Our computer conference, hosted at Nicenet.org, will add a rich on-line discussion forum to our course. Your entries should be thoughtful and respond to the ideas of other students. Reading and responding to other student entries is as important as entering your own responses.
The idea is not just to respond once to a topic and then move on, never to return. The idea is to read carefully other posts, respond, go to other items, return to the earlier item the next day or a couple of days later on, respond to new posts, look for new items, return to the first item again, respond again, and so on. In this way rich, interactive discussion develops, and a conversation started near the beginning of the class might grow and grow over the course of the whole semester.
It is important to start early and keep up with the conference. Use professional manners, while being informal at the same time. Don't "flame" other people's responses -- it is often a good idea to reread an entire item before reacting too quickly to an upsetting comment from another student.
It is important to learn how to post live links in your Nicenet messages and connect your comments to websites and on-line resources.
Enter 3-4 posts per week to earn an "A" on this component of class participation. Enter at least one post per class period for a "C."
Future teachers should notice that Nicenet is a free, educational site that can be also be used with middle school and high school students. On-line discussions can take a great variety of forms, be put to many purposes, and be held to different standards. There are a variety of tools beyond Nicenet for these forums, including built-in programs in Blackboard/WebCT and Moodle. Be mindful of how this electronic conference format extends our discussions because you may want to consider other E-Community Resources.
A full explanation of how to integrate on-line discussion, particularly Nicenet, into literature teaching is available in chapter two of my book Literature and the Web: Reading and Responding with New Technologies.
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