Eeny Meeny Miny Moe – and these tools are it!

Deciding which tools to use for interactive purposes in our blended prototype felt a bit like a game of eeny meeny miny moe. With so many tools to choose from how can one possibly decide which tools are the best for what you are trying to accomplish. Fortunately my team and I were able to decide which tools we want to use without much debate. We are going to be using Canvas as our LMS so we will be using some features of that site as well as twitter and blogs. I will go into more detail as to why we selected these methods but I want to start with the quote from Shaping the Metaphor of Community in Online Learning Environments: 

For a community to emerge, a learning environment must allow learners to engage each other intentionally and collectively in the transaction or transformation of knowledge.

This quote really stood out to me and validated the tools we have selected as our community building tools. Nancy, Andrew and I have had a lot of discussions around Twitter and how much we have grown to love it over the past few semesters. I have said this before and I’ll said it again for anyone who hasn’t heard me say it before – I used to think Twitter was pointless and really served little purpose. I didn’t fully understand the value in it. Looking back I now realize that I felt that way because I wasn’t using it to it’s full potential. I didn’t follow a lot of meaningful people, I didn’t understand how to use hashtags to my advantage and didn’t feel it was possible to share something meaningful in 140 characters. Twitter has become one of the most beneficial tool for me as a teacher. It has provided me with great resources, professional development and connections with other amazing teachers – all for free! I have really developed my PLN (personal learning network) and I can’t imagine my teaching career without twitter. I the teacher in this video has done an excellent job of discussing PLN’s and the role twitter plays in developing your PLN.

It is possible for students to build a PLN and we plan to encourage our students to build their PLN through using a course hashtag (which is yet to be decided) as well as hootsuite or tweetdeck. Students will be asked to interact on twitter by sharing articles, retweeting and quoting tweets from classmates within the class as well as people from outside of the class. By using hashtags students will be able to reach out and connect with others far beyond the four walls of our classrooms which will in turn help them improve the community within our classroom by sharing resources and information.

Another way we feel that an online learning community can be established is through blogs. George Couros shares 5 reasons why students should be blogging including developing a positive digital footprint, giving students a voice and allowing for student reflection. It is a great way for students to document their learning and share what they have been doing in class. Through comments on each others blogs the online community can further be established. Like Liz pointed out, it is important to consider digital citizenship and be sure that students are commenting respectfully and mindfully. Being that we are doing a digital citizenship course prototype we will be focusing on this early on in the semester. Students will be expected to follow classmates blogs through an RSS platform such as Feedly. Feedly is a user friendly way to follow blogs without having to go back to the individual blog and check to see if a new post has been written. We felt that this would be easier to use than creating a blog hub.

The last way that we thought we can try to establish a community is through the discussion feature on Canvas. An edutopia article lists many benefits to using a discussion board in an online course including critical thinking, improved reading & writing skills and reflection. The article also suggests having students come up with the guidelines for using the discussion board and just like Sarah I feel like this would be a really great idea. The chart discussing Bloom’s Taxonomy in relation to activities for discussion boards really opened my eyes to the endless possibilities for activities through a discussion board. Although I see the discussion board being used primary for students to connect with one another to ask questions or get help with information related to the course I can see it be useful to have an activity thrown in there every once in a while too.

I feel like there are so many other tools we could have selected but I feel like these are the tools that will help our students build a community online, much like I have experienced in all of my EC&I classes with Alec and Katia.

Are there any other great tools we have overlooked for our course prototype in terms of building community online?

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11 thoughts on “Eeny Meeny Miny Moe – and these tools are it!

  1. Thanks, Ashley, for taking this leap and putting our plans in writing. I feel that you have totally summarized the thoughts that you, Andrew and I have shared over the past month+. If only, as you suggested, I couldn’t just select “CTRL C / CTRL V” and my post would be done, too!. Note – that was Ashley’s idea, not Andrew’s or mine. We would never consider copying someone else’s work in an online or f2f environment 😉 . I digress …. YES – the Twitter hashtag is a must (I’m addicted to #eci834) … and I love Tweetdeck (on my laptop) and Hootsuite on my phone … happy to include either in this module. YES to Feedly, too. I find that it really organizes the blog hub in a way that helps me to better follow / keep track of posts. Given that I plan to have students start this course with a quick Flipgrid activity, followed by an EdPuzzle and wrapping up with (I hope – if I can figure it out!) a PowToon assignment … we might want to give them a table or something that summarizes all of the tech tools that we’ll be introducing, give the purpose for choosing each, state our expectations of use for each (daily, weekly, once only), etc. That could be a reference document that’s included with the syllabus on Canvas? Any thoughts?

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    • I think it’s a great idea to have that document created for the students. I emailed you guys tonight and mentioned creating something like that – great minds think a like. I volunteered to tackle that said document so I can get that started and then you guys can edit it as needed. Google docs here I come!

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  2. Ashley – I too was a former Twitter non-believer (although that was before I had ever heard of a PLN and equated it with a means to tweet celebrities).

    There is a great combination of tools, I am really interested to see how your prototype unfolds.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas this week.

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  4. Wow Ashley and group – I am really looking forward to seeing your project! You have a lot of great techy ideas! I am still figuring out Twitter, but when meeting with Kelly yesterday around our project, he too has become a fan and says the usefulness of it in the classroom is amazing 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Great post Ashley! Just like you and Amy, I can’t deny that I too was a Twitter non-believer before these courses, and now I can’t believe I was ever like that! I think it is our job to open the eyes of our students in the same way and show them how great some of these online tools can be when they are used properly. I absolutely love your idea of asking the students to come up with guidelines for participation in things like the discussion forum – it is a real way to get students to participate and feel like they are part of the process. I can’t wait to see how everything unfolds!!

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  6. Here is another Twitter young ‘un. This is really only my second semester using it, and I feel that just this semester I am starting to understand the tool better. I know my students aren’t really keen on Twitter so I think it’s so smart that you will help your students understand how to best use it. I find knowing who to follow is key and am just starting to build my network. As I mentioned in a comment to Andrew, I think intentionality is key to online/blended learning and engagement within it which you pointed out in the quote that you used. I loved hearing about your ideas. Good luck!

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  7. I am where you were with Twitter quite a while ago it sounds like. It was this class that encouraged me to get on there and give it a try. I was resistant but already am starting to see the benefits. Thanks for posting.

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