The readings and our discussion of them: Last but not least post
The readings and our discussion of them: Last but not least post avatar

There was a lot to respond to in the readings. I’ll discuss some ideas that resonated with me.

As far as the choice of book, online readings obviously. Why would you do it any other way? We can’t assume students are able to get to the bookstore (although they mostly buy their books online anyway). It would just be easiest for them to get the readings from Canvas like everything else. I also love what Megen did last week, opening the text as a google doc and having students interact with the text that way. One question I have about the readings is about Warnock’s point that we should make a solid choice about using a link or a file format like word or pdf (61). Has either proven more foolproof than the others for you all? I realize that sometimes links disappear, and I wouldn’t want that to happen when students need to access the reading. But can all computers open all file formats?

Warnock  ensures students read by giving them a quiz (64), which sounds like a good idea to me. One thing I hadn’t thought of, but seems necessary, is making the quiz timed, like for 5 minutes, to be sure they aren’t looking up the answers in the reading. Has anyone done this before? Can you time a quiz in Canvas?

One aspect of teaching online I’m interested in is informal posting in place of f2f discussion, the former allowing ALL students to participate. Even in my onsite classes with the most participation, there are students who tend to dominate, and some who never say anything at all. When I taught at Southwestern, very few students would talk during class (I would be lucky to have 2 that would answer questions), and I instituted calling on students. I never wanted to do it, but it was that or no conversation at all. It seems that all of those worries would be eliminated in an online class. Often the shyest students have the best comments to contribute, and this would allow them to get those ideas out in the open.

Warnock loves the “message board,” which I’m assuming is akin to what we’ve been calling the discussion board. He mentions a lot of the same benefits that we’ve talked about these past weeks, and gives us some ideas about how to “run” the board. I like the reminder that their posts are “short, mini-arguments to a diverse audience,” which is closer to what they will do in the real world after their education (72), a point I feel really strongly about. Most employees do not write essays for work, but they respond to each other’s emails or write a memo to their colleagues, and they do this under a deadline (in hours, not days). We should encourage this type of writing and I’m glad that the online space makes it easier to do so. In my f2f classes, students write lots of little things on the fly, but we don’t always make them public – rather, they are for them to gather their thoughts before a discussion. Online, everything is public and critiqued by their peers. A nice addition of pressure and criticism, whether anyone critiques them or not.

As far as my role as facilitator of these discussions, the way Warnock breaks up our responses seems overly confusing. I’m hoping and assuming that when I’m needed I’ll know.

I feel similarly to Warnock about chats. I haven’t used them in class, but I personally feel rushed to respond, and end up often skimming what the other person wrote in order to keep the conversation flowing or avoid having them thinking I’m not there and asking me more questions. And that’s when there are only two participants! I don’t think I could possibly be responsible for mediating a chat with 5 or so students. It all just flies by! And I’ve seen curry or Jim ALSO juggling a Zoom video conference (whew! No way).

Warnock’s discussion of his grading made sense to me, where a decent post gets 8/10, and it can go up or down from there. The other thing I thought was interesting is when he says, “If I post an opening prompt that asks a question, and seven students simply respond to it in similar fashion, by students seven I am giving 8s, even on otherwise good posts. This is one way to check that students are building on the conversation” (88). I like this for two reasons: 1. It encourages students to read the posts that came before them and add something to it, and 2. It rewards students who post first, since they don’t have to read the students who posted before, and they aren’t held to as high a standard.  

Some thoughts on Anna’s videos: Yes, students read! Even if young people aren’t reading the newspaper or a novel, they read in ways lots of older people just don’t understand and consider silly. Thinking back to when I was a kid, my mom talked on the phone all the time, and that was the only way to communicate with your friends. There was no social media, texting or emailing as a way of communication. We read and write almost exclusively in social life and at work. What we should be worried about is people’s face-to-face or telephone skills. Also, the progression Anna took us through to show us students read is almost the exact one I do with my students in class to show them that they read, but they might not be accustomed to reading the exact types of things that we assign, therefore: boom! Active Reading.

Anna’s note that she uses groups of 7-8 makes sense to me. The amount of primary posts to read is overwhelming, especially if they are as long as Warnock requires (basically mini-essays).  

One activity I do in my onsite class is to have students read a fairly long and complicated article, and when we come to class they get into groups (of say 3-4), and each group is assigned a section they will be responsible for. Their job is to summarize the section and add it to the google doc I’ve created, which is just a table dividing the sections. This activity would translate nicely online. I would worry that one student would do all the work, though, since there isn’t a ton to write for a summary, and it’s hard to collaborate asynchronously for some thing so small. Perhaps the groups could “meet” somewhere different online to work out their summary together before posting it to the whole-class, more formal space. Or maybe each group member could post one summary and they could decide which to use or meld them together to make a great one. Still thinking on this one…

Thanks for reading!