This semester we will hold an on-line computer conference on my blog inside the amazing English Companion Ning. This forum will add a rich dimension of asynchronus discussion to our course. It will be an open forum where teachers from across the country maybe reading your posts and joining the conversation.
(Notice that there are many ways you could host open and private discussion forums for your own secondary students.)
Your entries should be thoughtful and respond to the ideas of others. Reading 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.
You are expected to average two posts per class period, at least one of those made before every class meeting.
During student presentations continued on-line discussion is expected and topics will be set by group leaders.
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 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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