and infatuation are doomed to failure, because love is a feeling that is based on emotional intimacy and desire for partnership, not just a physical attraction or the need for sexual release.

In all, the results surpassed my expectations. At the time, I speculated that my students had worked so hard because they knew their paragraphs would be visible to everyone in both Composition I sections. In short, no one wanted to look bad to their peers.

However, the next semester’s connecting activity has led me to question my initial interpretation. Since Thomas left LaGuardia for UConn (boo! hiss!), I linked my Comp I course with Maria’s ESL097 class. Since my spring ENG101 students knew their readers were less skilled English-language writers, I anticipated less performance pressure. As a corollary, I predicted a drop-off in the quality of their posted writing. I was half right. My students indeed seemed much less anxious when posting their paragraphs on Facebook; rather than taking an hour to polish their work, they were done in barely 20 minutes.  However, I was surprised to see that the quality of writing was comparable to the previous semester’s posts. For example:

Couples, according to [psychologist Sonja] Lyubomirsky, have a difficult time trying to adapt and understand the changing feelings of love, in that the change between passionate and companionate love is normal. Lyubomirsky mentions hedonic adaptation as a cause for the change in that human beings are ultimately susceptible to “an innate – and measurable – capacity to become habituated or inured to most life changes.” (Lyubomirsky 201) Like with a new video game or a new piece of clothing or even a new car, the change in those two types of love happen because we lose the thrill of having to play the game of finding that one lucky person to whom to spend your life with. We lose the satisfaction of finding “The One” to be with since now, there’s no need in searching for something that’s now footsteps away.

Since the second round, I’ve been wondering if I had overestimated the role of peer pressure in the success of last Fall’s connecting activity. Perhaps peer pressure and performance anxiety aren’t the decisive factors to writing confidently and well. (Who knew!) Perhaps the secret sauce is the very act of writing to a receptive reader, a real-life person who wants to listen and understand, someone who doesn’t have a red pen and a grade book. As Bass and Elmendorf assert, the presence of an “authentic audience” creates the "sense that something is at stake in sharing one's ideas other than getting a grade" (5). And this is a wonderful place to inhabit when teaching--and learning--about writing.

This year has been a huge eye-opener. The connecting activities, which I approached with a lot of anxiety at the beginning of the seminar, have given me a sense of expansiveness and authenticity that I now realize were missing in my pedagogy. Moving forward from Community 2.0, I don’t think I can go back to a pre-connected classroom. This is a huge development in my teaching--maybe the most significant one since I first learned about process-based teaching. It’s been a genuine pleasure, and I hope to work with everyone again!


My blog posts, in reverse chronological order: