The Welcome Mat of a High School On-Line Community:
A High School How-To "Meet and Greet"
by Christine Jackson and Beverly Fierro
The two most important aspects of extending the welcome mat online are the discussion thread and the creation of an environment that encourages students to engage in critical-thinking discourse. The facilitator of discussion threads initially provides a welcome mat while building a caring environment for the students where they feel safe sharing their ideas. For many students, virtual learning is perceived as a "totally safe environment, where abnormal appearances or mannerisms don't matter. They have a good time and learn at the same time." (Droste, Virtual High School)
This is the initial assignment. This is where the stage is set for the course. It is very important that the students are able to identify with other students, feel a part of the group, and feel welcomed by the facilitator. The biography assignment needs to include the following elements:
- Describe to the class who you are so that other students get a visual picture of you
- Describe the activities that you enjoy
- Describe yourself as a metaphor, i.e. a butterfly, a building, a tool
- Describe what you like to do in your spare time
- Name two things that would surprise your classmates
- Name one thing that you would like to get out of this course-besides credit
The biography assignment should be followed by an assignment that requires collaboration. This forces the student to take a greater interest in classmates in order to select their optimal partner.
The Creation of an Inviting, Dynamic Online Environment
The goal is to present students with controversial topics requiring active dialogue. In keeping with the national trend towards inclusion of global ethics in the curriculum, a topic pertaining to moral/ethical dilemmas can aid in meeting the objective. The site used for the Life Skills students, http://www.globalethics.org/dilemmas provides a menu of ethical issues from which either the teacher/facilitator or the student can select. The high school student needs to have the expectations clearly spelled out. The facilitator needs to provide a rubric for the assignment which includes expected number of posts, their length, and acceptable content. It is also possible to engage more reticent students by allowng them to choose sides within groups, contributing to pro or con viewpoints. This is a better alternative when working with students who are acquiring English language skills(Ryan 2001).
Providing students with a topic for discourse that generates enthusiasm requires attention to timely subjects. If the chosen topic is historical or adult in content, there will be less interest, and therefore, less interaction. Finally, a word processed summation not only provides students with further opportunity to maintain their keyboarding skills, it also provides them with a tool for self-assessment as they reflect on their experience. (McKenzie 1998).
Kearsley, Greg, and Shneiderman. Ben, (1999), Engagement Theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning Retrieved November 2000 from: http://home.sprynet.com/sprynet
Roblyer M. D, Ekham, Leticia l, Professor, State University of West Georgia (2000), How Interactive are YOUR Distance Courses? A Rubric for Assessing Interaction in Distance Learning, From Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume III, Number II, Spring2000 Retrieved September 7, 2001 from http://www.westga.edu/~distance
Ryan, Stephen B. (2001), Overcoming Common Problems Related to Communicative Methodology, The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. VII, No. 11, November 2001, retrieved February 9, 2002 from http://iteslj.org/Techniques/
Shafer, Ingrid (2001). Center for Global Ethics Retrieved September 7, 2001 from http://astro.ocis.temple.edu/
Institute for Global Ethics (1995-2000). Retrieved September 7, 2001 from http://www.globalethics.org/dilemmas
McKenzie, Jamie (1998). Emerging from the Smog: Making Technology Assessment Work for Schools. From Now On, The Educational Technology Journal, Vol 7, No 5, February 1998. Retrieved November, 2001 from http://www.fno.org/feb98/cov98feb.html
People Don't Play...
on the Teachers.Net Chatboard
Well, it has been an interesting last couple weeks at work. It appears the kiddos are getting spring fever a little early. I wanted to share a conversation I had with a young man...you might find it useful. This young man is actually quite a neat kid. He comes with a lot of baggage, and is known for his "fly off the handle" style of conflict resolution. He has had difficulties of late with kids "igging" (antagonizing) him. The conversation went like this....
Me- Hey "Mike" can I speak with you for a second...
Mike- sure, man Ms. So&So "John" keeps "playing" me. He keeps getting up in my face and talking junk. I really don't wanna get kicked out, but he keeps igging me and igging me.
Me- well, Mike what do you do when he "iggs" you?
Mike- I tell him he better back off, cause if he don't I gonna call my boys and...
Me- Oh, I see. Hey, let me ask you a question?
Me- If you and your boys wanted to go to the park and play ball....which ball would you prefer- a ball freshly pumped with air, or one that was flat?
Mike- uh, the one with air (with a "DUH?!" expression on his face)
Me- Oh really, why is that?
Mike- Uh, cause flat balls don't bounce
Me- Oh, I see... And tell me, why is bouncing important to the game?
Mike- (now really thinking I am a fool) Because, when you try to push it down and it doesn't come back up...it is no fun.
Me- Oh ok, let me see if I understand. If you push a ball down and it doesn't come back up...you lose interest.
Me- But, if you push it down and it pops back up, then you just "bounce" it again...right?
Me- So what you are saying is...people do not play with balls that don't bounce.
Mike- Yes, what is your point?
Me- Hey Mike, pretend you're a ball and John is the player... what kind of ball would you be?
Mike- (with light bulb over his darling angelic head) Um, one that bounces?
Me- Right, and what did we say people do with balls that bounce?
Mike- keep playing with them...
Me- So if you want John to stop "playing" you, what do you need to stop doing?
I am guessing you all can figure where we went from here...but now when I see "Mike" starting to "bounce" I remind him "people don't play with balls that don't bounce"