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Assessment in the Social Media Classroom

I’m a big fan and avid reader of the Teach Paperless Blog, and have, in the past few month, culled a wealth of ideas about meaningful ways to incorporate social media into the classroom context. Though my experimentation with using social media this past year was relatively confined (though I did do a fair amount of work with Edmodo.com, which I think the students liked and found compelling,) I barely scratched the surface of other tools like Twitter and student/class blogs.

In the fall semester I created a class blog for my senior elective class, where students were able to post potential research questions and give one another feedback, and this spring I used Twitter with my sophomores for their final exam review–something I discussed briefly in the previous post.

So, I was excited recently when Shelly Blake-Pock, the brains behind TeachPaperless, decided to hold a weekly Friday afternoon chat to discuss various issues related to social media, new technologies, and how those can be integrated into the classroom.

Today’s chat addressed the way in which social media changes how teachers assess students’ work and causes them to move toward more formative assessments and away from summative assessments. (An earlier discussion of those issues can be found here.) In fact, in the time that I’ve spent fine-tuning this post (a.k.a. talking to a colleague,) Shelly has in fact posted a summary of today’s chat as well, which can be found here.

After the chat finished I took a Zotero snapshot of the page and went through highlighting and noting down the sections I found to be most pertinent and helpful to me in thinking about and formulating precisely how I want to structure my classes this next school year. While my initial forays into using social media were well received by students and, I think, facilitated good, on-going communications between me and the students (as evinced by the dozens of DMs on Twitter I received the weekend prior to the final exam,) I want to employ it on a much more sweeping scale this next school year.

One of things Shelly discusses frequently and has found to be a very successful measurement of student understanding and work is blogging. Therefore, I was happy to be able to ask him specific questions about how he uses blogs in his classroom and evaluates them over the course of the year.

Below I’ve included some excerpts from the chat, organized according to broad topic.

Blogging Prompts:

Q: @Shelly, do you always provide a prompt or question, or do the students treat the blogs in a more free-form, journal-esque way?Nate at 2:13 PM, 19 Jun 2009 via web

A: @Nate Depends on what it is I’m trying to teach. Sometimes a question or a theme is important… sometimes free form works best.Shelly at 2:14 PM, 19 Jun 2009 via web
Feedback to blogs:
Q: how do you offer feedback to student blogs? Do you respond to all posts all the time? Select a % of the posts to respond to? Some other way?Nate at 2:10 PM, 19 Jun 2009 via web
A: Depends on the post. Sometimes, the response shouldn’t be written – needs f2f interaction to explain well. Probably 60% (I teach middle scTami at 2:12 PM, 19 Jun 2009 via web
A: @Nate I post responses just like I would on any blog. If something interests me, I comment. So after a while students start to realize…Shelly at 2:12 PM, 19 Jun 2009 via web
And they start thinking outside-the-box.  Shelly at 2:12 PM, 19 Jun 2009 via we.  We also regularly project the blogs and use student posts to foster real-time face-to-face discussion.  Shelly at 2:13 PM, 19 Jun 2009 via web
Q: how frequently do the students respond to one another’s blog posts? Do you have to require X# of responses to one another? or do students organically give one another substantive feedback? Nate at 2:39 PM, 19 Jun 2009 via web

A: I don’t do requirements like that, but we do have unique sessions where they will spend a block just readings each others’ work. Shelly at 2:41 PM, 19 Jun 2009 via web

They also have to read examples of good blogs. Shelly at 2:41 PM, 19 Jun 2009 via web

Social Media and Parents:

Q: @Shelly, have you had any problems with parents responding skeptically toward your embrace of social media, Twitter, etc.?Nate at 2:21 PM, 19 Jun 2009 via web

A: The only discussions I’ve had w parents has been positive w regards to social media. 1 parent thanked me for finally teaching her son how to use the Internet. Because she had been scared to.Shelly at 2:22 PM, 19 Jun 2009 via web

Assessment and “Critical Mass”:

Q: how do you articulate the concept of “critical mass” to students? It seems a rather nebulous idea. Do you outline it on your syllabus? Nate at 2:42 PM, 19 Jun 2009 via web

A: We look at it in the ‘real-world’ and discuss what it means. Twitterfall is hands-down the best example for the kids. And the fun thing about Twitterfall is that it can be anything from the silliness of celebrity to the seriousness of warzone events. Shelly at 2:43 PM, 19 Jun 2009 via web

Nate’s Response: interesting idea about using Twitterfall to see meaningful vs. non- or less-meaningful postings, thoughts, etc. Nate at 2:44 PM, 19 Jun 2009 via web

Shelly’s Response: Exactly. All a matter of being able to evaluate good writing and validate or invalidate sources. Shelly at 2:45 PM, 19 Jun 2009 via web

Nate’s Response: that’s also a great idea for teaching students to read for POV/perspective; how to understand bias and pay attention to the source’s origin. Nate at 2:46 PM, 19 Jun 2009 via web

All in all it was a very productive afternoon of professional development and certainly helped me in my conceptualization about my classes for the upcoming school year. If, dear reader(s)[?] your schedule allows, you should certainly try to make Shelly’s chats on Friday afternoons at 1 pm Eastern, which are held at http://www.todaysmeet.com/teachpaperless

Nate

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