Thursday, July 28, 2011

Blog & Twitter Use

Recently I met with a professor who had her students submit a journal-type document to the D2L dropbox in past semesters.  They had to relate the course content to a current event or an event in their lives.  She instructed them to add each new entry to the top of a Word document and resubmit it periodically.  However, she felt sometimes like it would be beneficial to have a discussion about what they were posting.  The dropbox does not allow for a conversation like that - it is primarily meant to accept documents that are then graded so the instructor could comment in the grades or send an email.

A blog seemed like the perfect tool for this assignment.  We talked through the details and she decided that it made the most sense to create groups of 5 students using the D2L Groups tool, then set up one blog per group on which all 5 students were authors.  This created a convenient way for the students to read and comment on each others' posts rather than having to navigate to different blogs. When the students go in to post their message, they automatically see other posts students in the group have written. Plus, she only has to monitor five different blogs rather than 25 if they were all individual.

Then, is commenting required?  We got into the details of how discussions in D2L usually work and it just seemed overwhelming to grade.  The goal was not to have in-depth discussion; it was more to allow for commenting when natural.  So, I believe she decided to encourage commenting, but was going to require the students to write up a document reflecting on what the other group members posted (with some specific prompts to respond to) and submit it to the D2L dropbox.  I suggested that this kind of assignment might seem more authentic to the students rather than requiring a certain number of comments with a certain depth because sometimes they have to try hard to figure out what to respond to and it feels forced.

Sometimes a problem with hybrid teaching is the tendency to add more to the course and end up with a course and a half.  In this situation, more student time would be required to read each others' posts and write up the summary paper reflecting on other students' posts, so it's important to account for that time by reducing class time, if appropriate, and add points or weight to the grade to reflect the new requirements.

Twitter came into play because the topic she teaches has a lot of media attention and she thought she could tweet some articles the students might want to use for their journal assignment. It would also be a way for those interested in the subject to learn more.  The Twitter part would not be required.  So we set up a Twitter account for her and I showed that the students don't even need a Twitter account to view her tweets.

Yet another innovative idea that I'm excited to see in action!

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