At the intersection of using technology to teach new media literacy/rethinking literacy and Warnock’s migrate what you do well in the classroom
At the intersection of using technology to teach new media literacy/rethinking literacy and Warnock’s migrate what you do well in the classroom avatar

Larson’s video lists 3 benefits of online group collaboration: It is a student-centered approach, it increases communication through student writing, and it has real-world application. The real-world application of the skills online group activities build is critical and represents part of what Jenkins, and others in Jenkins and others in “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: New Media Education for the 21st Century” are calling the new hidden curriculum. According to this report, calling for educators to teach new media literacy, “Access to this participatory culture functions as a new form of the hidden curriculum, shaping which youth will succeed and which will be left behind as they enter school and the workplace” (3). The forms of participatory culture they list include collaborative problem-solving and affiliations or engagement with formal and informal online communities. The authors of this report argue that “the new literacies almost always involve social skills developed through collaboration and networking” (4). The new skills required to become full participants, or to function in this new participatory culture include, distributed cognition (the ability to interact meaningfully with tools that expand mental capacities (4) and collective intelligence (the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others towards a common goal. There are eleven skills listed in this report and I mention them here only because in thinking about an in-person group assignment I would consider migrating to my online composition course—I would have to rethink and expand my objectives so that I am accomplishing what we accomplish during f2f group collaboration and also develop some of the cultural competencies and social skills students need to fully participate in this emerging participatory culture. What is exciting to me about teaching writing online and this week’s topic in particular is yes, the question of how to migrate our collaborative/group activities online, and how to do it in ways that do more than what we do f2f. In short, how does technology enable us to do things differently?

That said, taking Warnock’s advice to “focus on what you do well in the classroom “ (xiv) here are some of the ways we use technology for collaborative group work in an English 100 class:

  1. Pre-reading: before a f2f discussion of a text students are asked to develop critical discussion questions in line with their interests or reading of the text. In a f2f class, students bring these questions with them and finish their online discussion in person then report to the class on their discussion. If we were migrating this type of group activity to an online course, I could imagine having students use Zoom to meet online and finish their discussion then perhaps either creating a video where they report back to the class or a handout and a video presentation of their discussion
  2. Pre-reading: sometimes I will post questions for specific parts of a text and groups will be responsible for assigned questions or “chunks” of the text. They will assemble their collective knowledge (collective intelligence) and present it f2f to the class using a one-page handout they collaborate to create. In migrating this activity online, I could include reading and commenting on another group’s handout as the last part of the assignment. Both parts would be graded using a low-stakes rubric emphasizing connectivity
  3. Pre-writing: students develop an outline with their thesis/introduction and body paragraphs that we peer-review online before diving into the first draft of their first major writing project. In an online course, students would have clear directions for the focus of each peer-review (very specific tasks/or work for each peer-review) set deadlines and would be accountable for the time/effort/quality of their peer-review, these would have to be graded assignments which of course would require instructor monitoring and strategic pairing from the beginning

Zooming back out to Warnock’s introduction given my re-reading of this report on teaching new media literacies (above) it seems to me that while Warnock is saying–take what you do best, your teaching strengths and focus on migrating that online, “Confronting the Challenges” says “everyone involved in preparing young people to go out into the real world has contributions to make in helping students acquire the skills they need to become full participants in our society” (4). So are we focusing on what we do well already when we migrate online or are we expanding our definition of literacy to include new literacies and the development of the skills required? I think I totally repeated myself here, what can i say, Gabriel Garcia Marquez said at the end of his life that although he had written many many books, for most of his writing career, he was really just rewriting A Hundred Years of Solitude. Sorry for the long-winded subject line. I am looking forward to learning from your ideas for online group work:)




hópverkefni avatar

Halló frá Íslandi!

For the next two weeks I will be testing the limits of distance learning. I am in a remote part of Iceland and have very limited access to technology and WiFi. So, I apologize in advance for any typographical errors (the keyboards are different here!) Naturally, I will do my best to communicate, but simply might not be in a region that will allow me any access via WiFi.

This week we are reflecting on Warnock’s discussion of collaboration in virtual groups through group posts and group work (Janet Wilson) in efforts to build and develop a sense of community (Cameron et al., 2009) in our digital classrooms.

Initially, I’ve felt that I had much more success with building strong teams that near the idea of building a true sense community within the f2f format. Naturally, with 9-15 hrs of face-to-face  communication time, I’m afforded many opportunities to observe non-verbal communications between groups that provide me some idea of how the group dynamics are developing. It allows me not only to observe behaviors among members of a group, but also among groups.

Although, I still have this ability of observation in my hybrid classes, I’ve begun transitioning most of the the collaborative components into the online space and have been quite pleased with the results.   Below are some of the ideas and tools that I’ve implemented with varying success in my efforts to build community in my digital classrooms.

Group Work:

Google Docs / Slides / Google Groups: Janet Wilson mentions her use of these products and I’ve spoken of them at length in previous posts. Yes, I think they are great for collaborative work and building a team environment. In all my ESL classes I spend some time teaching students  how to use this technology if they don’t already know how to use it.

Group Website Development: With the ease of today’s online web editing software, students are no longer required to know how to use HTML5 to code and build a website. I’ve used both and editors in which I create a teacher account that allows me to have classes and student account. One recent example where I used this for a collaborative project was as part of a character assignment for “The Great Gatsby.”  Teams were assigned a category, i.e., themes, characters, symbols, quote analysis, and then were required to write a page (build a web page within the group website) on their group topic. It appears to have been a good team building activity as some of the deliverables were amazing to see.

WikiStory: The idea here is simply to use a Wiki for a collaborative project. A friend suggested this to me who was doing a 3-word story assignment where students each had to only add three words at a time to their story. My approach was a bit different; I used it to have students respond to plot lines in assigned readings and discuss potential meanings with each other. I have not yet used this application, but a colleague of mine likes using it so I plan to try it out in the near future. In a nutshell, no registration or download is required and it offers a free version that allows up to 4 individuals to video chat. It also has screen-sharing capabilities. If any of you have used it, please share your evaluation of it with me.

Group Posts:

Survey Monkey: I’ve used this to get group conversations started, especially if it appears to be a group not inclined to jump right in to chatting on message boards. This allows me to control the initial discussion by asking a number of questions to all students, collect their individual feedback, and then (while respecting their anonymity) share their ideas without identifying them as new questions to the group, which are then answered in a message board or chat setting.

Looking forward to reading your thoughts on collaboration and the tools you love integrated into your digital classrooms.

Online Groups
Online Groups avatar

To me the biggest challenge of migrating to online teaching would have to be creating a collaborative virtual environment. In the online classes I have taught in the past, students liked the time flexibility and asynchronicity that a f2f class could not offer. This was a fact I failed to take into account when assigning my annotated bibliography group research project.

I naively thought that online students would possess enough self-motivation to cooperate independently with one another, and I offered all the toys available on Blackboard, such as wiki pages, file exchange, blogs, and group discussion boards.  In the end, there were not enough such students, and the toys were seldom used.

That said, I would try migrating a multimodal assignment that evaluates online news outlets for bias and classifies them in a chart. If anyone is interested, check out these links:

In my f2f classes, this kind of big research project is assigned and groups are formed very early in the semester. The groups work together for other collaborative activities during the course, and as a result, form strong bonds.

Online Collaborative Tasks that Build to Group Projects
Online Collaborative Tasks that Build to Group Projects avatar


Today, so many options exist that allow for effective and meaningful collaboration in the virtual world. I have found that online collaboration often allows for much more engagement and interaction by each student than sometimes occurs in an f2f class. It is not easy to sit back and not contribute in an online group… it becomes so much more obvious and typically students will call out the non-engaged student. Interestingly, students might elect an online class because they prefer a more independent experience and don’t expect much collaboration. But in a process-based course, collaboration is going to be a key to students’ growth and success, and if set up from the beginning in our online (or on-ground) writing courses, students come to expect and enjoy the experience.


Just as in the traditional classroom, we must provide clear instructions, expectations, and outcomes which will more likely result in a successful outcome for any collaborative/group experience. And just as in the f2f, our role does not end with these tasks, but we often have to model, encourage, and facilitate to ensure that meaningful collaboration and learning occurs. I think the greatest challenge could be if the technology for some reason doesn’t work on the students’ computer, phone, or pad. So, the way I would work around this is before any group type project, students will have had to utilize the different technologies that are expected in the collaborative  group experience. In the group project I propose below, we are in about week 4 and students have managed to utilize the different technologies in simpler tasks that have been done on Canvas’ Discussion Board.

I’m in the process of developing an English 100 with a theme of uncovering what it means to live a meaningful/purposeful life. This would serve as a first group project that brings together other writing tasks students have done to work collaboratively to create an essay together. I do want to point out that many of these ideas have sprung from my observations of Jim Sullivan, Tony Burman, and curry’s English 100 classes. What I see these classes all have in common for the first couple weeks is that they are teaching and providing a lot of scaffolding to get students to write analytically and employ user-friendly tasks that the students connect with and enjoy writing about. So here goes:


1)     I will place students into groups of 4-5 based on previous paragraphs the students have written where they analyze a piece of advice or life lesson they have learned from someone in their life, e.g.- power of forgiveness, balancing work and play, spreading kindness, etc. If I can get the groups to have sort of a shared theme, I would go with that as they would already have a connection.

2)     Using Canvas’ Discussion Board as their work-group platform, students will each select and upload a YouTube music video and write a post about what life lesson is being communicated in the song/video and why this is meaningful to them. Further they will comment on what moves are being used (lyrics, rhythms, video images, etc.) to communicate the lesson.

3)     Once the videos and corresponding posts are uploaded, other members of the group will use the video feature on the Discussion Board to respond to each other’s posts, being directed to ‘communicate as if you are having a face to face conversation’ (in other words, it is video, not just audio). They will comment on the song/video, the writer’s ideas in the post, and add his or her own thoughts about the life message they perceive and other comments about how the message is communicated. The original writer will craft video responses to each member with his/her thoughts to close the loop.

4)     Once this interaction has occurred, the students will be directed to write an analytical paragraph about the song, with the life lesson identified in the claim/topic sentence and then providing their evidence and analysis which they will color-code to ensure balance. This will be the fourth analytical paragraph the students have written, so they would know the drill. Students will comment on the Discussion Board post using the designed peer review worksheet provided.

5)     After receiving feedback, the students will move their paragraphs to ONE shared Google Document. They will then watch an online video lesson about crafting a thesis statement and introductory paragraph. Based on the paragraphs and claims that have been submitted and using the online lesson as a guide, they will each propose an intro/thesis on the google doc in pre-set tables that would work for their collective paragraphs. They will then look at each other’s work and collaborate in writing to compose the most effective intro/paragraph, hopefully building on the initial entries, not simply picking one to use.

6)     The students will watch one final video on creating 1) an MLA Works Cited entry and will each be responsible for building their own based on the YouTube video, and then 2) formatting an MLA document.

7)     The final task will be to take the Google doc, format the work into a correctly formatted MLA document with Works Cited page and upload it to a new Class-wide Discussion Board Forum so all the students could see. I would then create a Camtasia video reviewing and commenting on each of the drafts.


 Okay, if you have any feedback and/or suggestions, I’d love to hear it. Thank you and looking forward to reading all your amazing ideas!


Blurring the Line between Group Work and Group Projects

We must see group work as a component of a group project. The two are not necessarily distinct or different in my mind. Effective group work grows into a group project. In Janette Larson’s video, she distinguishes between group work and group projects in a helpful way, but one that I think I’m gonna push against ever so slightly. Whereas group work consists of low-stakes assignments that can be done quickly and in class, group projects are high-stakes assignments that require outside meetings and work. In my own classroom, this is largely how I have treated them up to this point, but, in OWcourses, I want to begin scaffolding major group projects through group work that adds pebbles to the bucket across the semester. Group work-projects, if you will. To help you imagine this, I want to brainstorm you through this collaborative work-project that I’ve been chomping at the bit to do: the Canonizing Climate Fiction working site.

The assignment is a semester long project that results in a class-curated website on climate fiction, or literature about climate change. This course website will do three things (which correspond to three/four assignments). I want it to be populated with critical blogs and essays written by students about the novels, poems, short stories, and films that we analyze in class. I want it to act like a Wikipedia on climate fiction. I want it to have multimodal presentations that introduce readers to critical issues/keywords in climate fiction in an entertaining and educational way. I currently envision each one of these components as an assignment or series of assignments that students will perform throughout the semester both independently and collaboratively.

To start, I need to cultivate student buy-in. That’s where the website fits in, at least in my mind. Rather than having an assignment that is written for me and read by me, I want to develop assignments that students recognize will be read by others, strangers, potential employers, future friends, longstanding enemies, and perhaps other scholars in the field. While these seem like high stakes, I want to make it feel more doable through lower stake assignments.

Critical blogs would be my first step. These feel like the most natural assignment to migrate first, considering so many instructors already do them online. In the first few weeks, I want students generating and responding to content a lot. Similar to what we are doing here, I will ask them to respond to an open-ended prompt and then ask them to respond to a set number of people. These will be short: 1-2 pages. Furthermore, I will help students to recognize that these are the beginnings of their critical essays. Therefore, I can use this as a way to get students to start writing early and to set them on the path for revising later.

Transforming these blogs into critical essays would be my next turn. In order to do this, I will divide the class into working groups based on their interest. These groups will be in charge of identifying and generating content for the website by working together to revise blog posts into more formal essays that they are used to writing/reading. I want this to be done via groups because I want students to collaborate to decide what blog posts are most successful. Rather than having me act as an editor, I want every student in the class to assume that role to some degree. Additionally, I see this as a reiterative assignment. That is, students will be asked to send their essay through multiple rounds of revision with multiple people in their group at different stages. I want to really use this as a time to highlight the repetitive process of good revision, and I really want students to have time to develop something that they are really proud of, especially since it will be publicly available (with exceptions).

While working on this, I’ll also assign these groups various texts for which they will be in charge of creating Wikipedia pages. Students will either work in partners (or in triplets) on a single author or text. I will ask that they to essentially reproduce a Wikipedia page about their subject in form and content. I will task them with deciding what kind of information is most critical and how they want to organize it. At the same time, I’ll assign another two groups the job of peer reviewing their Wiki post. Much like Wikipedia, all students in the class will act as experts and will be in charge of correcting and refining their peers’ ideas.

Finally, I want all of these different elements to converge with a multimodal presentation in which the different groups work together to combine their thoughts into a coherent project with a clear thesis and strong, well-analyzed support that is visually/aurally interesting. For example, if one of the groups is organized around “Race and Colonialism,” then they might discuss how a novel, a poem, and a film work together to explore how narratives of climate change can illuminate the sovereignty of indigenous communities in the United States. For here, students can combine their own ideas from their blog posts, their essays, and their Wikipedia posts into a project with even bigger stakes—projects that they would be incapable of doing independently within the same constraints. Importantly here, I would also want to introduce them to new publishing formats such as StoryMapJS or TimelineJS that can give them new ways of thinking about the assignment/their argument/organization/publication.

When it comes to collaborative assignments, I think Janette hits the nail on the head. Without student buy-in and clear expectations, it won’t meet your own goals. Through these scaffolded assignments, I hope to teach students about the process of crafting, drafting, and publishing information in ways that can prepare them for future classes/careers. Additionally, I hope that these kinds of group work-projects can introduce students to collaboration in non-threatening ways. Most of these can be done independently to some degree, but to full completion. In this way, I also hope to show students that working fully independently is a myth. Good writing rarely happens in isolation, and I hope is work-project assignments can begin transforming how students think about composition more broadly.

I’d actually love to hear people’s thoughts on this. I’m not gonna lie. This is a massive project. I actually kinda see it as an on-going project that last for multiple years and multiple semesters. In this way, I hope that students can recognize how collaborative work is not limited to their current semester. Rather, they are still in collaboration with students from the past and with the students who will take this class and revise upon their work.

Sorry that got long… 🙂

Fostering Communities of Inquiry
Fostering Communities of Inquiry avatar

“My concern is that, even in courses that deliberately design collaborative activities, like Alex’s group project, there appears to be a disconnect between instructor intentions and student experiences. One way to resolve that disconnect is to make collaborative learning an explicit goal that we discuss with our students in OWCs, and an explicit element of our scholarly discussions of Principle 11.”

-Stewart, 2018

Hello all!

This is a challenging topic for me, so I am really looking forward to hearing about some of your own examples with collaborative assignments in your writing courses.

Outside of the one example that Warnock shared about his students working on a team project to develop an argument website, he did not share any other group projects in the online classroom. I definitely believe in collaborative learning, but I have become much more wary about developing high-stakes collaborative writing assignments. I have colleagues who do awesome collaborative projects with Wikipedia Editing, and who have their students go through the online student training platform. I have even participated in such a collaborative writing endeavor on Wikipedia with colleagues. However, I am just not brave enough to go there yet in my classes! I largely remain skeptical about high-stakes group writing assignments because of the many students who often complain that one person does most of the work.

What I have encountered in the past with group papers or assignments is that students are not truly collaborating, and just end up dividing up their work. I am guilty of “the divide and conquer” phenomenon myself when writing with colleagues. I have more recently convinced my co-author of a few articles to start writing individual paragraphs and sentences alongside me in a Google Document instead of our old way of dividing and conquering (she took the lit review and I took the methodology section on some of our quantitative studies because I was the math person). What I found was that the pieces that we “divided and conquered” were not as powerful as compared to when we truly wrote more collaboratively. We worked much better discussing our writing more intimately in a face-to-face setting when we were sitting next to one another typing away and bouncing ideas off one another. I flew back to Macau one summer so that we could finish writing a project together in-person.

Developing collaborative assignments is a complex process. It requires much more than just asking students to jump on a Google Doc and write collaboratively or to respond to their classmates’ ideas in a peer review or discussion forum response. Research supports collaborative learning, but applying it in practice is a challenge!

It’s not surprising that I have been influenced by one of my graduate professor’s research on “Cognitive Presence in FYC: Collaborative Learning that Supports Individual Authoring.” Stewart (2018) found that knowledge construction that resulted from collaborative activities in online FYC courses only took place when the instructor emphasized the value of engaging with multiple perspectives. I continue to value Stewart’s recommendations that group cohesion can be better facilitated when instructors “create activities that invite students to work together toward a common goal instead of co-existing in an online space where they work toward individual goals” (Community Building and Collaborative Learning in OWI). Again, creating that activity with the concept of a “common goal” and “engaging with multiple perspectives” is much easier said than done!

Thus, I would like to second Stewart’s recommendation that students in OW courses and all online courses for that matter discuss the topic of collaborative learning as part of a specific course goal.

Ok, so now I’ll get into the application part of this response! Something that I always do in my on-site courses is a debate related to a reading or topic we are discussing or analyzing. I typically keep the debate as an informal class activity, and I give students plenty of time to prepare for it in class. Students take a position on a topic and move to one side of the classroom to collaborate pieces of evidence from our readings or outside readings that support that position. I typically divide the classroom up into smaller groups of two or three within their position side so that they can have more intimate discussions. Then I ask everyone to stand up and move to opposite sides of the classroom to defend that position. Students can only speak once for their group, and I typically only allow them to speak for thirty seconds to one minute. This goes on for about ten minutes back and forth from each group. Typically, I have students write a response directly after the debate addressing a counterclaim that they heard about during the debate. That piece of writing serves as some type of initial scaffolding for their larger writing assignment (depending on the assignment that they are working on, I’m speaking broadly here—I do this kind of activity in most all of my writing courses regardless of level).

If I were to put this in-class activity online, I think it would work nicely as a low-stakes writing assignment for students. I could ask students to present their initial position or analysis via small groups of 4-5 on one side and 4-5 on another side. That way the discussion forum becomes more manageable. Then I can create a second task where students are required to explicitly use another student’s piece of writing within their response. Warnock suggests that if students are working on a critique that they “account for previous posts in their critiques” (p. 149). The same idea holds true for discussion forum responses in my proposed debate task. Students should build on previous posts by actually acknowledging other classmate’s propositions by writing their classmate’s names, and then building upon their ideas.

I can’t tell you how many teachers (novice and experienced) struggle with responding to their peer’s ideas my online TESOL education courses. In the first weeks of class, I provide heavy attention and examples of how to integrate a classmate’s ideas into a discussion forum response where students are replying directly to one another. If a student is not using their peer’s names in their response, I almost always send them an e-mail to discuss with them why it is important to include names and why it is important that we collaborate and build on one another’s ideas. I will get students who reply to another peer without writing their classmates name, and who just go on to write about whatever they want to without acknowledging the ideas they are actually responding to. Responding to classmates’ ideas on a forum and extending or adding novel ideas is a process that needs to be taught, modeled, and emphasized within any online course.

What I am learning from my reading adventures this week is that collaborative learning is a topic that should be explicitly addressed with students in any online course, and is a concept that should be addressed early on in a course.

Finally, I’m a musician, and so much about OWI reminds me of the community of practice that most all musicians are exposed to in some form or another. In my own training, I had to regularly attend and perform in masterclasses. I think the masterclass is a great way to envision the community of practice that I imagine my students interacting in.

“From Virtual to an (Imagined) Ideal Community”
“From Virtual to an (Imagined) Ideal Community” avatar

Dear All,

I must confess that coming up with ways to migrate f2f group work online is a bit daunting. As an undergraduate, I hated group work because I found that one or two people generally took over the project and not everyone’s voice came through. As an instructor, I have found successful group can transform the classroom into a real community. I like to do projects in my classes, and enjoy watching my students collaborate. One question I have is to what extent can the writing itself be collaborative without one student taking over?  In my classes, I often have students work in groups to write specific tasks, like to summarize an article. I watch them deliberate about what should go into the summary and find this conversation helps them develop their thoughts. I can see this kind of activity migrating effectively onto a whiteboard or message board.  In one classroom experiment, I organized the groups based on ability. I had a couple of really advanced students who needed to be pushed and I was afraid that if I dispersed them, they would end up dominating each group. This approach worked because they pushed each other. The other groups, I arranged based on skill level and strengths, keeping the groups stacked. While each member had different strengths, no one really dominated the group.  It seems like for a class of strong readers, group work will be successful no matter what. My concern is more for the weaker readers and writers who don’t necessarily know how to read tone. How do we make them less self-conscious online? (I feel it myself as I type this because I am more comfortable writing longhand. I find that my writing sounds stilted when I type on the computer.)  I have done group peer review conferences, and that has worked well. I like the idea of trying to set something like that up online. Janette’s video made me think about this in talking about synchronous meetings (something I did eons ago as a graduate student).  So, my questions are:

1) How does one create the trust and working rapport necessary for successful collaboration?

2) To what extent can the writing itself be collaborative without one student taking over?

3) How do we push our students to go (in Ken Bain’s words) beyond “surface learning” (doing the minimum to say they completed the assignment) and experience “deep learning?” I guess I’m reiterating Janette’s question of how to turn the experience away from a focus on grades and towards a learning community.

Online Collaboration Migration
Online Collaboration Migration avatar

Greetings! Here are my thoughts for this week:

This week I decided to go back and read Warnock’s introduction, and his emphasis on how an OWcourse can actually put the focus on more intensive writing while revealing the intricacies of the rhetorical situation, “students are writing to you and to each other in virtually all of their course communications, expanding ideas of audience, purpose, and context each time they contribute to a message board, create a blog entry, or engage in an email-based peer review” (xi). So for this week, I want to focus on thinking about how the OWcourse may strengthen collaborative work and the ways in which I present and scaffold an end-of-semester group project. Although, I think Janette’s point about the potential drawbacks (less autonomy for students who want an “anytime, anyplace” set up for their online classes) of extended group projects, I have been considering the possibilities of migrating a group project from an f2f course to an OWcourse

In my ENG 100 and HSE courses, much of the semester is devoted to different modes of rhetorical analysis (though I have become increasingly less jargon-heavy in my prompts and scaffolding). We start with the analysis of one text, next we move on to the lens assignment, then we incorporate research, and end the semester with the analysis of a visual artifact. The final unit is focused around ideas/ questions about gender identity, After analyzing 3-5 written arguments, we move into an analysis of a documentary called Miss Representation- I have students work in small groups for multiple class meetings- identifying rhetorical strategies the filmmakers use (editing, music, shot type, sequence, structure) and analyzing why they use them. This culminates in a group project where each group is assigned specific strategies to identify and analyze how these strategies work and why they’re used. Students can use PP, Google Slides or any other platform to develop a multimedia presentation for the class.

Some thoughts on why an OWcourse would benefit and might even strengthen this project

The visual aspect won’t get lost – here I’m thinking I would provide a model of analysis using clips from the film with recorded commentary that students could access when needed then after being set up in groups, students could asynchronously practice their own analysis of whichever strategies they feel compelled to pay attention to, recording their findings on a Google doc, including screenshots, or links to short clips of the documentary to give examples.

Group roles: One thing I need to strengthen in my f2f classes in the context of group work is careful attention to who does what. Warnock acknowledges the challenges of staying on task, and advocates for the assignment of group roles-“leader, meeting organizer, secretary, head researcher, chief editor” (149). I think an online space could end up making these roles more concrete and effective since many students might appreciate the dynamics of more clearly defined roles that need to be clearly laid out for the online context.

One idea that I heard on the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast that seemed to lend itself well to an online class while addressing many of the potential issues in Warnock’s section on Team Projects was the idea of the Scrum Board. Rebecca Pope Ruark, author of Agile Faculty, promotes the idea of using a Scrum Board to help students work collaboratively and track progress. In her explanation, a Scrum Board has three separate columns-To Do, In Progress, and Completed. Once groups are underway, they could track their progress on a virtual Scum Board-this could be a Google doc or some other virtual space -I’m open to suggestions! This would be specific to each group- with smaller sections for the responsibilities of each individual group member and the corresponding tasks. I imagine this would be a good space for groups to monitor their progress and I could track who is assigned which task and how each group member is contributing.


Finally, each group could come together to craft their final presentations- they may need to do a few synchronous planning sessions to develop the presentation, but they could break it up into individual components that each member could work on individually and then bring back to the group. One question I have is for the presentation itself- would we have synchronous sessions where the groups could present “live” or would we have a discussion space where students could view the presentations on their own time? I would have to work this out.

Feedback: This is another area where I feel like the possibilities of technology would benefit strong feedback. I would record an asynchronous response to their presentations- giving them feedback and assessment- attending to how effectively they worked as a group.Afterwards they could assess their own work both individually and collaboratively in a discussion thread specific to their group (though I’m hoping the Scrum Board will help recursively do much of this work).

I still have lots of questions and concerns about how this will translate/ transition but I am excited by the possibilities.


Supportive Learning Teams VIA Technology
Supportive Learning Teams VIA Technology avatar

Happy Saturday!

I love that this assignment has me already thinking about the courses I teach and I can begin the process of HOW to transfer F2F collaborative work toward online interactions.

Janette’s video and Warlock definitely gave me some ideas as to WHAT I can do ahead of time to have online collaborative group work feel purposeful versus a goal toward points or desired grade.

Janette’s discussion on building a foundation for students to see the importance of collaborative work beyond grade and more toward: personal development and communication skills, as the more desired benefits, is a nice way to get students to think about the larger reward at hand. This is something I’ll definitely use as Janette’s methods communicate the importance of collaborative work for students who may already carry the stigmas about online course being isolated experiences.

One particular assignment I give students is a photography project that then goes on exhibit for the campus.

Based on the themes we’ve covered throughout the semester (English 100 or English 201) students collaboratively create a photo album of images captured in their own community that highlight the themes discussed. For example, if we read ‘Borderlands/ La Frontera’ by Gloria Anzaldua, they can create a series of photos that capture their own understanding of the tangible and nontangible borders that exist in their own lives.

The second objective is for students work on a critical response, where they pull supportive evidence from the text to prove their photograph is doing that work.

Once the assignments are done, we usually display the photography and responses as the event for public viewing.

So the F2F assignment does two things: 1) Create photography 2) Create a space in which the photography can be viewed publicly.

Some ideas on how to make this happen online is to have students possibly create an Instagram or Facebook account. They can creatively name their account and create a mission statement based on the theme they’re working with. I figured this would be cool location to exhibit their work for public display. The collaboration would not only be the creation of the account and photography, but to have different group members respond to each other’s photography using the course material.

*The team can work on gaining a certain number of followers, an expected amount of photos for display, and find organizations on line who’d be interested in viewing the work their producing.

*The rest of the class can also respond to a certain number of photos with course material as an additional form of engagement.

*Perhaps to close out the assignment the group can write a reflective response about their project, how ‘collaboration’ came into affect, and the benefits of working together via online.

So that’s as far as the brainstorming has gone, but I feel accomplished knowing there’s possibility to bring the existing projects into OWcourses.

To Collaborate, or not to Collaborate–What was the question?
To Collaborate, or not to Collaborate–What was the question? avatar

Excuse my goofy title, Megen’s was so clever I tried to compete

Group work has become increasingly important to my courses and, like Janette (thanks for the great video!), the day where I don’t implement a group component to my course is becoming rare. (I used to teach under the quarter system, where class periods were about an hour each time, so group work was a less frequent aspect of my pedagogical training–so the function of it within my classroom is evolving).

Collaborating Digitally – Some BImage result for group work memeenefits

Before getting into specifics about a collaborative assignment I do, I want to throw in a few thoughts I’ve been having that sort of reverses the conversation present in the bibliography for this week. The bibliography, and even Warnock to some degree, seems to focus on how online collaboration creates unique challenges not present in the class and that, really, in-class collaboration is potentially easier. I’m not sure how I feel about that overall, having not taught online, but I do think there are two points where online collaboration creates unique opportunities that rectify some of the difficulties of in-class groups.

  1. Group work is often difficult in classes because student friend-groups have already been established, are often brought into the class, and often make students reluctant to work with others. I’m experimenting in my f2f classes with how to work around this, but online group assignments really don’t need to take this into consideration as much. Of course, I’m sure certain people won’t work well with each other, but that’s something that evolves over time rather than, usually, something brought in on the first day. (I find it interesting, though, that Janette actually cites issues of personality online as a difficulty–I’m perhaps just dealing with an especially difficult set of f2f personalities right now!).
  2. Based on what Warnock says about the textual basis of online teaching, group work online allows for students themselves to create a conversation and introduce texts–rather than me introducing an object of analysis, students could post something to their group, and then have the group respond. This is of course possible f2f as well, but then the student introducing the text needs a new task. The asynchronous nature of online classes eliminates that problem.
  3. Online group work is meditative, rather than temporally bound. What I mean by this is, rather than having a task to accomplish within a set boundary, class, online discussion boards or google docs allow students to put ideas and images, walk away and think, and come back later after reflection.

Collaborative Assignments in my ENGL 100s

Before I get into specifics, here’s a sampling of group-based activities I have done f2f:

  • Have groups create, on paper, a game together that makes an argument about a topic
  • Have groups do the same as above, but use Twine to actualize the game
  • Have groups create an advertisement for a product using magazine clippings
  • Have groups analyze a website together (I often use the NRA and BlackLivesMatter websites)
  • The common activity of having students move around the room together answering questions on topics (last semester I taught on ENGL 100 based on gender that included questions like “Should all genders be integrated in sports?”)
  • Have students create short presentations about book chapters

I’ll focus the rest of the past on the first in my sampler platter: having students create games together.

I do this usually in a section of my class dedicated to rhetoric. We go through multiple forms of rhetoric and eventually end with procedural rhetoric, definitions below.

Image result for procedural rhetoric

We play a variety of games in class (this is also done as collaborative activities), on a variety of topics: immigration (Papers, Please), gender transition (dys4ia and Mainichi), bullying (Lim), economic inequality (Spent and Cart Life). (Usually I teach two or three of Image result for dys4iathese games per semester). Then, at the end of this unit, I have students work together to design a game, in writing, which does one of the following: 1) Makes an argument about some important topic to them or 2) Addresses a group that is usually underrepresented in the gaming community (we brainstorm about who is underrepresented.

The activity usually goes well: students tend to like it; they find it creative and interesting and thought provoking. I am often not as satisfied with it, though, because it always seems rushed. It always seemed like something that, in the bounded space of the classroom, had to be quick and simple rather than something that spanned more time. I feel like all of that would potentially change if I brought this activity online.

Through the asynchronous, unbounded, and meditative possibilities of online communication, I could turn this activity into a longer project.

  • A google doc could transform into a place not to just put thoughts, but also to draw and put images of characters, to find conceptual images, to link to potential music etc. I feel like this is all possible in-class, but that the urgency to do this now may siphon some of the creativity and exploration that less rigid time constraints will allow.
  • I could help groups use the polling features on Canvas to get marketing data, essentially, from the rest of the class: what type of character would you prefer? How should our game end? Etc.
  • I could have students record their own thoughts on their games and designs, explaining how they contributed to the group, as a way of assessing the activity.
  • Discussion boards could operate as spaces to test ideas, to see what other groups or doing, to collaborate between groups, to share existing games that students think might be good models.

There are a lot of possibilities here with an online class. All of this, again, could be done in a f2f class (and now that I’ve written it all, I am excited to potentially try it next semester–I like this idea now much better for a f2f class than I did when I originally thought of it, so think you blog sounding board), but online it seems like it would be so much more fluid and experimental.

I am realizing this post is becoming a monster, so I am going to end there (I want to jump away and start designing a prompt for this collaborative project now).

I hope the semester is going well for everyone and not like the meme below–

Image result for group work meme