Chaos of Choice

This past week in class I had my students begin preparing for a Discussion Board assignment: straightforward, direct, rather basic discussion board assignment: they were going to respond to a classmates’ initial discussion board post.

There was one catch…they had to get approval from me as to whose post they would be responding to. As I suspected, they all wanted to respond to their best friend’s initial post. I shot that idea down and made them choose another student’s post to respond to. That is when CHAOS reared it’s mischievous head. Students asked for the same friend a couple of times, others asked for their “other BFF” from class, several tried to argue/debate the reasons why they should be allowed to respond to their friend, others inquired repeatedly as to why they could not respond to their friend, and other students went back to their seats and sulked.

The purpose for my not letting them respond to their “BFF’s” initial discussion board post was to get them out of their comfort zone and to have the interact with other students. Being able to comfortably, confidently, and appropriately interact and respond to others is a necessary skill. And in my not so humble opinion, it is becoming a lost art. I attempted to explain this to the classes, unfortunately my message was not making much headway.

A number of students then wanted me to pick the post they were to respond to. That was also something I did not want to do. The students were encouraged to read over the initial posts again and choose a post that they connected with. Just not a connection based upon being friends with the student. They were to focus on the message, not the author. It took some coaxing, but eventually they came around and chose another post to respond to, even if it was only grudgingly.

In the end the students overcame their angst and the CHAOS settled down. Students used this GUIDELINE to form their responses and overall did a great job for their first attempt at responding to others in a discussion board format.

Lucky 2013 Class Expectations

Well, it is a new school year and time for a new set of class expectations for 2013/2014.  Every year my students begin blogging and I attempt to blog more; sometimes with success sometimes without.   I have several goals that I have been unofficially building towards the last several years.  They cover course content and classroom technology use.

My expectations for class content and topics is to cover as much of the 20th Century with my history class as possible.  I am also in the process of flipping all of my classes, so I must continue to build and revise the class resources.  These goals dovetail nicely together, creating a dynamic that should play out well into the future. As our department builds towards expanding 20th Century US History into a two year course, the resources we use need to grow and adapt.  No longer will we need to rely on textbooks, but rather primary sources for the students to interact with.  The focus also needs to be pushed for more higher level activities to be completed in class, while the more basic tasks can be done on the students’ own time.  This reversal of tasks will give students more support for actually understanding the concepts we will cover.  By refining and adding to my resource library there will be more options for students to pull from when comes to finding the right type of material to work with.  We need resources that fit every type of learners needs and ability.

When it comes to new technology and tools this year, I plan to learn and teach the tools we use more in depth.  I also hope you o get my students more involved with collaborative projects outside of my classroom.  I have been using many tools for many years with my classes.  It does sound trite, but it is what it is…true.  The students need to see these tools integrated with each other and see how powerful they can be when used together.  I can start the process through modeling, but my hope is that the students’ imaginations will run with the concepts.  My students collaborate well within the class and within the school.  They now need to collaborate and participate outside of that small sphere.  I am hoping to have a number of students voluntarily participate in either the Flat Classroom Project or the Edublogs Challenges.  I will offer full support, but the goal is for them to want to participate in this new realm.

I will keep blogging about the progress of these goals and expectations as the school year plays out.  Hopefully they will be success stories, or learning experiences at the minimum.