Creating Communities with Computers

Let me start of this blog post by saying that creating an online community for Social Studies 30 is proving to be quite difficult for my brain. I think it’s difficult to create a blended space when the people providing feedback are only going to see the online aspects of it. However, the readings this week definitely made me reflect on my teaching practice; I realize most of my classes only have face-to-face discussions, with little room for students to share their thoughts in an online community. I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen a lot of benefit from having discussion forums on Moodle and similar platforms, so the whole idea of creating online discussion spaces went out the window for me.

Because I have failed in the past to create online communities, this week gave me time to think about the reasons why they didn’t work. Here are my top 3 concerns with creating an online discussion space:

  1. I don’t want to take away the time I set aside for face-to-face discussions, since I think facilitating discussions is one of the most rewarding ways for students to learn from each other.
  2. I find the same problem persists in online discussion forums: some students speak up and provide insightful feedback and others do not.
  3. In my experience, online forums usually become so structured it loses the natural flow of discussion and conversation. 

Image result for technology community

Image Retrieved from: CampusTechnology

Last week, I wrote a blog post explaining what kinds of programs I use for blending my classrooms: Google Classroom, WordPress blogs, and Moodle. Elizabeth and I have discussed at length which platforms we want to use for our SS 30 course, and I think we’ve come up with a good balance.

Since we are teaching a higher level course, and our students will be able to navigate multiple platforms with instruction and scaffolding, we are using a combination of Google Classroom and blogging. Elizabeth is also going to be using Zoom to help engage students in a Confederation simulation. I have opted to focus more on a blogging community, as I think the types of discussions that Zoom offers would be done within my classroom with TodaysMeet running in the background (to replace the text chat aspect of Zoom).

For my module I decided to use blogging for discussion because students will have more control over their digital identities. WordPress blogs are totally customizable, so students can demonstrate their personality and knowledge in a way that reflects who they are. While the initial set up of blogs is more time consuming than a traditional forum, I find that discussions, feedback via comments, and pingbacks have a natural flow of discussion for students. Additionally, I have found that students tend to reflect more and edit their posts because they recognize they will reach a larger audience.

When I implement this module in the classroom, I would also create a blog hub, similar to the one for EC&I 834 or the one I created for my Media Studies 20 class. I am hoping this will make it easier for myself and other students to provide feedback on each other’s thoughts. I also find that students snowball off of each other’s reflections, and students’ writing improves over the course of the semester. Elizabeth goes into more detail about how we will be structuring our blogs in terms of assessment (pingbacks, comments). So, instead of repeating the information, I am just going to let you read the wisdom that is Elizabeth! We seem to have similar ideas on how to create a community online.

The prompts for discussion will vary; the ones I am creating for my particular module will be linking economic models to current events. Sometimes I will provide content

of economic models and ask students to find a current event that it links to, while other times I will provide a current event and ask them to find the connection to an historical economic model we are studying. Now, I am trying to think of an example for what Bryce-Davis describes as a “ringer.”

 

 

Ringers are the surprise events, the small rocks tossed into the glassy surface of smoothly operating community discourse. For example, a surprise guest in a chat room can be a ringer, as can a contentious statement from a participant. A new or unusual activity can also disrupt the established patterns and expectations just enough to renew interest. Ringers can be planned or serendipitous, but in either case, they keep a virtual community awake.

I love the idea of breaking up the normal structure of a classroom and surprising my students with a new task or lesson. I have some thinking to do for the next couple weeks on how I will break up the structure of my module and creating a ringer to remember!

  • Koskie Out!

2 thoughts on “Creating Communities with Computers

  1. I really liked Bryce-Davis’s section on the 4 r’s. Rules, rituals, rounds and ringers. I think that teachers need to pay more attention to ringers. The idea of catching students attention, drawing them in allows students to be more engaged and invested in the learning. I remember a few teachers doing this when I was in school and I loved their classes because I always came out of them remembering something.

  2. Please please post when you think of a good ringer to use! I love the idea of throwing something at the students that shakes up the norm but helps them become more engaged.
    Quick funny side story about a literal “ringer” I threw at my grade one class a couple years ago. We were doing a Social studies lesson on needs and wants and I made my phone ring in the middle of the lesson (literally this was the ringer I guess!) I faked a conversation with the prime minister of Canada who told our class that in a half an hour a spaceship was coming to take us to the moon and so we were going to need to make a list of the most important ‘needs’ to take with us. The kids were pumped and working together to discuss what they would need to bring… until one kid looked over and said why is J______ crying? Poor kid was in the fetal position BAWLING on the carpet because he didn’t want to leave his family/pets/home on Earth. 😬 Oops! EA had to take him out of the room to calm him down and explain it was just a part of the lesson.
    So even though you teach high school- my advice is go easy on them lol!

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