I have completed my trial run with my students that I laid out in my Course 1, Final Project. Mostly for my own documentation, I want to take a moment and reflect on the successes and the challenges both I and my students faced.
My first thought is I am so glad I didn’t go BIG! As it turned out, it was a bit of a large undertaking all in all and that was keeping it small – or so I thought.
The first major challenge was figuring out the Google + Circles and then getting all of the kids logged in and circled up. For some reason, they struggled with it. One of the things I like about Google – aside from the fact that all of the programs are free – is that they are usually so intuitive, that the learning curve is not very steep. However, this time we all struggled a bit more that expected and that added time I did not anticipate.
The next challenge was the grade sheet. It was a bit easier for the kids to grasp, but I still had a number of students that didn’t get it. I am not sure if it was a lack of technological understanding, lack of experience with virtual documents such as Google docs, or that I didn’t present it thoroughly enough. It could be a combination of all three.
When I laid out the lesson I was mostly focussed on the technology my students would be exposed to, experiment with and learn. There were, however, a number of additional benefits I hoped for, but didn’t realize how significant they would be.
Right away I was able to see that by doing the critique this way it forced everyone to participate both by sharing their photos and by commenting on other’s images. Normally during an in class critique there are a small percentage of students who “forget” their photos on the day of the critique. And of course when having a class discussion it’s rarely balanced, even though I use strategies like name cards etc. There are always those who like to talk and those who prefer to listen. By doing this virtually over a 24 to 48 hour time period - nearly everyone posted photos (of course some didn’t do their work – but that is a different issue to tackle) and in two classes, everyone participated in the critique. They had insightful and helpful feedback for their peers. Many of the students, once they got past the technological challenges, said they really liked doing the critique this way and it helped them choose the best photo for the project.
Another benefit I didn’t anticipate was this was a great way for my students to practice their English. I am teaching at an international school in Bangkok where the largest percentage of our students are Thai. They have varying levels of English proficiency, so this was a great way for them to practice English, in a safe environment. While typically I say spelling and grammar always count, here, it was a bit more relaxed, more like they were posting to their friends on Facebook. I liked that they could practice and I could do an assessment of the English Proficiency in a truly relaxed formative assessment environment.
Last – I do think more of my students picked their best photos. They got lots of feedback that guided them to the best photos they could turn in for this assignment.
All in all, I think this journey into the world of virtual critiquing was a success. We had bumps along the way, but I feel that both my students and I learned valuable lessons from this experiment. I plan to continue to do mid-project virtual critiques next year and will continue to fine tune the process as we go.