Saturday, June 30, 2012

ARRGH and success!

Last week was our first week of online learning in our US History class.

Here is what I have learned. . .

First: I gave way too much work, for the kids to do (they did finish) and for me to grade (I am still reading blog entries).

Second: You need to know your technology cold (unless you have helpful and understanding students!).

Our first 30 minutes of virtual class were plagued by audio problems--echoes, dropped lines, and people talking to quietly. I had planned a break after the first 40 minutes. After the first trying thirty I suggested a short break. I moved to a different location in my home --carpeted floors, wing back chair, no feedback! I turned off everyone's speaker rights, opting for a one speaker at a time format. It took a bit for the students to realize that when the mike icon appeared next to their name on the screen, they had the "floor" so to speak. I had to remember to toggle between each of them and myself until I figured out that I could "be on" even as I toggled between each of them. And I made sure everyone participated. The last 45 minutes were much improved with a solid discussion of the importance of slavery to all parts of the British Empire's economic wealth, the point of no return in the lead up the American Revolution, and finally the crucial precedents set by the first three Presidents and the challenges they faced. Can you guess what they felt was George Washington's greatest action (hint he did it twice!)?

The slides I had prepared kept us focused, but when I shared a web page, two students lost audio. I decided not to even try the Youtube I had cued up. But I did use the chat to have students suggest ideas and post questions. I can see why, in managing the chat and assistant would be a huge help!

You must block private chats with high school students!!!

Third: The discussion forum has rocked!!!! Students wrote substantive analysis on Native Americans and why the French tended to co-operate with Native Americans while the British tended to opt for pushing them west, away from white settlement. On the topic of women and Republican Motherhood, students were intrigued with this "bone" to women and quickly began to discuss its flaws. One student wrote, 
"The fact that republican mothers were educating their sons, but were uneducated themselves, leaves a gap in the theory. It could be implied that women are already educated with necessary life skills, and that they must pass these life skills on to their youth. But then again, it is the ever so important future of America, how could they possibly benefit from being raised by an uneducated individual. At this point in American history, politicians had to wake up and smell the change. The system of republican motherhood wasn't sensible, and the only solution meant women’s education".
Possibly, the most impressive discussion centered on a reading on the changing definitions of freedom in the 17th and 18th centuries. One student wrote 
"I think that the people who had freedom believed that they had more responsibilities than those who didn't, but really, they were just different ones. Property owners had to ensure that everyone under them was surviving, and that their property continue to gain profit. Women and slaves had different responsibilities. It also depends on the type of freedom we are talking about. Religious freedom would bring, as you said, servitude to God. Moral liberty would bring the responsibility to do the right thing. Property + economic freedom would bring the responsibility to stay in that state of stability and to provide for those around you. In the 18th century, this type of freedom would also mean that you were responsible to be politically active and participate."
 In response, another student argued, 
"When the United States was first founded nobody was going to be freer than his neighbor, or at least that was the idea. There were slaves, and they weren't free obviously enough, women though not in slavery didn't have the rights of a freeman, women couldn't vote like men, and they couldn't do many of the jobs men did. Even among men there was a difference in the rights associated with freedom, men of higher economic class were considered more free than a common worker. Today, we like to consider ourselves free to do as we please, but everybody has to answer to somebody, we all have to abide by laws whether we agree with them or not, we all have to do something we don't want to do because we have to do it. So when you think about it we're free in a sense, but are we really completely free in the way that the fore fathers of this nation envisioned?"
 These were but a few of the comments of a discussion that ranged from Seneca, to John Locke, to Puritan sermons, to capitalism's implications.

I am still grading ( but the quality is excellent)

No one is behind (except for maybe me)

Students are fully engaged

Next week, I will be a better manager of Adobe Connect

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