Friday, November 13, 2009

Ted Talks Note Taking Project

This was my first technology project, and the reason this blog was created in the first place. I did this with students while I was doing observations as part of a professional development school program prior to my student teaching. Luckily, I got to do my student teaching with the same teacher, Mr. Wright, so I was able to continue after the success of this project.

Basically, I had a list of talks from embedded on this site. Students could choose the speech they wanted to listen to, and then they would take notes on it. I also had them leave comments on what they thought of the speech on the blog.

It worked all right. students did the project as homework, so not everyone participated. Also, there was some confusion about how to make the comments. Some students left notes on the youtube pages linked on this site. If I were to do it again, I think I would embed the videos in the blog, and have students do it during class with headphones.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

We have been speaking in class about the power of expectations. Whom do you think has the most power in Vermeer's household? How does this person relate to others? Does this person have a lot of preconceived notions and expectations about people? Do these expectations help this person or hinder them? Do the people this person has power over submit to their power, or do they fight against thieir power?
Is there a difference between secret and shared expectations? Do secrets allow expectations to be built up, and are they used by some characters to build up expectations? Discuss an example of a secret expectation from the novel and think about how it changes when the secret becomes shared.
Is there a difference between public and private expectations? What role does gossip and rumors have upon expectations in the novel?
Do expectations have a lasting effect, or is time going to eventually change expectations into reality? What happens at the end of the book to support your answer?
What effect does Griet have upon Vermeer? Why does he allow her to learn about painting? What does he see in her that he does not see in his wife? What are his expectations of Griet, and what are his expectations of his wife?
Discuss any differences you noticed between the expectations found in Vermer's household and in Griet's home. Which view of reality do you find to be the most realistic and why?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Synchronous Blogging Research

All Research by Jason Clarke

Please see for further discussion and examples of Synchronous Blogging Prompts and student comments.

Instant Gratification - Synchronous Blogging

In talking to teachers about class blogs I've found that a number of people have experimented with them, but that a lot of us have not had much success keeping them going. I've also found, in trying to come up with new names for my class blogs, that there are a lot of class blogs out there with one or two posts and a few scattered comments that have died an ignoble death and lie floating in cyberspace unloved and known only by those who wish we could take their domain names. I think that unfortunately this lack of success is causing many teachers to turn away from the technology before they realize that there is a better way.

One mistake that many teachers make is that they make the blog an out-of-class assignment and then they stretch the discussions out over a period of weeks, or even an entire semester. While I think that this can be valuable, and in the right circumstances it could work, I think that one of the keys to a successful class blog is instant gratification.

The thing that makes chat rooms, instant messaging, and text messaging so appealing to this generation is the instant feedback that you get when you're communicating live with another person or, better yet, a whole group of people. When you post a comment to a class blog as homework nothing happens other than your post going up on the page; it may be days or weeks before another student responds to you (if they ever do), and by then you've long forgotten about your comment anyway. And if the blog does eventually pick up some steam, when it's your turn to post there's usually a lot of reading to do just to get caught up with the discussion and it starts to feel like a chore to read all of the previous threads. Students end up just making up a random comment to fulfill the assignment that doesn't do much to further the conversation. That is a major reason that so many class blogs die in their infancy--they're pretty boring for both teacher and students and eventually everyone loses interest and gives up on them.

By setting up a silent discussion you can have thirty students in a computer lab all communicating in a way that allows for instantaneous feedback and no-waiting participation. You don't have to wait for the teacher to call on you, and you don't have to wait days for someone to respond to your message. You can have five or six conversations going on in the same class, all at the same time. It's all instant, it's all online, and perhaps best of all, it's all silent.

Gender Differences

This summer I conducted a review of literature focused on quantitative research regarding the relationship between online discussions and student performance. Obviously, student performance is a subjective term and it is operationally defined quite differently from study to study, but overall there is overwhelming evidence of a clear correlation between online discussions and increased student achievement.

I have written up my findings and I plan to go over some of the more interesting aspects of the research here in this blog over the next few months. But in the mean time I wanted to share one particularly interesting finding.

Building on the overwhelming evidence that women are underrepresented in traditional classroom discussions, which tend to be dominated by male voices, Caspi, Chajut, and Saporta (2006) conducted a study in which they examined the relationship between gender and participation in both face to face and online discussions. Relating overall participation to the baseline attendance ratio they were able to determine whether women were underrepresented or overrepresented in terms of their contribution to discussion in each environment.

Not surprisingly to those of us who have run class blogs ourselves, women were significantly underrepresented in face to face discussions and yet were actually overrepresented in terms of their contributions to online discussions. Why females prefer the online forum is not yet entirely clear, but the implications for anyone wishing to run an equal-opportunity classroom are obvious. Though neither is a perfect forum for discussion, providing opportunities for both types of discussion to take place in a classroom is the best way to ensure the greatest number of voices will have a chance to be heard. Relying only on old-fashioned face to face discussions in a classroom is simply not a recipe for equal participation.