Saturday, January 25, 2014

WoW, I'm finally giving this a try...

My character in a starting area.
It's time to get my nerd on! After reading the testimonies of countless educators, being inspired by Jane McGonigal's first TED talk, and reading "WoW in School; a hero's journey", I finally took the plunge. I am trying World of Warcraft. This shall be interesting...

I hope to get some experience with this game and perhaps con some friends (& preferably colleagues) into coming online with me.

So far, after playing for about a week, I have more questions than answers. For example, does my player need to eat? There certainly is a lot of food around but I've been fasting this whole time. I can read extensive articles on the wiki about food, food types, food preparation, and even feeding pets in the game. Nothing tells me whether my character will eventually drop dead from starvation. That would be interesting...

I'd be happy to accept any tips from you, my blogosphere peeps (& tweeps) on this one. I had to use Runescape in an online class I took (and eventually taught), and the help of others in getting started was precious. I was able to help a lot of my participants in that game as a facilitator. Hopefully, I can find a mentor to guide me. I'll keep you posted.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, January 20, 2014

Why you hate group work.

Collaboration, it's one of the 21st century skills. There's pretty much unanimous agreement among policy-makers, academic thinkers, and business leaders that collaboration must be a crucial part of our classrooms. Incidentally, there is almost unanimous agreement among teachers and students that group work is painful, cumbersome, annoying, and largely counter-productive. Even popular reality shows rely on group assignments to weed out contestants and create unnecessary drama. Why is something that is so important and crucial to our survival, so painful and dreadful? How can we make it more awesome? What do we do with collaboration?

Part 1: Why you hate group work.

Before our winter holiday break, I informally polled students in my classes. In all of my sections but one, 100% of my students noted that they hate doing group work. In one class two students said that they love group assignments because they can usually con their group mates into doing all of the work. When I speak to teachers whom I admire and respect, whose teaching philosophy is constructive and student-centered, I often ask how they use group work in their classroom. The most popular answer I get is something like, I use it as little as possible. Why is group work such a train wreck??

What experience shows

Individual Accountability

Inherent in our current system of schooling is individual accountability. Not only must our students all learn all of the material they may be assessed on by the State but also they must complete all required work, jumping through all of the correct school hoops. So many students ace all of the tests and quizzes, but are still failing because homework was not completed or an extensive fill-in-the-blank packet (that was incidentally supposed to be practice) had been lost. This inherent need we have, as teachers, to have everything we assign respected and upheld by everyone for the good of the cause seeps into our group assignments in various ways and poisons them. Often this comes in the form of extensive extra steps we add on to the project to make sure everyone is held accountable, but this need not be the case. The very context in which group assignments arise can lead to some killer awkwardness when it comes to grades.

Most group assignments in my experience begin like this. As we get bogged down in the malaise of Acronymia (NCLB, AYP, etc.) and begin to feel guilty about the overall lack of collaboration in our class, we typically decide something like, you know, I could assess this unit with a group project. Immediately, we have a problem, don't we? How do I assess this thing fairly? How can I ensure that all group members are held accountable? How do I deal with the student whose parents call this evening demanding that he or she be assessed individually so that the other group-mates don't bring down his or her GPA? What do I do to encourage students to include all group members while holding everyone individually accountable? How do I avoid having students use this a tool for bullying a group-mate they do not like? How did this become so awkward already?