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.
So, my students added to their timelines in Honors US History I, overall they turned out well, I am extremely happy with how the project is progressing.
There are a number of things about the project that are in the running for my favorite aspect of the project, but I think I must say that having the students pick their own specific topics of research was my favorite aspect. Their ownership of topics seemed to give them more interest in their work. A close second was their presentations to the class, all of my students did well, and I see potential moving forward as they become more comfortable with speaking in front of everyone.
Some of the interesting facts that were shown by students were the fashions of the day. Attire seemed much more formal, which still boggles my mind, even though I have taught this era for a number of years. I wonder how I would have survived back in the day without Hawaiian shirts…
Looking back, I think we need to improve upon the turn in rate on Edmodo. There are still students who turn in the wrong links to their projects or do not turn in their projects at all. We are almost 3/4’s of the way through the school year, this should not be happening anymore.
Moving forward, I am implementing my students to reflect more on their projects. It is a takeaway from what my review of all the PETE and C Tweets. I used to have students reflect on their work, but it died out over time. It is going to be reinstituted at all levels, including my own, starting with this project. The reflections should help create better projects moving forward.
I rolled out the students’ blogs last week in three of my classes while my other three classes logged in today. Overall the students were very productive, they began personalizing their blogs and writing their class expectation blog posts. The three classes that started last week are almost done with the assignments and ready to move on.
I broke the assignment up for my classes up to keep me from dealing with the potential of six periods of chaos in one day. Today, all six of my classes were in the computer lab, we all managed to survive the day. Having half of the classes wrapping up the assignment while the others were starting allowed me to troubleshoot issues so much more effectively.
Speaking of troubleshooting, I did discover that for the most part, the students who had blogs from my class last year had a harder time remembering their log in information…which I anticipated. Most could log in to Edublogs, a few needed their passwords reset via their Gaggle student email accounts. A select few needed assistance to log in to both accounts, but this happens on occasion and the students were eager to help each other out while I helped with the administrative tasks.
The students who were new had an easier time, they were given their usernames and they all had a generic password to use. There were a couple of hiccups with students who were added to my class in the last couple of days, and one or two that I missed when creating the blogs. I am not sure of it was out school filter or an Edublogs issue, but several student accounts were rough to set up and once they were logged in, they had multiple blogs created from my various attempts to create accounts for them.
Their first task was to change their password to something they would remember. The students then had to make their blog the primary blog. This defaults the students to their personal blog instead of the class blog at sign in. From there they began writing their expectation post and personalizing the space. The processes were modeled the previous day in class, using the Interactive Whiteboard. In a couple of classes I had the students gather around a computer while a student modeled how to turn in the assignments or complete a task that was confounding several students.
The assignments were posted in Edmodo along with my classroom expectation post. I also created a couple of screencasts with Camtasia for Mac for students who may need reminded how to “Turn In” their blog posts and/or personalize their blogs. The videos are posted on YouTube and SchoolTube for general access, they were also embedded in a folder within my Edmodo classes for easy access by my students. I could not resist name dropping tools so I can add the tags below…
All in all it was a very productive day, with many lessons learned and everyone playing different roles; students as teachers, teachers as learners. It was what school and learning is supposed to be about. And the chaos…it was nothing like I had feared.