Tuesday, June 16, 2009

5 Great Web Resources to Enhance Learning

Using the Internet to enhance the classroom experience is almost a must in 21st century learning. Here are five great ways engage students online and in the classroom.

Create a Class Wiki
Looking for a fresh way for students to work collaboratively? Why not create a class wiki. As a writing instructor, I love to bring my own interests into the classroom. One thing I love are movies. Recently I decided I needed a fresh way to write about film in a Freshman composition class. It all started with the use of a typical assignment I'd given over the years: to watch the film Rebel Without a Cause and write a character analysis. Students at College 2 found this assignment challenging as they they didn't have much experience writing an analytical, literary analysis. This came as kind of a surprise to me, as at College 1 dealt with this kind of assignment pretty regularly. As a way to better reach my students with this kind of assignment, I created a Class Wiki project.

After watching and thoroughly discussing Rebel Without a Cause, students were asked to choose their own film along the theme of teen drama--another love of mine. I then created a site on Wetpaint called Writer's Workshop.

The assignment: as a group, create a wiki page highlighting a teen drama. Students were asked to write a brief plot summary, three-five character analyses (depending on how many people were in the group), and a theme analysis. They were responsible for dividing the writing responsibilities, adding visual content (pictures, video clips, music, etc), and editing each other's work.

This assignment is unlike a typical group assignment in that every student is accountable in two ways: 1) they're required to turn in a one-page summary/analysis of their participation in the project, and 2) their work online is tracked on the wiki itself, so the content they add and edit is easily tracked.

After using this assignment for two semesters now, I have heard from many students that this was their favorite project for the course. More than half of my students stated that they were incredibly motivated to participate, enjoyed the process, and learned a lot about group dynamics.

Google Docs
After teaching writing for eight years, I still found it difficult to teach students about revision. Then College 3 introduced me to using Google Docs to teach revision. At College 2, I developed a revision assignment that students worked on weekly for four weeks. Each student created a Google account and uploaded their first paper onto Google Docs. They then shared their document with me so we both had access to it. Each week, I'd give students a new way to revise their papers: for punctuation, for word choice, for sentence structure, etc.

They also wrote a journal at the bottom of the document explaining what changes they either made or contemplated, or why they decided not to make any changes. This gave them an opportunity to reflect on their own writing process. After students made the assigned revisions for the week, I'd give them feedback and specific pointers. By making revision four separate assignments during four different classes, students got a feel for how to revise more extensively, reading their paper differently depending on what they were working on.

Google Alerts
If students are already logged in to a Google account, using Google Alerts is easy. With Google alerts they can create a search for a research topic, choose the types of websites they'd like results from, allocate how often they'd like to receive an alert (as they come, daily, weekly, etc), and assign an email address to which alerts will come.

For students doing research, this is a great way to generate ideas and possibly even sources. Links to news sites, websites, blogs, video sites, and groups related to specific searches are sent directly to email.

Making a verbal connection with online students is essential to their success. The more connected students are, the more likely they are to complete their assignments, interact on discussion boards, email the instructor with thoughts, suggestions, and questions, and succeed in an online course.

Podcasting is made easy through Audacity, which provides free, open source software that allows users to record and edit their own podcasts. Then either load podcasts onto Blackboard or find a free podcasting host site the podcast.

When I teach writing a narrative, I like to teach by example. I do this by introducing students to my blog, The Adventures of Mr. Busypants, and providing commentary on my own writing process. This works well because students get to see me not just as a teacher, but as a writer. This especially helps build that personal connection that helps motivate students to care about what they're learning. I also invite students to give me feedback so that I may improve on my own writing.

How do you use the web-based resources to enhance the classroom experience?

Related Links
Week 2 for English 1102 on Blackboard
Teaching Online Blog is a Good Read for Online Instructors
Might as Well Face it I'm Addicted to Podcasting
Need a Documentary Now? Search from over 700 Documentaries Available Free at SnagFilms

1 comment:

Alycia said...

Thankyou! That's a wonderfully detailed post - and so informative... So with the wiki you can actually see what each individual student has done, as if they were all using a different coloured texta? If so, brilliant! Very appreciative.