The following post is part of my MIL research project and is the first of four posts that describe the asynchronous discussion assignments I used in the study: peer review/small group discussion, medium group discussion with very directive guidelines, social bookmarking with Diigo discussions, and multimedia discussion forums.
Most people don’t think of peer reviews of student essays as discussion, and if you stop at the step where students provide feedback to each other on the written work, then yes, there’s not much discussion going on there. But that doesn’t mean you can’t turn peer review into a meaningful asynchronous discussion activity. Here’s how I run peer reviews in my ENG102 class. First I create groups of 3-4 students. Then I set up the questions that I want for students to answer during the peer review process. Giving students specific things to comment on helps them stay focused and makes it easier for them to provide meaningful feedback. The questions usually stem from the rubric that was provided to students during the writing process. My thought is that if students composed their essays under certain guidelines, providing feedback based on those guidelines could be helpful. So for example, the rubric points out that 10 points are awarded for a strong thesis statement that either takes a position or proposes a solution to a problem. During the peer review process, I ask students to review the essays of the students in their group and answer the provided questions. One question instructs students to highlight what they think is the thesis, identify it as either a position or proposal statement, and then weigh in on whether the thesis is a strong thesis or not. During the writing phase, students are tasked with writing a strong thesis, so this feedback they receive from peers is valuable.
Once each student has participated in this phase of the peer review, they are instructed to move over to Piazza for a small group discussion on the peer review process. This discussion is open ended with no specific guidelines about what needs to take place. The instructions simply ask students to continue the discussion from the peer review by providing further commentary on the overall work that each student did for the essay assignment. Comments in this phase of the asynchronous discussion activity are the ones I found most enlightening. Many students took this time to thank their group mates for the valuable feedback they provided in the peer review phase. They express their pleasure in participating in such activity, and showed enthusiasm for helping each other. One group was so exciting to start the discussion phase that they started their own group before the instructor had a chance to set it up.
An additional benefit to a discussion like this is the opportunity to build community among students. If students feel like there are others who are willing to read their paper and provide valuable feedback, they often feel obligated to do the same – provide valuable feedback back. But they also grow to like the people in their group forming a bond that carries over to other activities in the class. I often find groups start to ask questions of each other instead of asking the instructor. This is facilitated if you have a good tool to do so, which is why I adopted Piazza to help with Q&A and discussions in my class. Students don’t feel like they are alone in this process after they’ve completed the first peer review/discussion assignment.
I’ve been sharing with my students this semester that they can use apps on their smartphone to help them stay connected with their courses in Canvas. These are the links to the apps:
All you need is your MEID and password to get it set up. The course URL you need to set it up is: maricopa.instructure.com. I’ve tried it both on my iTouch and my Android phone. It works pretty good for checking in on the courses. I also shared with them the apps for Piazza since we’ll be using that too.
Then there are browsers. So what’s the best browser to use with Canvas? I’d say Firefox. I’ve been telling students to download and install Mozilla Firefox. I warn them if they decide to use Google Chrome, they will need to give permission to view some content, like some videos. If you only see a black box or don’t see a video that is supposed to be there, you must be using the Chrome browser. For all flash content you have to give it permission in Chrome. Just click the shield up in the address box and choose Load anyway –>
I end by telling them to please stay away from Internet Explorer, although that’s a hold over warning from when we used Blackboard. I might just have to give IE 8, or whatever number they’re up to, a try.
What is everyone waiting for? Just about every students who walks through your classroom door is carrying a powerful computer in his/her pocket. We need to start using them and stop just talking about mobile learning. And we don’t have to make it all fit in the classroom. Put those phones to use outside the classroom too. I’ve surveyed my students for the last 3 years and look at how many have cell phones. Only 1% (3 students) didn’t have one.
Ninety-one percent of my students have text messaging on their phones and indicated that I may contact them via text with important information. Yet, I didn’t take advantage of that. No, I haven’t sent one important information text message to my students in 3 years. However, they’ve undoubtedly received text messages in regards to my classes. How is that you may ask. Well, let me tell you. Many of the educational tools many of us use today, including our LMS have built in tools that allow for students to set up text alerts. For instance in Canvas, students have the option to add their phone number to receive SMS notifications. And in Canvas there are a ton of notifications that can be set up. We just have to tell them about it and encourage them to use it. Read more
2012 was not a very big technology year for me, at least not for new technology. This is probably good since a really good year would certainly mean I spent way too much money. I’ll share what little I did use in this post and then follow up later with more substantive posts on each technology then. Look in the Tech I Love category for these new posts. I’ve broken technology into two categories: web tools/software and hardware. Let’s start with the web tools/software. This list could be longer, but I only want to focus on the tools I actually used in my classes with students.
The most significant tool I used, and one that everyone in Maricopa will be using next fall is our new LMS – Canvas. I’m an early adopter, so I started teaching in the free version of Canvas last spring (2012). And this fall I taught in the official Maricopa version. I’m really surprised I haven’t blogged more about it, but I really like this LMS, and Instructure sure knows how to throw a
party; I mean conference. Next up is Google+. We don’t have G+ turned on for our students yet in MCCCD, but a few faculty have been using it with students via personal Gmail accounts. We had our learning community students use it for blogging and sharing content for the past two semesters, and it’s worked really well. We created a circle for the class and had students posting twice weekly. Students on their own turned it into a way to communicate with each other as well. Read more
Workshop: Wednesday, Sept. 26 at the CTLE in HT2-139
Lunch and Learn with Dr. Alisa Cooper: Engage Your Students with Mobile Devices. 11:00 am to Noon.
This workshop discussed mobile apps that can be used to engage students in the classroom, although all three web apps demonstrated can be accessed via web browser on a mobile device. Both Socrative and Piazza have native apps for both Android and Apple devices, but GoSoapBox can only be accessed on mobile devices via web browser. This method can actually be easier and quicker for students as they don’t have to download the app first to get started using the program.
During the demonstration we noticed that Socrative was problematic for some users and was overall very sluggish and slow to load pages on the mobile devices. Socrative is currently free and probably still working to polish its product before they move to a paid model. At this point, despite it’s clear usefulness, it may not be ready for prime time. It is worth giving a look at for use in the class however. Just don’t rely too heavily on it just yet. I’ve had trouble every time I use it.
GoSoapBox, a $90 per year paid for applicatoin, worked flawlessly. I guess it’s true. You get what you pay for. They have an alternate pay model where students can pay $10 per year for use instead of the teacher paying $90. Many institution will not find that model permissible at their institutions. For the most part, the features in both apps are similar, with GoSoapBox adding a “confusion barometer” in their app. “The Confusion Barometer allows students to indicate when they’ve become confused with material, or need the teacher to slow down. The teacher sees a graphical representation of the number of students who are confused at any point during class.”
There are some more subtle differences between Socrative and GoSoapBox, but both will do the job to get students engaged in your in-class lectures. I really like the ability to do “Instant Polling” in both applications. This gives you the ability to randomly ask a question verbally during class and have students answer on the device without you setting up the question in the program. You can write the question on the board or just speak it aloud, then give students an option to choose A, B, C or D or a free response answer on their device. This is great for questions that pop up last minute. My favorite feature out of both products is Socrative’s “Exit Tickets”. “Check in on your students’ understanding as they head out the door.” This pre-designed activity is already set up, so you can just instruct students to do it before they leave.
Lastly, I demo’d Piazza, a Q&A system that integrates nicely with Canvas. If you teach a class that could benefit from a place for students to hangout and ask questions and work together, Piazza is your application. Or if you find yourself saying, “if I have to answer that question one more time, I’m going to scream,” then Piazza if for you. Again this application works on a mobile device via app, but even better in a web browser. The mobile device does make it much easier to keep up with all the interaction happening on the site however. My class is not as active this semester, so once I get more use out of it, I’ll have report back about some of my favorite features. Until then take a look at all three applications below and play around with them for yourself. GoSoapBox offers a 30 day free trial and the other two are free (for now).
GoSoapBox: Instant Student Feedback App
The web-based application GoSoapBox allows teachers to gauge student understanding or confusion levels throughout a lesson, poll students and track the data for future reference. It can be used on laptops, tablets and smart phones, which sets it apart from some other clicker/student response systems. $90 per year or $10 per student per year. 30 day free trial.
Socrative: Student Response System
Socrative is a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets. FREE
- Video: http://vimeo.com/socrative/intro
- Socrative: http://socrative.com/
- Tour: http://www.socrative.com/how-it-works
- No Help
Piazza: Online Q&A Site for Courses
Piazza is a free online gathering place where students can ask, answer, and explore 24/7, under the guidance of their instructors. With Piazza, easily answer questions, manage course materials, and track student participation. FREE
- Video: On main page of site (no link)
- Piazza: https://piazza.com/
- Tour: https://piazza.com/sandbox/warm?close=fancy#
- Help: https://piazza.com/help.html
- PollEverywhere is another similar application to GoSoapBox and Socrative; however, until recently their pricing model was a bit steep for individual instructors, the number of students permitted to participate was too small, and there wasn’t a mobile option for the instructor, only responses. That has since changed a bit, and I look forward to checking it out again in the future. Check out PollEverywhere’s limited comparison of similar products.