Three years ago when we did our last book adoption, one of the features we were looking for was a way to do peer reviews on student essays in an online environment. We chose a McGraw-Hill text because they had a tool that does this well. The tool is called Connect Composition and it comes packaged with our traditional textbook. Also built into our version of Connect is an online handbook, The McGraw-Hill Handbook. But within Connect we have the ability to set up peer review writing assignments. We can schedule the number of drafts we want to have for the writing assignment, choose pre-made review questions or write our own, and choose the size and makeup of the groups. It’s a pretty slick way to do peer reviews, and it’s really easy for students.
Below I created a video for students showing them how to participate in our most recent peer review writing assignment. Feel free to use this video with your own students if you are using Connect in your classes.
I’ve talked about Piazza before, but that was before I really had a chance to use it. I introduced it to students in my online ENG102 course last semester, but I think students asked about 3 questions all semester. They resorted to texting and emailing me most of the semester, and I pretty much didn’t enforce the “Ask Piazza rule.” But this semester, not only am I insisting that students use Piazza to ask questions, I’m also using it for discussions. This is part of my MIL project I’m working on this semester.
Using Piazza is very easy, especially since Piazza has an LTI that lets you integrate the tool right into Canvas. So I have a button on the menu bar that opens Piazza right in the Canvas window. It also takes the user information from Canvas to authenticate the user in Piazza, so they only have to log in once (to Canvas) and then they can go straight to Piazza without having to log in again there. I think I’ve already talked about how the Q&A works in Piazza. This post is more about using it as a discussion forum.
In Piazza instructors and students can ask questions or post notes in the Q&A forum. If they post a question, users are prompted to supply an answer to the question. Instructors have a place to answer and students have a separate box to answer in. Student answers are like a wiki. Other students can edit the answer to try to improve it. The instructor can then mark the answer as a “Good Answer.” I plan to use this feature in some manner later down the road. For now, I’m using the “notes” posts for small group discussions. When you post a note, users are not prompted for an answer, but are encouraged to post “followup discussions.” Follow up discussions let students post their own responses and then let’s others reply. Each student can post a followup discussion within a note. Read more
For two years we’ve been discussing a common assessment tool to use in all of our freshman composition courses at GCC, from ENG071 all the way up to ENG102. I participate in the ENG102 assessment group since I teach that course every semester. The course competency that we decided to focus on was: Find, evaluate, select, and synthesize both online and print sources that examine a topic from multiple perspectives. Our course competencies are so broad, as you can see, so we started by writing several Student Learning Objectives (SLO).
We then choose SLO 3: Locate at least one online source and determine the credibility of it by evaluating the validity of information contained within each source. We came up with a few tools that we could use for this assessment in our individual classes. This semester we have started to collect data from this common assessment, but I think we still have some ironing out to do.
In my ENG102 Freshman Composition course I have 10 assignments and four papers that students do before they submit their final research projects. Five of the assignments are research assignments and are required in order to submit a final paper. I named the research assignments Odysseys, something I borrowed from a colleague years ago when I first started teaching at CAC. The whole idea of the Odyssey assignments is to get students practicing several research skills in one assignment that are directly related to their final projects. This is how I introduce these assignments to students.
What is an Odyssey?
An odyssey, famous for a Greek epic poem (attributed to Homer) describing the journey of Odysseus after the fall of Troy, is a long wandering and eventful journey. This is a perfect description for writing a research paper. It’s not something that we put together in a day. Writing a research paper is a long wandering and eventful journey, so some of the key journeys in this process have been labeled odysseys to indicate their importance. All Odyssey assignments are required and must be submitted in order for your final paper to be accepted. No skipping Odysseys. They are mandatory.
The Odyssey assignments include: Read more
Over the past 5-6 years I’ve met lots of interesting people at conferences across the country and online via Twitter. And through this I’ve curated a very nice professional learning network. I’m not sure where I met Mark Isero (Twitter and Google+) originally, but we’ve been following each other on the internet for a while. I’ve been impressed with his work in teaching young kids and now with helping faculty at his school in northern California. Mostly I love his idea to collect Kindles for students at his school through his Kindle Classroom Project. He describes:
The Kindle Classroom Project was created in late 2010 with the goal of offering a set of donated Kindles to lower-income, urban students to promote literacy through reading and technology.
This is such a cool idea, and I really wanted to participate by donating my Kindle. But I had a hard time parting with my beloved Kindle 3. I mean I have a laptop and an Android tablet, but I just love my Kindle 3 with red cover with a built in light for reading books. Even when I find myself touching the screen to try to turn the pages or reach the menu, it obviously doesn’t work that way, but I still love it. But I eventually convinced myself that helping Mark and his students out was more important, and it’s a good cause. Plus it’s time to upgrade my Kindle to the latest and greatest reader.
If you’re a regular visitor to freshmancomp.com, you’ve probably noticed a LOT more posts recently. Well, don’t get too excited. I certainly can’t keep this up, but it has been fun trying to post everyday. I’m participating in a 30in30 self imposed competition. It’s nothing official that can be found on the internet, just a challenge for myself. The idea is to post 30 blog posts in 30 days. For the first 15 days, I did well enough to post one a day. But then school started and posting became a challenge. But I haven’t thrown in the towel yet. I just have some catching up to do.
I do a lot of reading of other blogs, and I really appreciate what others have to share with me and other teachers on the web. So I try to give back by posting about my experiences with teaching with technology. Often times I get stuck about what to write about. All my ideas seem so trivial to me. But I have to realize that what’s trivial for me, may not be so for others. So I’ll keep posting. I have to find a happy balance though. Going to bed every night and having that feeling that I’ve forgotten to do something is going to give me an ulcer, so I have set realistic goals for blogging in the future.
With 11 days left in January and 10 days left in my 30in30 challenge, I have 13 posts to meet my current goal. Piece of cake. However, when the challenge is over, I’m hoping to maintain a 2 times a week posting schedule. That should feel easy after completing this challenge. But if you don’t hear from me for a few weeks, be sure to post a comment to remind me of my goal. And if there’s anything you’d like to see here, let me know. I could use a few more blogging ideas.