Tag Archives: tutorials

How to Regularize Good Discussion Participation


So, I’ve been thinking about my courses for Fall 2011 (yes, I know, the summer’s just started…), and given the energy residue from THATCamp CHNM, I wanted to get some ideas jotted down in a more accessible space than my moleskine.

There was a lot of discussion about backchannels this weekend, and while I’m thinking about employing twitter as an option for student-student interaction and for quick questions/statements about course content, assignments, etc. I’m having some internal debate about the level of my own participation–ideally, this would be a space where students could discuss amongst themselves, but I would worry about quality control. Or am I being paranoid? Has anyone out there used twitter as a backchannel for your classes without participating? Is it alright to lurk but not participate? What are the costs–and benefits–of lurking vs. participating, as an instructor? I think the best thing to do, of course, is to discuss it with the class–it is likely that many are not on twitter at all.

Another thing I always struggle with is creating specific tools/assignments to stimulate and strengthen discussion both in-class and outside of class. Lots of possibilities exist: students bring in/post a question about the reading every day (good use of twitter?), in-class writing about memorable images/moments to start discussion, free-form discussion about the reading–or previous class–for 5 minutes followed by a Q&A, and so on. But I’d like to have my students, especially those in the Patricia Highsmith seminar, do something a little more sustained. I’m considering having two tasks that students sign up for once or twice during the term:

First, one student would be responsible each meeting for selecting and posting a quote from the text on our blog, followed by an analytical reply. Then, before the meeting, the remainder of the class–including me–would contribute additional replies about the posted quote, which the discussion moderator or original poster would be responsible for organizing into a final reply to be brought into class.

This could easily be adapted for my introductory course on visual and cultural studies, too–instead of a quote, students would post a work of art, a photograph, an advertisement, a sound clip, a video clip, and so on, ideally one that they’ve encountered IRL/created rather than just pulled from the web somewhere. Replies would have to incorporate material/quotes/ideas from the assigned reading.

Second, I’ve been interested for a while in using mind-mapping tools like PersonalBrain to map discussions and lectures on the fly. I think that adding an additional technology, though–especially if we have a blog, as I’m planning–would be a little schizophrenic. Still, I love the idea of having one designated student each period responsible for taking notes, then organizing/revising them for presentation next class. I was inspired by HackCollege’s post on using Google Docs to tag-team note-taking in class, as well as George William’s ProfHacker post on the same and the crowdsourced session notes at THATCamp, which I find more of a boon every day. I wonder if anyone has done this actively as a part of a class environment? The note-taking doesn’t need to be collaborative, but it should definitely end up accessible to the class. I could also create note-taking teams of three or four, depending on the size of the class, and that team would be responsible for the notes. This would avoid the problem of a roomful of computer users clacking away every single class period. Any thoughts?

By the following class, when the notes are presented as an overview of the previous discussion, the google doc contents could become a post on the class blog. Then, at the end of the term, I could use Anthologize to create a class gift! Or is that too corny?

Here are some useful videos I might ask students to check out–or watch in class–when we go over the process:


Better Googling – ProfHacker – The Chronicle of Higher Education


Better Googling

May 23, 2011, 8:00 am

By George Williams

One of the greatest strengths of the world’s most widely used Internet search engine is also one of its greatest weaknesses: comprehensiveness. For example, a search using the keyword poverty results in almost 90,000,000 results, which is far too many for any individual person to sort through. Granted, Google ranks the links that it returns according to a proprietary algorithm so that the most relevant results are listed first. But instead of relying on that algorithm, why not learn specific strategies to narrow down your search results in order to get the results most relevant to what you specifically need?

If you live in South Carolina, say, and you’re only interested in information about poverty made available by state government agencies, you can construct a search as search constructed as poverty site:*.sc.gov and you’ll only get 299 results, which is much more manageable.

The trick is to add site:*.sc.gov to the query where site: specifies which Web site (or sites) you want to search. In this case, I also used the wild card * before sc.gov so that any site run by the state government will be included. This is just one example among many of the strategies you can use for better Googling.

So how does one learn more about these strategies? Fortunately, Google provides explanations of many different features you can take advantage of:

“Google Search Basics”

“Basic Search Help“

“More Search Help“

“Google search basics: Keyboard navigation and other Google Instant enhancements“

“Improve Your Search Experience“

And for the classroom, it’s a good idea to check out “Google Web Search – Classroom Lessons and Resources.” According to Google, “[th]e lessons are short, modular and not specific to any discipline so you can mix and match to what best fits the needs of your classroom. Additionally, all lessons come with a companion set of slides (and some with additional resources) to help you guide your in-class discussions.”

How about you? What are your favorite strategies for “better Googling”? Let’s hear from you in the comments!

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via Better Googling – ProfHacker – The Chronicle of Higher Education.