Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Technology in the Classroom

It's been a while since I have posted, but that doesn't mean I'm not pondering the mysteries of teaching.

Working as a full-time instructor has been physically and mentally demanding. Today's composition teacher had better prepare for eye strain, as the reading, commenting, and revision processes have all become primarily electronic. Aside from the physical drain, I am enjoying making use of the technology available in my university context. Here are a few of my best ideas:

1. Google Documents--I'm using this Google Software in a variety of ways.

My favorite use of Google Docs is for peer review and group conference. Every time students finish a first draft, they are put into groups who will read each other's papers and make comments that are then discussed during a group conference mediated by me. The benefit of Google Docs is that during a lab day, students can create and share the document even if they aren't finished. This means no late papers--a benefit for students and for me. When the due date arrives, I can simply download my copies to comment on and send back to the students over email. Peer reviewers can comment directly on the Google Doc, so that they can agree or disagree with each other, adding multiple perspectives to the same draft. The multi-person commenting also provides examples of effective feedback for novice reviewers. Furthermore, as long as I ask student to share the document with me, I can monitor the peer review process and provide accurate peer review points. My supervisor and I decided that I should not comment in the shared Google Doc for several reasons: 1) may intimidate reviewers, 2) may embarrass the writer, 3) Google Docs are fluid documents that are always changing, and I want to have a copy of what I asked the student to revise.

Another way that I am using Google Docs is for attendance on computer lab day. I create and share a simple table with two columns, name and answer to a question, to serve as my attendance for the day. Students fill in the information and I project the document on the class screen. I can ask about any interesting answers, and students are accountable for contributing.

I use a similar format for collecting information about what topics students have chosen for their projects. That way I can monitor the writing process from very early stages. I can also form groups of students who have similar topics.

Finally, the idea I want to revise more--group brainstorming. I've used Google Docs to help students pull out evidence from a dense reading. We were working on a rhetorical analysis, so my table had three columns: ethos, pathos, and logos. All students had access to the document, so I asked them to look for evidence of these appeals in the article, and when they found something, they should quote or paraphrase it in the document. In about 10 minutes, my class had generated about 15 examples in each category--an impressive and efficient brainstorm. Students responded positively to the group brainstorm because they were able to see if they were on the right track or not. They asked to do a similar activity for other projects.

2. Though it's not as collaborative as Google Docs, I also use Microsoft Word track changes and comment functions. During our lab day, I have students pull up their drafts, then rotate to the computer next o them to leave comments. It's another mode of peer review that takes advantage of the computer lab.

I hope to further refine these techniques next semester because I want to see collaborative writing have a larger space in my classroom.