An antithesis to my last post, “Acceptance of Mediocrity, Web 2-point-oh-oh!

Well, actually more of an ‘alternate spin’ on web2.0 than an ‘antithesis’. I must admit to seeing an element of accepting mediocrity in some students that concerns me. An example of this is the quality of work that students believe is satisfactory to hand in.
When a student asks me, “How long does this need to be?” my favorite answer is, “It needs to be as long as it needs to be!” The idea here is that a good answer can come in 4 or 5 eloquent sentences, and it can also come in a 7-page treatise… Unfortunately a poor answer can also vary in length considerably- often weighted on the light side. What surprises me is when I read something far less than exemplary, that a student hands in, and I ask, “Are you happy with that?” or “Would you like to work on this some more?” many students choose to settle for what they have already done… (“Perhaps you didn’t understand that I wanted a good copy and not a first draft!”) Anyway, that is a small example that may be a comment on my assignment as much as it is on the acceptance of mediocrity.
Leonardo deVinci's notebook
So this post is not about discrediting the point of my last post… rather, it is about validating the use of an interactive web that engages students in ways that may not always be apparent or available in a ‘webless’ classroom.

Here are my Ah-ha moments with the world of Web2.0h-Yeah!
These are two on-line ‘conversations’ that happened to in my 10-day Da Vinci – Renaissance Fair Project that I did, which included a blogging component. Neither of them are outwardly profound, but when they happened they were profound to me in that they showed me the potential the web has for engaging students as ‘owners’ of their learning.

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• In Vanja’s first blog entry, she posed an open-ended question and then said she was going to search for more information on the topic. She got a comment on her post and personally responded to it, mentioning that she was still seeking information. Then Charlotte commented and here is Vanja’s next response:
“ ..umm Charlotte I was actually hoping that you would actually post something to either contradict or go along with my observations.. not just say that’s meaningful and true.. Tell me what you think is meaningful and true!!” – – – – –

Vanja both wanted, and demanded a learning conversation. For me it was wonderful to see a student expecting more from her peers, or should I say, from her community of learners.

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• In our Social Forum, (a community blog), Andrew asks, “we need some help trying to figure out what the animal in Leonardo’s drawing is.

Here are the first 5 of 16 comment responses:

1. From what I can see thats a bull. I can see least thats what I think it is.

2. I think that is either a bull like Vanja said or it could be an ox.

3. I think it’s a bull or goat. If you ask me, it looks more like a goat.

4. Its probably a cow……….

5. According to my close observation, it looks neither like an ox or a cow. Because it’s horn is too long, and it looks too slim and skinny to be like a cow or an ox. So I think it might be a goat or something other than cows. (Like what Alessandra had said) But why is that animal over there? It is there for a reason??
Lily – – – – –

I was asked yesterday in a Math Learning Committee, “How do you know when your students are learning? My quick response was, “When they are asking the right questions.” That is exactly what Lily did above. What I liked most about her comment is that I thought of her question, (Why is the animal there?), before reading the comments. That question was going to be my ‘teacher comment’… but the students didn’t need their teacher here!

I couldn’t believe the breadth and depth of what was shared on-line.

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These are small but significant occurrences in the wonderful world of web2.0h Yeah!

Here is the Powerpoint I ran continuously during the Renaissance Fair. It showcases some of the online learning that occurred during our time together: Part 1 and Part 2.

Here now are a few parting comments from students. These are from a voluntary reflection on the course:

From Cynthia, “I learned more by sharing than by searching.”

From Mona, “You actually get to learn with each other and help others learn.”

From Michael, “I really liked the use of blogs and forums for this project. It really keeps everyone connected even outside of school.”

From Lily, “It was fun doing this project and I enjoyed this kind of learning experience when you get to find your own knowledge rather than laying it all out for you. I feel that I have achieved something really good each time I’ve found some interesting facts on the blog and the dialogues, which made me put more time into these things. I realized that this could be another way of learning new things and also communicating with each other rather than finding information by yourself. Our project was very successful because our new idea really amazed a lot of people, rather than showing off Leonardo’s inventions. I wish that people still contributed to the blog either on the forum or on the dialogue next year!”

(Lily checked in with her last post about 3 weeks after the course ended.)

Originally posted: January 25th, 2007

Reflection upon re-reading and re-posting:

One of the hardest things for me to figure out… even to this day, is what kind of ‘voice’ I should have online. The interesting thing here is that I don’t think there is a ‘right answer’ to this, just a learning curve that we all need to go through. Also, this may change depending on the project. One person that has blogged considerably with students and considered the importance of ‘voice’ is Konrad Glogowski. I’ll leave you with a link to his post: Learning to be Myself:

What I am really concerned about, however, is my own voice. For the past three years, my three successive grade eight classes enjoyed blogging and created successful and engaging blogging communities. Most of the time, this development took place without me. While I certainly encouraged my bloggers, discussed their work in class, and posted comments to involve my students in instructional conversations, I have always been absent as a person. This year, I want things to be different.

I wrote about ‘Biting Your Digital Tongue‘ in a future post, that I will link here when I get to it in this reposting adventure.

I’m very interested in how other teachers have found their ‘voice’ to be different online with students?

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