February 22, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The discussion forum continues to be my favorite Moodle tool for supporting my EAP (English for Academic Purposes) course because it’s great for promoting
- collaborative, student-centered learning
- fluency in writing
- reflective writing and critical thinking
Also, its course management features make evaluating students a lot easier.
1. Post listening and reading questions
- Embed lectures or insert links to readings for students; have them answer reading or listening questions. (note: check the copyright policies if your Moodle course is hosted in a university.
- This helps to promote greater transparency when students can see one another’s answers and evaluate their own against others. Note that the discussion forum can be set up so that students can only view others’ answers after they post their own. (see “course management features” below)
- On Moodle 2.0, it’s easy for students to share video or other files. The students can add a video and post discussion questions for other students. This allows the students to take more control over their learning.
- Given the asynchronous nature of the forum, students are often more capable of providing more reflective and in-depth comments.
- Have students to post their assignments on the forum
- Assign them in pairs or small groups; and have them evaluate each other’s assignments based on a rubric.
- Have students to post their questions on the forum, so that the teacher doesn’t have to answer the same question many times on email
- Some students socialize and provide supportive comments to one another online. This facilitates cohesion as well as language use.
- Some students have a different persona online and it’s quite interesting.
- Also, as in classroom discussion, if conducted properly, teachers can participate with students on a more equal footing.
Course Management Features
- There are different types of forums. If you want to set up the discussion in a way that students can’t see other students’ answers before they post their answers, use the Q&A forum. If it doesn’t matter whether the students see others’ postings before they post, then use the General Forum.
- Depending on what you want to do, sometimes using the general forum shows that you have more trust in the students; it gives more support for the students as weaker students can see other postings before they post. However, if the stakes are high, i.e., a huge percentage of students’ marks depend on it, it may be better to use the Q&A forum.
2. Assigning Grades
- You can assign grades (qualitative or quantitative) for individual postings. The grades are recorded directly onto the Gradebook. This makes it easier to evaluate students’ participation at the end.
Should students be required to participate?
There are different views on this. Some believe that required participation (especially for an online course) takes away learner’s autonomy and may not be appropriate for learners who like to learn independently.
But as far as using the forum to support an EAP class, my view is that the discussion forum should be the front and center of the course, and participation (both in quality and quantity) should be graded. Some learners are not familiar with the technology; and they will not use it unless they are required to. In my experience, many students enjoy using the forum and find that it helps them to improve their writing.
How can I correct students’ grammar on a discussion forum?
December 5, 2011 § 1 Comment
Using the definition of technology as “orchestration of phenomena to our use”, Jon Dron in this presentation, distinguishes between soft and hard technologies. Soft technologies are more “needy”and require active orchestration of phenomena by humans; hard technologies, on the other hand, do not require much human intervention, given that the act of manipulating the technology is already built into the technology itself. For instance, orchestrating the technology is already contained in the technology. For instance, a fridge is a hard technology that is easy to use; on the other hand, Facebook is a soft technology that is incomplete if there are no users.
These definitions, I think, are illuminating for teachers or instructional designers when it comes to choosing a technology to support learning. For example, having language learners to use a hard technology, i.e., completing self-contained online lessons, in a classroom are unlikely to promote discussion among students; thus, negating the benefits of being with other students in the classroom. Likewise, using soft technology for distance education, i.e., blogs and discussion forums, often requires the support from the facilitators or other learners, without who learners may feel isolated and unmotivated.On the other hand, hard technologies, like giving podcasts to mobile learners to listen to can be useful; while using a soft technology that have many students vote for a particular issue in a big lecture hall can help to encourage participation.
Come to think of it, a tool, like YouTube, for instance can be both hard and soft. YouTube videos are themselves a hard technology. Teachers provide the YouTube link and students watch it. On the other hand, YouTube can also be soft, if students are encouraged to upload their own videos or do a voice over for a video.
The following technologies are those that I use ranked from hard to soft technologies
- Self-contained online lessons and quizzes; most iphone games
- Textbooks and videos (sometimes requires the teacher to contextualize the ideas for the students.
- YouTube videos (can be very hard or very soft)
- Moodle: a learning management system used for displaying course information; has a forum that allows for facilitated discussions
- Wiki:hard if it’s solely used as for displaying information; soft if users are encouraged to edit the pages
- Twitter: used for sharing links
- Diigo: used for sharing bookmarks
- MSN, Skype, or QQ
As Jon Dron pointed out, the selection of hard vs soft technologies depends on what our needs are.
Yet, there may be the needs for educators to incorporate more soft technologies in teaching. According to Don Tapscott, we are entering a new age, (not the information age) but the age of networked intelligence, marked by increased connectedness, collaboration,and people tapping into the intelligence of one another to fuel innovation. And for that, soft technologies may be better in promoting the ability to collaborate and innovate.