A little SIP of my classroom (Student Interaction Pieces)

The forms of student and student-instructor interactions I’m planning on implementing in my course prototype include F2F interactions, Teams chat or posts (in which students/teacher can comment/respond to), Parlay, journals (unsure of medium yet), and Flip. This may seem like a little too much, but I like to think there is method to my madness. I use discussion-based teaching methodically to work through understanding content/materials/concepts and with a blended mode classroom this is beneficial “given the need for more flexible models of delivery to meet the needs of a more diverse student body in a digital age”. 

 This course is blended with synchronous F2F meetings that rely heavily on tech aid/tools for supplemental value. Fortunately, “Meeting in real-time”, as K Patricia Cross Academy (KPCA) suggests, and regular opportunities for social connectedness (Andrea Harkins Parrish) is naturally built into the F2F school/course experience unless a student is enrolled in strictly online courses therefore my students are also receiving the important social aspect/learning of a F2F setting. I am intentionally using a variety of mediums as a means for differentiating and encouraging/maintaining high levels of engagement. I find this is important when teaching a required high school course (versus an elective). I can’t always do a song and dance to keep my students interested, but I am stubborn enough to try to convert some of the students who have never had a positive relationship with English Langauge Arts to think, at the very least, “it’s not so bad” by the time they are done my class. When teaching during Covid, I experimented A LOT out of necessity for keeping students engaged and I kept tabs on what students responded to (good or bad) and kept that in the forefront of my mind when planning future classes. 

I have used “hype pieces” (0:23) in handouts or to set up a lesson as a way to hook students into what we are about to do and I often give no context in order to spark curiosity or for them to have those “oooohhhh” moments when one of my strategically selected quotes then shows up in the actual content of my lesson. Sometimes that hype piece even includes a YouTube video that someone somewhere has created that is more visually appealing than me standing in my classroom explaining. What I really liked about the What Teachers can learn from YouTubers about Engaging Students Online video is that instead of using the time I would normally spend searching for the PERFECT YouTube video to engage students, instead to try and make my own video for my own specific content. There are certain acronyms and recurring examples I use that would make it beneficial to me to record a video for students to reference as many times as they want in order to be successful in my class (and so I don’t feel or sound like a broken record). Making a video for content and engagement is 100% scary and daunting to think about doing but I have to try, so I think I am going to try this for my second module…apologies in advance for how crude it will be, but I am taking advantage of the platform 834 is providing me to experiment for the benefit of my future students.  

Without even realizing it, I have used some of the criteria mentioned in the readings to justify interaction types in the past. For example, I use Teams for pretty much every aspect students could ever need in my courses. It is where I post all materials, imbed any instructional videos I use during F2F meetings, post important class updates (like if I am going to be away and what their instructions are for the day – SEE EXAMPLES BELOW), have students update me if necessary (absence, not understanding an assignment, etc.), poll students if I am giving them an option in something, etc. When Bates discusses how discussion forums have been around since the 70’s, it justifies my choice in his note that the communication is “text based, not oral” and that “participants can log in anytime, and from anywhere with an internet connection”. Although he is commenting on discussion forums, my Teams page has the same intention; I want students to have a text-based version of my F2F lesson in case they are not auditory learners or taking the class remotely for any reason as well as the benefit of being able to reread any given section as many times as they need to in order for full comprehension. With Teams being very compatible with both computers and the mobile app, students can revisit any part of my class any time during the semester. I have even gone so far as to not collapse a course once the semester is finished because I have had students request I keep it open for them to reference certain digital handouts, etc. for future English classes (this happens mostly with AP students). The instant message option is also a beneficial communication tool. The KPCA notes a communication plan in building an online community and I place emphasis on communication between student and teacher in my classes in terms of being professional and respectful in all regards. I am very clear that they can message me whenever they want/need to on Teams but that does not mean an automatic response although I try to have quick response time for their benefit; during the school day I am teaching and cannot always get back to them if they have messaged me during a spare or some other circumstance, and after the school day comes to a close I have the role of mom and partner to play in addition to extra-curricular obligations so I can’t guarantee an evening answer either. Of course, if it were a safety concern or any other dire circumstance I wouldn’t hesitate to respond immediately, but I am explicit in saying that sometimes, in a world of instant gratification, they need to be patient for a response and that my time needs to be respected as well. After setting these specific boundaries, I find students rise to the expected level of professionalism and respect in their communication to me. 

Teams message example
3am message = sick kid problems

(server wasn’t allowing me to upload images – they may show above now)

For the online realm of my course prototype, I have integrated the use of Parlay and Flip for some discussion pieces and interaction. When considering Bates design principles of successful online discussion, I am happy to report these two tools check a lot of boxes. An example is the explicit guidelines for student online behaviour. Parlay offers sentence frames for discussion-friendly language, as do I in my assessment outline for both Parlay discussions and Flip video responses. This aids in students’ learning/advancement of professional discussion conduct in an online setting, which is hopefully extrapolated for F2F circumstances in our increasingly blended world. Another strong connection to Bates design principles that my use of Parlay and Flip has is the marriage of “monitoring the participation of individual learners, and responding accordingly” and “ensuring strong articulation between discussion topics and assessment”. The preprogrammed assessment criteria in Parlay supplements and supports my personal assessment criteria for both Parlay and Flip responses so a student’s success is two-fold: their ability to follow the assessment criteria as well as to learn/grow/adjust according to specific and personalized feedback I provide. Lastly, an important assessment piece that I’m adopting for this prototype and in the future is in consideration of flexible options for participation as noted in Parrish’s reference to Dr. Torrey Trust’s do’s and don’t’s. For the myriad of reasons why it is so important to be flexible in parts of a class that are virtual FAR outweigh a teacher’s preference to teach to physical faces; any/all assumptions have to go out the window and the teacher has to trust, accept, and offer and allow for different forms and levels of participation. This assessment approach will be implemented in my Flip video responses – students will have the option to record their response without their face/space recorded with zero justification to me. In my verbal explanation to students, I will paraphrase Dr. Torrey Trust’s infographic. After all, my entire purpose with this format is to have students practice verbal, pre-recorded articulation in response to specific course content, so that is all I will be assessing for.  

Thank you for reading and please share any questions or insights you might have!

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