EC&I 834

Moderating Online Environments for Students

Our reading this week from Tony Bates said that student Interactions in an online environment “need to be well organized by the teacher, and the teacher needs to provide the necessary support to enable the development of ideas and the construction of new knowledge for the students.”   For the course I am designing, the method that would best develop this theory would be blogging.

Much as Amy describes in her blog this week, I was skeptical about having my students interact online up until I started taking classes with Alec last winter.  Three classes later, and I am confident that I can make it happen safely and effectively with all I’ve learned about online interactions.  With careful planning and management of the online environments as discussed in the Bates reading, I as the teacher will be an online presence for the students and will help them hold themselves accountable in their online interactions.  Similar to what we do in EC&I 834, I plan to use blogging with my AP students as a way for them to connect with the texts we are studying as well as to respond to others in order to start conversations about the literature.

By developing their blogging skills and using social media, I am hoping to connect my students with other AP students, teachers, and additional people who can help them in their construction of knowledge.  I am thinking about doing a “rotation” of blogging, where students can choose or sign up for the topic or chapter or theory or whatever the heck it is we’re discussing or learning.  By giving students some choices, it would help to ensure that the conversations are more authentic.  Sometimes it would need to be the teacher who decides (teacher-driven) so that all students are doing similar work in order for me to assess according to my division’s expectations, but with the help of my students and co-constructing the assessment guidelines, I could ensure that the students have more freedom within their responses.

In my reading this week, I looked through the Teaching and Learning Online Handbook from the University of Massachusetts.  This handbook reinforced what the Bates text said and provided some valuable examples and guidelines for communication, collaboration and assessment.  One thing that I am interested in encouraging students to use is the discussion forum section of my course in Canvas.

Screen capture of the Discussion screen in my course on Canvas… just waiting for student interactions!

I think the discussion forum could be useful as an interactive space for students that will allow them to connect with one another for support, questions, and to interact in a more relaxed forum than the blog, which will be for their serious academic writing.  I like the idea of having a discussion forum because it is a way for me to monitor the conversations.  My AP class currently has a group chat through an online app… but not all students want to be involved and at least two have technical issues with using the app on their brand of phone.  I foresee the Discussion forum being a place where students are more in charge of the conversations.  The UMass handbook guides teachers to:  “[e]ncourage students to discuss among themselves. Do not respond to every comment—interject and guide the discussion.” The UMass handbook also provides a sample rubric that instructors could use to assign a mark to online interactions.

Honestly, with my course being blended, I’m not entirely sure what else I could or should be using.  Many of the interactions that I have planned are designed for face to face, with the course I’m developing being more of the supplementary materials and activities.  However, that is not to say that it will stay that way as we use the course.  I anticipate that the course will evolve just as surely as my face to face classes have evolved throughout the course of my teaching career.

Thanks for reading!


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