For ISTE Standard 2
- Identify digital tools that can be used to help them interact, collaborate, and publish.
- Determine which media and/or format options work best to communicate information and ideas effectively to different audiences.
- Use digital tools to enhance cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures.
- Utilize digital tools to contribute to small group projects, produce original works and solve problems
Triggering Question: How can I use digital forums to encourage student sharing of the things that interest them personally about the country where the target language is spoken?
In the past I have offered students in my online Russian classes the opportunity to explore aspects of Russian culture and life that interest them most and to share with fellow students — all for extra credit. My hope is that students can be encouraged to extend themselves beyond just the academic subject of Russian language (and the course *does* include culture and history) to find the things that they personally find interesting about Russia (music, film, news, politics, history, nature, literature, etc.) I have found anecdotally that students tend to achieve more in language study if they feel some sort of personal connection to the place where that language is spoken.
Using discussion forums built into the LMS (Blackboard or Canvas) to spark some conversation is usually successful only for the first week and then students forget about extra forums and focus on just the required classwork. I have thought about moving the discussion from the realm of the LMS (that students login to only when they “have to”) and into the world of social media, where they probably spend a good portion of their free time. But I have been worried about risks (perceived or real) of having students post personal opinions to a group page in Facebook. What risks are there and is a teacher ok in suggesting that her students ‘like’ her page or ‘follow’ her on Twitter?
The sources I have looked into thus far such as Camille Jackson in a post for the Southern Poverty Law Center (http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-39-spring-2011/feature/your-students-love-social-media-and-so-can-you) suggest that rather than fearing social media, teachers should view it as an opportunity to demonstrate good digital citizenship for their students. So perhaps there is less to be feared than one might expect. Last year I did create a Facebook account that is separate from my personal one and uses the teaching name that students know me by. Using that account I created a closed Facebook group where students (and parents) would need to be approved to join. Only one student joined. By contrast, though, several current and former students found my teacher account and spontaneously friended me there. My current thought is to experiment with having students post to my wall instead, or make the group an open one and have them like that to follow posts. It should be fairly secure (only current and former students can view posts) and *could* be a good place to make announcements and to share ideas.
It could potentially enhance the experience of using social media to share ideas if actual Russian students in Russia were added to the mix. On occasion in the past I’ve arranged to have Russian students of English login to our live class sessions to practice dialogs in Russian and then to tell about themselves and answer questions in English. In one of those sessions a student of mine and the visiting teen struck up a friendship and began following each other on Instagram. I cannot say which, if any, of these ideas will work. When an assignment is optional, it compete’s against other demands in a student’s life (sports, after school job, physics assignments) for time and attention. What I’d like to do is to make it easy and interesting to participate in so that it will be less of a demand and more of a choice. If I ever find that special sauce to make it work, I’ll come back and share it here.