Thursday, November 13, 2008

Lesson Plan: Building collaborative wisdom through the use of a moodle forum

The 8th grade students recently read Persepolis, which is a graphic novel about a young person's experience after the Islamic revolution in Iran. This is the first time that their teacher, Christina Gwin, has used the graphic novel genre in class with her students. After reading the book, she was planning on doing an a discussion activity in the classroom where her students would analyze images related to the book. She was planning on doing this in a traditional discussion format with students responding to images displayed on the projector in the front of the room. Christina was interested in some type of method to actively involve more students in the discussion at the same time. So, Christina decided to use a moodle discussion forum to facilitate a concurrent discussion. We created a forum with 18 different discussion topics for each of the 18 photos that she wanted her learners to evaluate, compare and contrast . Each discussion topic had a photo and a series of unique questions for the learners to respond to. The students were only required to reply to 5-6 of the photos, but they were required to at least look at all of the photos and to skim some of the replies. See the screenshots at the end of this post for more detail about what this looked like in moodle.

This was all done in roughly 45 minutes and here is what I observed (keep in mind that this really was the first time that the students ever used moodle).

1. ALL students contributed to the discussion for the entire time period. They were engaged in a way that is not possible in a traditional classroom discussion where one learner has the floor at a time.

2. A student or two jumped right on facebook when we started. I provided a re-direct and they closed out of facebook and worked on the discussion at hand without further distraction.

3. We had one problem with the lesson and that was time. When the class period came to an end, all of the students were quite busy contributing to the forum. They seemed to have lost track of time. What a nice problem to have!

While the activity went extraordinarily well, the next time we do something like this I think I'd consider modifying the follow up activity. The students had a follow up homework assignment that essentially required them to reflect upon their experience in class that day. Students were told to complete this in a word processor and then print it off and turn it in the next day. I'm thinking that they could've done this via a moodle web form assignment. At a minimum I believe this would've streamlined the process for turning in the follow up assignment to Christina.

Props to Christina for taking the risk with this project as we are both very new to moodle and of course this activity certainly could've flopped on us. But it didn't flop, and in fact it was quite successful and now gives us a broader base of experience from which we can build more powerful learning experiences in the future.

Below are a series of screenshots that show what the assignment looked like in moodle (click the photos for a better view of each):

Screenshot #1:

Screenshot #2:

Screenshot #3:

Screenshot #4:

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