Structuring online activities to prioritize communication, collaboration and interaction have been on my mind a lot lately due to the fact that many of our students are suffering from social isolation. COVID remote learning has been a long haul. I think this really does require a shift in thinking away from simply disseminating information and laying out resources and assignments to prioritizing dialogue as a pedagogical tool to enhance learning.
Throughout this week’s material, we learned of the importance of the teacher’s role in developing effective dialogue. One area that I focus on in discussion activities is the use of open-ended questions to encourage students to start thinking creatively and encouraging them to explore ideas with their classmates rather than seeking the right answer to something.
In our synchronous classes, we are intentionally using more shared tasks, splitting students into groups, and using breakout rooms in Google Meets. As a tool, it’s not without its challenges but it is really nice to be able to go from room to room and join in with students here and there to help prompt and guide where needed. The collaborative nature of the Google Suite allows so much flexibility in working on tasks together. For my teaching context right now, I’m exploring the concept of a Flipped classroom with small group discussions taking place in the breakout rooms prompted by those open-ended questions.
In terms of encouraging participation, I think setting ground rules together with the students is always helpful. Inevitably, being someone who always dominates the conversation or being someone who doesn’t say anything are brought up as things to avoid. It makes everyone just a little more sensitive towards their responsibilities as a group member and provides some clear guidelines on expectations.
In terms of managing workload, well, I agree with everything that was brought up throughout this unit such as firm schedules with office hours and maintaining boundaries. I think the more we front-load our planning and structure our time, the less time we waste in reactionary work. One strategy that I use both for myself and my students is to always set an end time for a discussion or an assignment, etc. Setting a time budget prevents a lot of wasted time looking for inspiration or taking too long to make decisions. If you know you will be reporting back to the group in 20 minutes, those 20 minutes will be much more focused than if you were to be reporting back to the group the following day where you’d probably be spending the 20 minutes coordinating with your group on when to get together to discuss the question!
And now, I’ve reached the end of my allotted time for this post so I am posting!
Thanks for checking out my post this week 🙂
Baker, D. L. (2011). Designing and orchestrating online discussions. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7(3), 401-411. Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/ vol7no3/ baker_0911.pdf