Thursday, June 23, 2016

#DailyLEM13 Wikipedia Trail of Reading

Reading: Extra Credit. I've been wanting to expand on the "extra credit reading" options for my classes; that was a really good addition to the class last year because students can use it to just do more reading (if they like to read) or they can use it to make up for a missing reading assignment earlier in the week (there are two reading assignments, but it's fine if students just do one... and then, if they have time at the end of the week, they can use this extra credit to make up what they missed).

Wikipedia Trails. So, in the past, the extra credit option was just based on the regular reading options for the class. What I'd like to do next year is think about different kinds of reading options that could work for extra credit. One idea I had was a re-reading assignment (go back to something you read earlier in the semester, read it again, and see how it strikes you now in your next learning context), and another idea I want to try is this thing I am calling the "Wikipedia Trail." I wrote up a sample here: Wikipedia Trail: From Kalanos to the History of Hippies. I've also got a rough first version of the assignment guide there in the post.

Challenge Questions. Here are my responses to the challenge questions:

What is your desired experience for this activity? I want students to use their own curiosity to build a trail of learning, and I want them to share the results with the rest of the class. I hope they will be surprised where the trail leads. I did not expect to end up with hippies when I clicked on the ancient Indian philosopher Kalanos!

What kind of explanation or context is ideal for this kind of assignment? This fits easily into the class as I already make heavy use of Wikipedia in the notes and reading guides for both of my classes; students are already using Wikipedia in the class, so now the idea is to encourage them to be more adventurous in their use of Wikipedia.

How important is evidence in your model? The documentation of the trail is really important: if you don't keep track, it's easy to forget how you got from one place to another. I want students not just to find something cool at Wikipedia, but to document how they started at one place and ended up somewhere else.

What are some possible constraints for this design? I've suggested that students visit four articles minimum and find at least one image to share... I am curious if that is a good size constraint; I'll need to see how it goes to get a sense of that.

Sharing the Trails. I'll ask the students to include WikipediaTrail in their blog posts, and then I can use Inoreader to automatically populate a Pinterest Board with the results. I'm excited that I learned how to do that automatically when I did the Community Portfolio Challenge. That Wikipedia Trails Board is one that I can use together for both classes and also over multiple semesters. It will be a growing document of people following their own curiosity!

Make Learning Visible. So, I'm really excited about the possibilities that this can open up. As part of the whole "make learning visible" strategy, I think this idea of building Wikipedia trails could be really fun, and I will highlight people's blog posts in the daily announcements to encourage them to choose this option. I would be thrilled if everybody wanted to do this every week even if it is just extra credit! I'll probably do one every day myself just because I love to explore Wikipedia and see where it takes me. And it looks like the hashtag #WikipediaTrail is already being used at Twitter as others share their Wikipedia wanderings. Perfect!

Based on my first post, I started the Wikipedia Trails Pinterest Board, and I should be able to get it nicely populated with my own curiosity trails before the semester begins.

And here's the design drawing (click for full-sized view at Google):

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

LEM: Community Portfolio

Below is my response for the Learning Design Challenge #10: Sharing Individual Content via Community Portfolios. #DailyLEM10

This is something I really want to do for my own classes next year, both with memes created by the students (and their thoughts about those memes), and also the stories they write. For this example, I pursued the meme idea since that fits in nicely with the workshop on open content that we did earlier this summer, but without specifying the nitty-gritty of the community space: Incorporating Open Content.

Right now, students have their own blogs and/or websites as individual portfolios, and I curate content myself (I pin new stories to Pinterest Boards like this one: Indian Epics Fall 2016 which students see at the Project Directory class page), and I keep a lasting archive (eStorybook Central), but I would like to create something more student-driven, where they are putting content into the community space based on what they consider their best work. Right now I don't even have mechanisms in place to harvest the memes they share/create; I only curate stories.

As I've been wrestling with this question for a long time, I see it more as a technology problem than a design problem: I know what I would like to have happen but I had a hard time finding the technology to support it... until now! While on my evening walk yesterday, I had a real brainstorm, and I'm excited to share that here!

What is your desired experience for the activity?
* I want students to be able to share the best things they create (memes, stories) with other students in the class, and I want students to be able to easily discover that content. My goal is to diminish my curatorial and administrative role in order to hand more of that over to the students; after all, only the students know what they consider to be their best work!

How will you motivate participants to engage in “authentic” sharing?
* Students already create content in their own spaces, and they visit each other's spaces as a mode of sharing and learning, and motivation there is very high — so I don't need to do any motivating; students will be even more motivated if I can help them drive the curation process more actively.

What kind(s) of feedback make the most sense for this kind of environment?
* I already have some good student commenting processes in place; my goal here is to add new avenues both of sharing and of discovery which will improve the commenting: the more students are identifying their own best work and, consequently, finding content that is really high quality, the better the commenting process will be.

What are some possible constraints for this design?
* The real constraints are technological: specifically, the mechanisms for sharing (students identifying best content that they put into the shared space) and the mechanisms for discovery (students exploring the shared space to discover what they like best).

Plus: A technological nice-to-have...
* I would like to have one version of the solution be Canvas-friendly; I personally don't use an LMS for my class space, but if I could find a way to make this work in the Canvas space, it is more likely to be an option other faculty at my school would consider.

EURKEA: Inoreader! The key to my solution is this: I will use Inoreader (which currently aggregates all incoming content from my students' blogs), and specifically I will use Inoreader Rules. So, if students include a keyword in their blog post somewhere, I can use an Inoreader Rule to automatically assign a tag. I will just need to write up instructions for how students can add a simple but distinctive keyword (like MemeGallery, one word) when they want to flag something as best content. I can also manually add the tag, if needed, and if a student changes their mind, I can also remove the tag manually. (I already have some processes like this in place for student-generated content; for example, here is the stream of stories for the class — but without a student self-nomination process: Myth-Folklore Stories.)

Once the self-nominated content is tagged for the Gallery, I can then easily redisplay that content in all kinds of ways!

I can put it in Canvas, like this: Meme Gallery. To do that, I use Inoreader's export to HTML feature:

Even better: IFTTT will deliver that content to all kinds of platforms! In IFTTT, the trigger is "Inoreader: New tagged article" (including articles tagged by a rule). Then, the IFTTT action can really be anything. Just to show one example here, I set up a Tumblr that will be filled with content automatically. Here's the IFTTT recipe:

And here's the resulting Tumblr: Meme Gallery Tumblr. Of course, I can play with the gazillions of Tumblr themes to find the best display. I also have access to all the features of Tumblr too. Lots to explore there! I just set this up super-quickly as a test case.

Why Tumblr? An excellent Tumblr feature for my purposes is the randomizer. Randomizers are essential for browsing and discovery for this type of content, and Tumblr is great at delivering posts at random (just add /random to the Tumblr URL). Here's the link: Meme Gallery - Random! I also included that randomizing link in the Canvas page.

VERY happy with this. The real magic is in the technology here, not so much the design. I am so excited to try this out with real student blogs in the Fall!!!

Click here for full-sized view:

Update: I had faked the Inoreader tag to test this out, but I also put a rule in place that will scan all my blog posts just like I want to scan all incoming student blog posts... and it worked! I just published my Growth Mindset Cat meme and because the keyword appeared in the post, presto, there it is in Canvas!

Update: I also created an IFTTT recipe with Pinterest... and that worked too! There's the cat, automatically sent to Pinterest:

Friday, June 3, 2016

LEM: Semester Project / Student Choices

Because I used my existing courses to do the Learning Environment Model design challenge for today, I decided to put the post here. Unlike the LEM challenge I did yesterday (see post), this time I did the drawing first and then wrote the narrative to accompany the drawing. The semester project has a lot of elements I cannot capture with the modeling tools, but I tried to surface the key aspect of the design challenge for today, which is the element of student choice. You can see that multi-stage choice process running down the middle of the diagram. See below for a narrative to explain that choice process.

(or click on image for larger view)

Exploration/Planning. What I tried to show here is how there is a brainstorming process that happens in the first few weeks of the class in which students brainstorm and plan their semester writing project (downward arrow flow on the left of chart; this process can last for up to 4 weeks), and then they create the project through an iteration of writing stories and revising for the rest of the semester (11, 12, or 13 weeks, depending on how many weeks they spend on the planning process — the writing process is on the right side of the chart). 

Project Choice. Each student creates either a Storybook Website or a Blog Portfolio. The Storybook consists of a set of interrelated stories on a topic of the student's choice (see Storybook Archive for examples), while the Portfolio consists of a curated section of the student's class blog, containing their best stories. I started offering the Portfolio option a couple years ago when it became clear that there were always a few students who were not really enthusiastic about their Storybook project (for all kinds of reasons); the Portfolio is a way to create the same type of semester-long writing project with the flexibility of choosing new topics/styles every week. The challenge, then, is how to help students choose which type of project will be best for them! As a general rule, it has turned out that about half of the students choose Storybooks and half choose Portfolios.

Iterated Choice. As students go through the 2, 3, or 4 weeks of planning, they are pondering a big choice, which I show in the middle of the chart; there are three vectors as it were that they can follow as they go through this iterated process. Since the Storybook is an entirely new kind of idea for most students in the class, I ask them to spend some time in Week 1 and Week 2 exploring Storybook possibilities. Then, after they get feedback from me about the Storybook topics they have proposed (I focus on connecting them with useful online resources), they can decide if there is a topic that grabs them... or not. If they really don't have a topic that grabs them, they can start their Portfolio in Week 3. If they do have a topic that they are excited about, in Week 3 they start planning how the Storybook would actually work (stories to include, styles to use). They then get feedback from me again, and again they choose: if things are not falling into place, they can start their Portfolio in Week 4. If the Storybook plan is going well, then they build their Storybook website in Week 4.

Writing Project. By Week 5 of the semester, everybody is engaged in their writing project. The Storybook and the Portfolio have the same writing "experience" — writing, feedback from me, feedback from other students, revision, more writing, more feedback, more revision, and so on. The difference is just the content (semester-long topic in Storybook versus weekly topics in Portfolio) and the medium (Storybook is a separate website while the Portfolio is a labeled section of the student's class blog). Everybody ends up on their own schedule since they might start the writing part of the project in Week 3 or 4 or 5, and any give story might require one or two rounds of revision. By the end of the semester, a Portfolio might have as many as six stories in it; a Storybook might have as many as four stories plus an introduction — but it varies a lot; there is no fixed requirement about how many finished stories each student might write.

Themed Portfolios. One really nice surprise that happened as a result of the students exploring the Portfolio option was that they started creating something like a Storybook inside their Portfolio, pursuing a theme over several weeks or even over the whole semester. That was not something I suggested, but the students started doing that on their own... so now I also suggest that in my comments on their Portfolio stories! Unlike the advance Storybook planning, these Portfolio themes evolve in an ad hoc way as the students react to the stories they are reading for the class or as they discover through their own writing a style and/or character that they use to connect their Portfolio stories.

As you can see from all the elements in the drawing, there is a lot that goes into this process, and I'll return to this drawing with more narrative in future posts... which will probably help me improve the drawing too! But for now, I am really happy with how this version of the drawing surfaces the element of student choice and how there is an overall learning process that the students can share together while each going through their own discovery process to launch their own project.