As I watched the video and read through Chapters 4 and 5, I felt lucky that I teach in a discipline that lends itself to student generated content. I can see how other disciplines might have trouble transitioning from the face-to-face to the fully online teaching environment. I have found that most of my content and practices have transitioned fairly well, and the discussion this week has shown me why. I teach with a fairly student centered approach.
However, the transition is not automatic. As we have read this week, the transition takes place through a filter of technology(ies). I have been reflecting on the assignment I mentioned earlier in the week in the Google Doc, since it is one that I have not yet migrated to the online environment (as I have not taught Engl. 201 online, though I want to try it), and I thought it might be useful to post some of my thinking regarding that particular assignment and how it might pair with available technologies — and maybe someone more adept might have some excellent tech suggestions that might make it even better.
As I mentioned, I teach my English 201 with a dystopian literature theme, so we read all kinds of great novels, short stories, plays, and poetry. I designed the course so that we read one work from every decade between 1900 and 2000, and we examine the evolution of the genre. However, I leave out the 1960s, which is a great decade for dystopian works. I allow students to choose the works we examine from this decade, in small groups, then they craft a presentation for the class about a particular work. They choose their novel about halfway through the semester and present a few weeks before the end.
- I allow the students, in small groups, to each choose a different work from that decade. Online, I could assign students to groups and provide them with a private discussion thread to consider their options. This could also be accomplished through a Google Doc or one of the many chat apps, though I would want to have access at this stage to provide thoughts/feedback/guidance.
- They then read the work and develop a presentation for the class that includes information about the work, the author, the time period, and then compares the novel to the other works we have read as a class. Perhaps a private discussion thread might work well here, too, so they can discuss the work as they read it. Or a WeChat group, which might be easier to participate in while reading. A Google Doc, again, would be useful as they conduct initial research for their presentation and begin outlining it. I'm also considering a synchronous video chat, maybe through Skype, for the individual groups so they can meet, talk, brainstorm, etc. during the process.
- In my face-to-face class, they all present on the same day in front of the class. They often use PowerPoint or bring visual aids. Online, there are so many options. I have been considering having them present through video, through a presentation platform like Prezi, or through a thorough, multi-media blog post. Or through something amazing that I don't even know about. I think there are a lot of options here.
- I definitely want the class to be able to respond to the presentations, with questions, comments, evaluations.
I think the project will translate, largely because students drive the process. The students get to use their developing understanding of the genre to make choices about the work they’d like to examine, then they develop biographical and historical context for the work through their own research and present their findings to the class. The insights and connections they make belong to them, and the presentations are typically excellent. Throughout the process they are mining the biography and history associated with the work and determining what is relevant to understanding the work.