Engagement

I created a Diigo group for my students some time ago, but it wasn’t until Monday, when we had a snow day (weird that we’ve had 70° weather in the same week as a snowstorm) that I invited all my students to join.  The lack of response has been deafening.  I understand to a degree.  It’s one more tool, one more crazy thing Ms. Huff wants us to do, blah, blah, blah, don’t see the point.  One the one hand, I hate that I have to make use of these tools a requirement to convince students to use them.  I am not going to make the Diigo group a requirement the way I did commenting on my blog.  However, I have noticed something.  Those students who do engage with the tools I provide — whether it’s watching videos I share on the classroom blog, using Diigo, commenting on the blog, listening to recommended podcasts, or even reading suggested links — tend to do better in class.  Why?  Simple.  The tools help.  Reading, viewing, listening, engaging — all these tools help my students learn the material in more depth or in more ways.  Learning more leads to better understanding.  Better understanding leads to higher grades.  I prefer to leave it for my students to come to this realization, but when/if they do, I wonder what will happen when I have full engagement.

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9 thoughts on “Engagement

  1. This is interesting to me, and as it is my habit, I'm tempted to play devil's advocate. (First, I would like to note that I am extremely interested in finding ways to incorporate more tech without students feeling burnt out/frustrated by it, so I completely relate to you on that level.)

    Devil's Advocate wants to know: Is there any chance that the students who happily comply with your requests are more motivated students and that is the difference in learning/comprehension? Or do you find it improving comprehension in students who participate, regardless of their motivational levels?

    I'm just curious. There's so much I'm still learning about how motivation works in students, and would love to hear your thoughts!

    • Fair point, Candace, and you could be right, although as I wrote the post I was actually thinking about a couple of students who have decided to engage with the tools and have not traditionally made A's in my class (but both of whom are currently making A's). However, two students is not necessarily a trend, and you have a point. One of my other active engagers is just an excellent student.

      Motivation is such a tricky issue. And different things motivate different students. I find it difficult to understand why the tools themselves don't motivate kids because they would have motivated me, and then I have to remind myself that these kids regularly use social networking tools (albeit not for educational purposes), so they aren't exactly "new" to them. Also, I think it's a bit of the Reese's syndrome at work, and I may have just made that up, but it works like this: I'm using tools they like for play for work purposes, rather like getting peanut butter on their chocolate when they didn't want it there. Of course, you have to be familiar with those old Reese's commercials to get that one.

  2. I agree with your theory; it's not about the tools. It goes much deeper, down to a degree of rebellion.

    I was always a voracious reader, but when my teachers assigned books to read, I wasn't interested. I did what I had to to get the grade, but I didn't enjoy it really because it was assigned.

    Now, I see the same in many of my students. Even when I use fun tools and other innovative strategies, most aren't enthused in the least. Everything ends up having to be a grade.

    By the way, I really appreciate your candor and insight, Dana. Your site is inspirational.

  3. Dana: They seem to like building the wiki pages better than the blog–it is somewhat new I guess. When I characterized facebook as a megawiki, they were surprised. But it is tough going to get those discussions started. I have set myself a looonnngg schedule for expecting energetic participation (meaning another year). I also add "random" blog and wiki entries all the time, so even if they do not have an "assignment," the page is changing. I am starting to get comments in class-so I know they are reading. I wonder if the creation involved in posting is still daunting. They have no confidence in their writing(or singing, or drawing for that matter), but I tracked several students' posts over last year, and their expression improved over the course of the 7 blogs they wrote. The so so students' writing showed a bigger learning curve than the better students', which led me to dedicate most of the blog work to my midlevel juniors this year, and the wiki to the higher level seniors.

  4. I think it's wonderful that you offer these opportunities Dana, and I find your approach rather compelling. I work with teachers, and my approach with them has been the same. The opportunities for "additional engagement" are there–I use twitter and blog and maintain wikis largely for their benefit. Quite a few teachers love having a place to connect with me around the things we're exploring beyond our face-to-face sessions, and I get really jazzed watching some of them connect to others that I respect on Twitter and elsewhere. By and large though, MOST teachers I work with aren't really taking me up on my invitation, and I've been wondering whether or not it makes sense to push a little bit harder. Different audience, I know, but I'm wondering what your thoughts might be around that.

  5. In response to Angela — and this ties I think to our students too — it comes down to two things for me as a teacher getting involved and to what I have seen from my students too:

    1. A compelling reason — making the WHY clear so that students (whether they are teachers getting involved or your own students) understand why they would venture into the unknown — so they have a sense of where they might be headed

    2. Time — For teachers, this is huge. I am part of a PLP cohort this year, and "having" to do all of this for the PLP did make me actually find the time to do it. So, I would say for teachers a bit of a mandate will help them reorganize their time to make time. For students, the web work needs to be integral and not additional — they used to read and then write a journal entry; now they read and find a website to share via Diigo.

    I do not think either of these come before the other — and that is tricky too. I succeed only part of the time with both :)

  6. I was a part of a WNY PLP a couple of years ago, and I found that having the expectation of participation motivating too, Susan. I've been giving a lot of thought to this since this posting, and conversations with admins have begun around providing similar expectations for our work together next year. Thanks–this is validating : )

  7. This issue is continuing for all of us: I recently offered extra credit for anyone who wanted to be a guest blogger, and got NOTHING. But when Watchmen came out, and my Film Club members got into a debate on its merits or failings, then I jumped, and I got a fabulous review as well as wry comments………it's all about them! Really.

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