Tuesday, December 3, 2013


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.  

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