Wednesday, September 24, 2003

I know there has been a lot of discussion on some ejournals about what is OK and not OK to write, whether self-censorship is good or bad, etc. This is nothing new, there was always discussion about these sorts of things in the writing community.

Ever since I have been an adult, I only write things that I don't mind other people reading, whether in the paper world or here, in the electronic one. But regardless of whether self-censorship in any writing is good or bad, there is one area that I more often write about privately. I usually don't write very much in this ejournal about the nuances of my classes because teaching is a big responsibility, and I wouldn't want students to stumble here and be worried.

I'm not anonymous, and don't wish to be. But the power relationship between professor and student is a concern. It would be unfair of me to vent too much, the way I might in a private journal. However, I am going to think outloud - or maybe that should be "outwire" - a bit more about the groups. I am very interested in them as an area of study. Students be warned. I'll be as nice, and discreet, as I can.

Group assignment saga, part II. The deadline for the first online group was today. They pulled it off fine at the wire. My impression is that they were not slacking - they just were not working intensely, or quickly enough. I really, really had to prod -- maybe too much...borderline nasty, given the difficulties of the electronic interface and tone in email communication -- luckily there were two receptive members.

The difference between this and on campus strikes me. On campus, I allowed the immature group to humiliate themselves. I didn't intervene during their group meeting when they were chattering about shoes and sports, and make them get on task. Online, I forced the group to be ready in time, and the other members of class have no clue how disorganized the group preparation process was.

My assumption in the face-to-face class was that they had finished quickly, and the social talk was filling time until the other groups were ready. This happens sometimes on campus, some groups need more time to go through the exercise than others. In the online class, I can see all the work, and I know whether the assignment is going anywhere.

On the one hand, I really don't like to have to intervene as much as I did in the first online group. Group work is supposed to be student, not instructor, directed, but my experience has been, in the online delivery method, sometimes there is no choice. Students like, and perform better in classes where there is a lot of contact. Unfortunately, I am sure some of the first group's members will come away with a bad feeling about groupwork, and probably also be concerned about their evaluation.

On the other hand, I also really don't like to see students humiliated in the classroom. Elementary school gym class is more than a dim memory, but I do wonder whether the students in the immature group are something like the plagiarizers in my online class in Spring 2002. Maybe humiliation is (1) deserved and (2) an important, and much-needed lesson.

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