Thank you, Jim, for revisiting so many interesting posts in your blog: http://jimifac.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/tomooc-fishing-in-week-4/

I was especially interested your review of Julio‘s posts.  Thanks, Julio, for such thoughtful posts! :

1) I, too, worry about the audio file/voice message not leaving a paper/typed trail.  In fact, that’s my biggest concern.  However, the way I use the audio files just sort of complements or emphasizes the written feedback the students receive on their essays.  If I were a student, I would definitely need the written feedback trail.   And, I agree with you that discussion forums with audio files would leave me feeling at loose ends.  After Heather’s (?) presentation about allowing students to use a variety of tools (audio, visual, etc.) to introduce themselves, I thought maybe audio would a great option. But now, I definitely pull back from that idea.

2) I’m trying to wrap my mind around your really insightful comment, Julio:

I can’t help but feel that teamwork, like some other strategies (such as webinars), are carryovers from F2F learning contexts. In other words, in classrooms with 20-50 students, small groups or teams are a practical alternative to everyone shouting all at once. Online, the conditions are different, and the purposes for certain strategies that are useful in onground classes may not be as relevant online. Perhaps we ought to reverse engineer the practice of teams: begin with the purposes of teamwork then explore purely online strategies for achieving them. In this way, form follows function.

I was really struck by that last line.  I often feel like something genuine is missing in a lot of the group work.  Like the tail is wagging the dog.  This comment struck me fully this week because, in my f2f developmental writing class, I decided to try something new.

In the past, the course has been designed because of dept guidelines in way that created this pattern:  Assign an essay.  Teach a mode (eg., compare/contrast) and read sample essays. Give students a few sample topics and let them explore their own (eg., two bosses you can contrast, two social media tools, two places, (yawn!)etc.)  Put them into random groups (some ability based, some content/topic based, etc.) to prewrite and peer review.  It has always seemed so flat to me.  Where ‘s the true motivation to share, inquire, explore, and write vigorously?

Yesterday,   I flung open the doors at the beginning of the process, telling them they would have to discover any common interests or experiences they have, group themselves, and then talk about various “ways in” to discovering their specific topics within that group and, ultimately, get around to figuring out how to use compare/contrast as a mode to further their thinking and their writing.  So, I asked: Anyone interested in traveling? Anyone have a regret they could write about? Anybody a driven athlete?  Anybody think about technology a lot?

Then, I left them to discover each other, to discover what they would possibly want to work on as a group that could generate different perspectives and interesting dialogue.

I hope to see individual essays emerge in each group under the umbrella of one common broad interest and the essays will sort of end up being anthologies that can then be shared with the other groups. But, who knows what they’ll do.  They may actually start writing in reaction to each other.  That would be great!  I always talk to my students about the need to see their college writing as additions to the academic conversation that exists around them (rather than as downloading and regurgitating information), so that’s my hope here — for them to start  senses what it feels like to be in an academic community and  conversation.

Anyway, the essays may end up looking the same as they always look from semester to semester, but these students need a chance to take control of their group-making and discussion and become more “alive.”  So, there you have it:  That’s why Julio’s comment about the form following function really struck me.  I hope that makes some sort of sense! 😉  Hard to describe, but it feels like a significant shift in empowering the students to create group work — rather than be assigned to groups — and to see it as theirs and as meaningful exchange.

Now, I have to think about what this means for my online writing classes!  Hmmm…

Mahalo! -Tanya

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