Saturday, July 04, 2015

Motivation and online discussion forums

A lot of teachers have their students use online discussions in their classes. Whether you use a closed blog that's only for members of your class or whether you have a more open structure where your students communicate with students around the world, you've probably come across motivation issues.
Pages & Bits by me

One thing I noticed a while back is that when my students received a lot of unsolicited feedback from students at other schools, they were initially excited with the sheer volume of responses. I would overhear conversations like this:

Student 1: "I got 12 comments on my post."
Student 2: "I got 15"
Student 3: "I heard Larry got 22."

These comparisons would go on until the students started reading the comments. Once they critically examined the comments they received, the conversation then focused on the quality of those comments. I recently published a study in the Journal of Educational Computing Research that examines the relationship between motivation and the quantity and quality of comments my high school students received on their Youth Voices discussions. I looked at motivation through the lens of Self-Determination Theory, specifically how comments affected students' sense of relatedness, perceived competence, interest, and value.

I found that while the quantity of comments received was related to two motivational factors, the quality of the comments was related to all four motivational comments. As a teacher what I've learned in practice and through this research study is that I think it's best when my own students comment at least twice as often as the actual posts they write. And more importantly, I've learned that teachers need to be clear in their conversations with students about what makes good comments. Some traits my students mentioned most frequently: the commenter took the time to understood the writer's perspective, the commenter took the writing seriously and was viewed as competent, the comment addressed specific aspects of the post, and the comment extended/added to/challenged the writer's thinking.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Live for you

An audio essay and song about a key to happiness. Been meaning to mix them together for a while now.

Reading and writing the web

For the past year I've been doing a bit of writing around tools that facilitate reading and writing on the web. In an article I wrote for the International Literacy Association, Annotating Online, I do some reviews of applications like Citelighter, Diigo, Crocodoc, and Mendeley. They all have their strengths for helping students write and collaborate while they conduct research

Another article I wrote for the ILA, Online Peer Reviews Improve Literacy Instruction, is about how I use Eli Review in my classes. In the article I also cite decades of research that have found that peer review not only helps writers improve, but even the act of peer review helps students improve as writers.