Wave in an English Classroom (beta)

The Gist:

  • Group work can be messy.
  • Collaboration is a key.
  • I’m playing with Google Wave to try to make these work together.

The Whole Story:

If you want to see a myriad of responses, tell a room of seniors at an inquiry-driven, project-based high school that they’ll be working in groups in their final semester. The kids who are aces roll their eyes. They don’t want to carry another group across another finish line.

The kids who don’t do much breathe a sigh of relief. (Thank you, aces.)

The kids who get lost are lost.

The teacher of these 32 crosses his fingers and rolls the dice.

Collaboration is one of SLA‘s core values. I attempt to build it into every primary and secondary element of my classroom. Collaboration in the form of group work in a more relaxed, mid- to long-term assignment gets messy.

Sometimes I manage to create mechanisms that hold group member individually accountable for their contributions to the final product.

My attempts to monitor contributions during the projects has often created a paperwork fiasco that tells me a lot of but doesn’t tell the kids much.

In my G12 storytelling class, we’re dealing with a unit around the question, “How do stories tell us who we are?”

I’m having kids read multiple works, take notes, share notes, have conversations in class, see what they can learn.

I decided to use Google Wave to manage the unit’s study. Here are the basics:

  • SLA has Google Apps (incl. Wave) installed so that every community member has an @scienceleadership.org sign-in.
  • I created a wave and invited every student across both sections of the class as a participant.
  • One of the blips on the wave listed the 3-member groups (with sections intermingling across sections).
  • Each group was assigned to create their own new wave for the group adding me as a member.
  • I post the readings to the main class wave, students copy the assignment to a new blip in their group waves and take their notes.

The first reading went up last week.

This might come across as creepy, but I was able to watch students do their homework. I was able to poke, prod, question and suggest as they were working to head off problems before they became problems.

Before class, the day after the assignment, I knew who was prepared and who wasn’t. I was able to needle the kids who hadn’t done anything. I’d already helped the kids who didn’t get it.

The endgame of this assignment is for the students to create a product that answers the essential question as their knowledge stands.

With each successive reading, they’ll add blips and build their collective knowledge.

Ideally, they’ll begin poking, prodding, questioning and suggesting within their group waves prior to class. Ideally.

Here’s what was messy:

  1. Some of my kids were early attempters with wave and (not unlike many people I know) had decided wave wasn’t worth their time.
  2. It’s something new. As intuitive as much of wave is, there’s a learning curve.
  3. They didn’t realize #2 and signing up, adding contacts, etc. ate up a chunk of one class period.

I’m sure there will be more mess, but that’s learning.

My aces asked me, “What if I read my article, but my group members don’t read theirs?”

My answer, “I’ll know and work with them.”

In the end of the beginning: My aces were accountable for their work, and I was able to help them make it better as they did it. They only had to worry about carrying themselves across this finish line. The kids who don’t do much had done some more. Not all of them did something, but more than usual. The kids who get lost had been given re-direction as they cut their path into the unknown. Maybe they got lost once we got to class discussion, but they made it to class discussion.

I really like learning.

3 thoughts on “Wave in an English Classroom (beta)

  1. Thanks for sharing this. It’s a really good example of how you could use something like Wave with group work. I find Wave pretty messy trying to track where the conversations are heading. I admire you for giving it a go. It’s a great idea to use it with kids this way for tracking contributions to group work, a notoriously difficult thing to accurately pin down. I may give it a go myself at some stage this year once I’ve got them all set up with Google accounts. Hopefully Google will incorporate some of the elements of Etherpad into Wave to help differentiate participant’s additions to the conversation (blips!)

  2. Pingback: » The Week in Tweets for 2010-02-22 Bud the Teacher

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