Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Humor in Euripides _Medea_?

Can discussing Medea be funny?! This student makes it so:

"For lack of a better example, Jason treats Medea like an iPhone: everyone loves their iPhone when they have it, but when the new one comes along, you dump the old one as soon as possible."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Gaming the Classroom: Upending the Meanings of Work and Play

Today I had the pleasure of having Lauren Burstein visit my classroom. The visit was a pleasure for many reasons, one of the most significant being that Lauren is a former student of mine from Frisch. Lauren, who teaches English at Torah Academy of Bergen County (TABC), and I have been in contact since last year and this past summer's RealSchool Summer Sandbox, and it was on the way back from Jedcamp in Brooklyn last Sunday that we decided she should visit my classroom to see if she was interested in gaming her English class.

I had decided to game mine very recently. About two years ago, I saw John Hunter discuss his World Peace Game in a TEDTalk, and the idea to create something similar has been percolating ever since:

John Hunter is truly remarkable

I've also been intrigued over the past year by social media posts about educational gaming and inspired as well by educators such as Sarah Blattner who are proponents of it. This year seemed like the time to make my first move, so to speak, into the world of games in the classroom. 

The class I chose to game is a senior English elective at Frisch called Hot Topics. The class focuses on two main controversial issues, medical ethics and racism, and has traditionally employed different media to connect students with the issues: film, art, and various types of fictional and non-fictional works. The course's loose structure made it perfect to game.

I don't have a lot of experience playing computer games and so borrowed the set-up of the game structure more from John Hunter than from Minecraft or Angry Birds. I also decided to start small to see if the gaming methodology worked for me, and so the first thing I did was game the summer reading assignment.

The students had read about the amazing inventions and ethos of the MIT Media Lab in The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices by Frank Moss, former director of the Lab, as well as Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, which poignantly portrays the horrors of cloning. The two books lent themselves to being gamed, focused as they were on either the possibilities or the limits of technology. 

In this version of Monopoly, students replaced Broadway with the MIT Media Lab and
advanced players with innovations from the Media Lab, portrayed in Community Chest cards.
In the Community Chest card shown above, one of the Media Lab's ethos -- failing fast to learn fast --
has players move back three spaces but receive $50!
Students came up with games based on Chutes and Ladders, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, and Uno and also invented their own games. I particularly liked one student's response to what he learned from having created his game: "I saw that there were moral consequences to people's actions." That conclusion is obviously the aim of reading a book such as Never Let Me Go, but it was much more important to me that the student realized that himself instead of being fed the line by me. Students also told me they learned a lot about the books from each other, when they planned the games and discussed quotations from the books that they'd use. They also said they had to learn how to combine the perspectives of different people in their group. Social-structed learning appeals to me greatly and is a natural outcome of kids' playing games -- or in this case, making them -- together.

To reflect on the assignment, I had students create videos about the learning experience. Here's one that includes a narrative frame, which is something important in an English class!

Once the students finished the videos, they posted on linoit.com any failure they learned from over the course of the assignment. You can see their posts here: Fail Fast to Learn Fast linoit board (Thanks to my sister Smadar Goldstein of JETS, for introducing me to linoit walls).

All in all, I felt satisfied that rich learning had taken place during the game-making unit, and I saw how much fun the kids had and how deeply engaged they were by the activity. They also told me how much they enjoyed a class where they weren't sitting down the whole time and where they had autonomy and control. As a result of all these positive outcomes, I felt ready to tackle a more complicated gaming activity, the making of a Simulated City.

The summer reading game was structured as a project-based learning (PBL) unit. I designed the assignment, set up rubrics for the game, made sure students presented to an audience, and assigned reflective pieces. For the Simulated City, I'm opting to create an inquiry-based learning (IBL) classroom. Much of the learning and project outcomes will be driven by the students, with my role being to deepen learning, guide it to more sophisticated places than the students might take it on their own, and base project outcomes on what I think the students will be most interested in. 

On the first day of the city's creation, the students and I discussed what sectors of a city they'd be interested in forming and came up with the following seven areas:

Eco-friendly Fashion
Governance and Politics
Urban Design
Waste Management

Our Urban Design team

Waste Management goes green in our city!

Students didn't have to be told to dream big;
after reading The Sorcerers and Their Apprentices
this past summer and because of their own interests,
they were already thinking of blue sky technologies!

As our curriculum takes shape, it's become clear that we need:

1) Project Goals for each week; students post their daily progress in Google Docs they've created for the class
2) A class blog where we can make the process of our work visible to the larger world
3) Presentation dates when each group can report on its research and then make proposals for the city that classmates will vote on

In order to connect the Sim City with the syllabus I'd prepared, I also asked the students to choose an ethical dilemma for their group. For example, Urban Design is debating whether the city should have housing projects, while Sports is researching performance-enhancing drugs so the class can decide if they want to allow them. Eco-Friendly Fashion is investigating sweatshop use and how to create eco-friendly and affordable clothing, while Governance is going to present legislation on abortion and gun control that the class will vote on. 

The pros and cons of performance-enhancing drugs
are presented in two books Rami is holding (and now reading!),
Enhancing Evolution and The Case against Perfection
What I loved about Lauren's visit today was that it made the students' work more authentic -- as having outside visitors tends to do. It forced the students to articulate more clearly what they've been working on and where they are headed in their research. I heard Lauren ask probing questions and push the kids to think more deeply about their topics. I could have done the same, but when it's your teacher bugging you, you might roll your eyes. The students took Lauren's thoughts and questions seriously.

Knowing Lauren was going to come also forced me to think more carefully about the expectations I have for the groups and how I see the quarter developing. While an inquiry-based learning classroom unfolds in a more free-form manner than a PBL one, I'm finding it can still have a careful design and a clear timetable and basic frame. Creating those elements has been fun.

Lauren discusses with Waste Management their ideas and research

Governance and Politics share with Lauren what they've been up to
One of the most gratifying parts of Lauren's visit was her noticing that the students seem truly engaged in their work and passionate about it. I hope so. The aim of the gaming assignment isn't only to have fun -- though joyful learning is something I always think about cultivating. It's also to have fun while being deeply immersed in work that is satisfying and challenging and that speaks to a student's passions and interests. 

One student in the Sports team actually wants to be a sports agent,
so his research on how to become one is obviously relevant to him 
 Lauren is welcome back anytime, and in the meantime, my students and I will continue our classwork play.

Additonal Resources

Traditional descriptions of "gaming the classroom" discuss ways of introducing video games into learning. Check out these articles on educational gamification:

Harnessing Gaming for the Classroom

Sarah Blattner recommended this book on gaming to me:

Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Arts in the English Classroom: Symbolism in _The Things They Carried_

I'm incorporating a lot of art into my new PBL curricula, and I'm doing so for many reasons. First, art creates deep learning experiences because students not only become fully immersed in what they're doing, but they also have to think about creative choices in ways that are more critical than if they simply had to memorize material. As I listen to my students -- who are currently making graphical representations of a symbol in The Things They Carried, I not only hear things such as "Who has the glitter?" and "Does anyone have a black colored pencil?", I'm also hearing, "Well, the lack of a head symbolizes the chaotic political state during the Vietnam War" and "We'll make a mask to represent the fact that the whole war is a charade."

Creating art in English also engenders the type of joyful learning I want my students to experience, turning class into a kindergarten environment where sophisticated thinking also takes place. Art also allows learning to be a close, personal experience, not something unrelated to the real world. Of course, in PBL the goal is always to connect the learning to life in an authentic way.

Following is the final assignment due next Monday on symbolism in The Things They Carried. I can't wait to see what the final projects will look like:

Finish your poster. Make sure it has a graphic representation of the symbolism you're exploring in the vignette you chose to close read. Your poster also has to include a quotation from or reference to the text. It also has to include a short analysis of how the symbol works in the book. FINALLY: each one of you -- not as a group; this is an individual assignment -- must write a reflection piece on the following: think about the chapters from Thomas Foster* you read; the vignette and how you analyzed it; and the discussions we had in class about _The Things They Carried_ and literary techniques. Then write a reflection piece about what you learned from the assignment and how it could apply to your own development and skills as a writer. The assignment must be at least 2-3 paragraphs long. 

*  To prepare for this assignment, I had the students read chapters called "Is that a Symbol?" and "More Than It's Gonna Hurt You: Concerning Violence" from Thomas Foster's highly readable book How to Read Literature Like a Professor. Here are some students' responses to the chapters:

Three student responses:

1. Writing as well as reading are both events of the imagination.
2. Symbols can symbolize numerous things. It depends on how the reader interprets them.

I found two things very interesting in How To Read Literature Like A Professor. Firstly I found it interesting that he said that all deaths have meaning but also said that in detective stories the deaths rarely cause feeling. Secondly I thought it was interesting that symbols can't mean just one thing, and that symbols can be actions and not only words.

The most interesting thing about How to Read Like a Professor is the style of writing that Thomas Foster used. He writes in a very engaging manner, as if speaking directly to the reader. Thomas Foster also gives a lot of credit to the imagination of the reader. He says that some times the imagery and symbolism is there because the reader wants it to be. Most people just assume that the writer meant everything they are picking up on.

Fingerpainting in English class! 

Look at how this work developed in only 3 days of class time!

We're going to exhibit the assignment in the school,
so students are creating exhibition cards explaining their work.

Additional resources:

For more information on PBL, check out this great article from edutopia

Arts Integration Resources

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Dorian Gray, Qoheleth, and Narcissism

Over the Sukkot vacation, I asked my sophomore class, which had read The Picture of Dorian Gray over the summer, to consider Qoheleth as well as a piece I'd written on a Jewish view on narcissism, which you can find here. Following is a student response that really blew me away:

As Jews, we believe in a life in which we are restricted from engaging in decadence and vanity: we deny ourselves pork, meat and milk together, working or doing electronics on Shabbat, being unfaithful and even wearing linen mixed with wool in our socks. Although we are not the most aesthetic people ever, even those of us who don't have a religious career still abhor things others cannot live without. We are taught that a good, meaningful life is one that is spent, at least partially, in worship of G-D. Every year on Chanukah, we describe a great victory over Hellenism, the Greek culture of beauty and decadence. The pious Maccabees, led by Mattisyahu, drove out the Hellenistic Syrians and slaughtered those who adopted the Hellenistic lifestyle. The Hellenistic way of life, one of dedication to leisure and beauty, was a total antithesis to Judaism. The Hellenists believed in beauty, spring, the arts, youth. On page 24 of Dorian Gray, Lord Henry exclaims, "For there is such a little time that your youth will last--such a little time. The common hill-flowers wither, but they blossom again. The laburnum will be as yellow next June as it is now. In a month there will be purple stars on the clematis, and year after year the green night of its leaves will hold its purple stars. But we never get back our youth. The pulse of joy that beats in us at twenty becomes sluggish. Our limbs fail, our senses rot. We degenerate into hideous puppets, haunted by the memory of the passions of which we were too much afraid, and the exquisite temptations that we had not the courage to yield to. Youth! Youth! There is absolutely nothing in the world but youth!". Meanwhile, the book of Kohelet claims, "Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thy heart, and in the sight of thine eyes; but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.Therefore remove vexation from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh; for childhood and youth are vanity" (Kohelet 11:9 -11:10). To Kohelet, focusing one's life on youth and hedonism is futile, for only G-D and good deeds are worthy causes.

In modern times, the philosophy of Hellenism is revived in movements like Aesthetics or Avant Garde. Judaism seems to be a sharp contrast to these too. Perhaps the most prominent example of this is Chaim Potok's Asher Lev, a novel in which the protagonist, a young Chasid with a gift for painting, must choose between his community and his art. In the end, he is forced to choose his art, painting a picture of his mother nailed to a cross in between her often-absent husband and her struggling child. But for displaying a crucifix, and moreover, for pointing a spotlight on his family's internal issues, he was exiled from his community. The harsh social criticism, the dive into self reflection that is a pillar of Hellenism, is totally alien to Judaism. The Jew doesn't examine himself like Narcissus, instead he looks toward what he could be, what he should be. One could say we are a people that has low self-esteem. When we study the Torah, we remind ourselves of sins we have done, like the golden calf, the rebellion in the desert and the destruction of the second Temple. The practitioners of Hellinism, Atheistics, or some other modern equivalent, prefer to put themselves on high, with stunning artwork, scandalous fashion, constantly analyzing themselves. To some, Jews may look like sad sacks, fasting on Yom Kippur and pounding our chest every Shemonah Esrei. But to us, it is a drive towards a higher, holier, more perfect version of ourselves. We are not the beautiful marble statue that, a marvel in its youth, now sits dusty in a museum, out of fashion. We are the seedling, far below the ground, but prepared to shoot up to be a majestic redwood tree. We do not reminisce about fleeting youth, but strive towards a better version of ourselves. We are not the past, we are the future.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Online Professional Development from JEDLAB

The first JEDLAB-inspired webinar occurred on Sept 16th, hosting 16 Jewish educators from around the globe. Veteran EdTech educators Etta King, Education Program Manager at Jewish Women's Archive and Smadar Goldstein, Founder and co-Director of Jerusalem EdTech Solutions (JETS), coordinated this online learning hangout to talk about how technologically-adept educators can learn from each other and bring newcomers into the elearning world.  
The group, which included both day school and afternoon school teachers, online educators, administrators, educational coaches and other professionals met for a participant-driven, collaborative discussion about online professional development in the Jewish educational community. Etta King opened the session by describing her wish to find new and creative ways to develop and implement curriculum that focuses on Jewish values, Jewish heroes and social justice. Her previous conversations about online learning have been within the JEDLAB community as well as within her own organization, and now she threw open the question of how to involve more participant-educators with the goal of creating a structured program of professional development which could establish universal objectives for online learning.
The participants expressed interest in an online class as a good way for Jewish educators to advance together. Such a class would allow for collaboration and a process learning experience that could strengthen teachers' skills for coping with varied classroom situations. In addition, the webinar participants noted that, in the same way that students learn best when they apply a skill or concept immediately, teachers will also increase their teaching skills when they can acquire new information in an online PD class and apply it in their domain within days, without having to go through a long period of planning before implementation.

The webinar participants offered concrete solutions. One idea was based on the Craftsy.com website in which a community of people interact online for a shared goal. This type of framework could be specifically helpful to lay leaders and other non-professional educators who are teaching in Jewish educational frameworks but lack an education background.

A second suggestion involved educational forums that teach different concepts through a video, discussion, assignment and opportunity for participants to examine each other's work. Such a format provides constant feedback and, in an expression that was repeated several times during the class, enables educators to learn from each other by "peeking into each other's classrooms."

Hang-out participants were asked to note which type of tools they know how to use. One educator mentioned the DangerouslyIrrelevant website which draws information from classrooms and educators around the country. The site keeps teachers up-to-date on new technologies and tools while emphasizing that education will always depend more on the educators than on the tools themselves.

In summary, the question focused on the core of the webinar -- how can Jewish educators use online professional development opportunities to gain from each other?


The session ended when the group broke up into break-out groups to discuss how to move forward to share resources and information, both individually and among the larger JEBLAB community.

Etta King's group decided to look at the larger picture in deciding which gaps need to be filled so that the new PD course doesn't end up reinventing the wheel. JEDLAB should serve as a clearinghouse for learning "what's out there, especially in light of the fact that technology is always changing and educators must stay abreast of the changes. Accessing materials should be easy to ensure that teachers don't need to recreate the same materials and same lesson plans and can use the time and energy to create new materials. Tikvah Wiener, who will be moderating the November webinar has already begun to gather resources on the Frisch RealSchool blog.  

The suggestion was made to create a platform which will allow teachers to contribute their materials and lessons and will enable other educators to access those materials at will. There can be different categories including categories for beginning and advanced teachers, day schools, afternoon schools, etc.

The second group, facilitated by JETS' co-Director Smadar Goldstein, discussed the feasibility of creating a series of webinars in which each participant would facilitate a session in a specific area of expertise.  Each webinar could be given on a different platform so participants would also be introduced to different platforms as part of the program.

The session ended with the promise to set up a blog with a calendar so that all participants, as well as new people who want to join the conversation, can stay abreast of the schedule for 2013-2014 PD classes.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Twitter in the Classroom

A Twitter Chat as an Assessment Tool

At the end of the past school year, I shared my experience "un-schooling" my classroom and giving a final on Twitter (You can read all about that here). Over the summer, I worked with my wonderful colleagues Rabbi Daniel Rosen and Mrs. Meryl Feldblum to create a project-based learning curriculum for The Frisch School's Honors Sophomore classes. One of the assessments and experiences we wanted our students to have was a Twitter chat that would have them reflect on the lessons they had learned about the first part of the school year, which will be about stock characters, stereotypes, and how literature gives voice to the voiceless.

We weighed the pros and cons of a Twitter assessment over other types of evaluations and decided to take our dialogue public in case other teachers wanted to learn from it. Before we share what we've been contemplating, we wanted to point to other educators finding uses for Twitter in a school setting:

How (and Why) to Try Twitter Teams in School

My Twitter Chat Basics:

1) How exactly do you run a Twitter chat for your students? 

Note: This is our way. What is your way? There is no the way. (#Nietzscheintheclassroom)
Step One: If you don't know what a Twitter chat is, check out this blog post to find out, and think about the ways you'll be adapting the forum for your classroom.

Step Two: Make sure all your students have a Twitter account, and read these helpful safety tips: Twitter Safety Tips for Teachers. I found it useful that my students had already tweeted to me early on in the year, and we practiced having a discussion before the exam.

Step Three: Choose a hashtag for the chat. This is obviously an important step, since you'll all be tweeting to the hashtag. Our hashtag was #10final. Here are examples of tweets from before and on the day of the final:
Step Four: Teach your students what a Twitter chat is. I've learned so much from my Twitter PLN, #jedchat, and I explained what it was to my students as an example of the kind of roundtable discussion we would be having. Vicki Berhman of Behrman House pointed out that the Twitter final sounded a lot like the Harkness Method of teaching, and I wholeheartedly agree. Check out some ideas about the Harkness model, which emphasizes a collaborative, student-centered approach to having class discussions.

Notice how engaged and happy students look as they take their Twitter exam!?
Step Four: Have everyone be in the same room for the Twitter chat. I know this sounds strange, given the fact that one of the advantages of a Twitter chat is that no one has to be in the same place. I found that part of the excitement of the medium was having everyone present. I was able to gauge student interest, participation, and knowledge not only from what the students tweeted but also from what they were saying and doing during the hour-long chat. Students were excitedly responding to each other and calling out ideas they wanted to share as they tweeted. Because the exam format is a new one, being in the same room allowed me to answer questions students had about the format and to solve technological glitches.

2) How is a Twitter chat different from a well-moderated class discussion?

A Twitter chat is different in a number of ways:

One: It has more authentic purpose than a class discussion, since it can be seen by a large audience. In fact, I asked members of my PLN to join the chat, and four colleagues did so, adding a layer of complexity, relevance, and fun that a class discussion wouldn't have had. Ken Gordon, PEJE's Social Media Manager, a JEDLAB co-creator, and a book aficionado, challenged the students to think more deeply about the books they had read, and because he is so funny, made them see they could laugh about characters as serious as Jay Gatsby. Yechiel Hoffman, another JEDLAB co-creator, Adrian Durlester, a JEDLAB facilitator, and Charles Cohen, Manager of PEJE's Affordability Knowledge Center, also joined the Twitter chat, making the students feel that what they were doing and saying was important. My class definitely felt more heard and validated because of the involvement of my colleagues, some of whose tweets you can see here:

PEJEjds: @RGreen12345 @RealSchool1 @swimer123 Does it remind you of real-life
scenarios in which a person defies society & pays the price? #10final
6/14/2013 1:47:39 PM

PEJEjds: @MikeReinhart911 @TikvahWiener #10final Is there wisdom in knowing that
you're seeking the unattainable--and still going on? #10final
6/14/2013 1:50:39 PM

migdalorguy: @jonas_leavitt @livmylife1 and isn;t there an aspect of love in art?
6/14/2013 2:05:41 PM

migdalorguy: @bennituchman Is Satire truly blunt? I often find it quite subtle. #10final
6/14/2013 2:17:39 PM

yakhoffman: RT @PEJEjds: @TikvahWiener @PEJECohen @yakhoffman This is great.
#10final = best final ever! (Almost makes me wish I was back in high schoo…
6/14/2013 2:24:39 PM

yakhoffman: RT @TikvahWiener: The archive from r #10final Tweet Archive and
Analytics http://t.co/jyYMdMkVvf #tweetarchivist #jedlab #jedchat @pejejds
6/14/2013 5:49:01 PM

Two: A Twitter chat becomes a creation, an authentic product, of the class in a way that a class discussion, even a good one, does not. For some reason, perhaps because the chat exists online and the words aren't disappearing as soon as they emerge from people's mouths, the Twitter discussion seems more real.

This became apparent to me even before the final, as the students and I spent time trying to figure out what kind of authentic assessment we wanted to have for the end of the year. When we decided on the Twitter chat, I asked a student what she thought of it. She said, "I get it. We're making the final together." Because project-based learning, what the class had engaged in all year, focuses so much on content creation, no response could have pleased me more. The student saw the final as a collaborative act of meaningful creation.

To reinforce the feeling, I archived the chat immediately after the final and shared the archive with the students on the Facebook group we had created. The post immediately received a whole bunch of Likes. You can see the archive here.

Three: The chat created joyful learning. I'm a big proponent of making learning joyful and fun, and the chat did just that. I realize it was partly because it was a new toy, and if we did it all the time and if every assessment was on Twitter, it would quickly lose its shine. However, employed as it was, after a year of PBL and with the consent and buy-in from the students, it was a huge success. Not only were the students excited during the chat, but they went home after the final and told their parents about it; for a few days after the exam parents in the community who saw me stopped me and let me know how much fun their kids had had. I always want learning to be that exciting.

Some pre-final, buzz-building tweets:

Danielferber97: I have never been more excited for a final, and I get pretty excited for
finals #10final

livmylife1: @CoryBooker first ever twitter final at Frisch! Starting at 9:35 EST #10final.
Please join us!
6/14/2013 1:09:52 PM

Four: No doubt, well-run discussions force students to think deeply about a subject and challenge them to question their opinions and beliefs, and I still think class discussions are valuable in the same way that frontal teaching still has a place in the classroom, even a PBL one. What I liked about the Twitter chat was that students didn't have to adhere to one discussion thread at a time. I threw out questions, and the students answered them as well as each other's responses, so that the discussion was at once contained but free to move in diverse places. Still, the chat stayed relevant to our school year, spiraling around its major themes and creating a harmony of ideas about whether one should pursue utopias; the ability to manage lust and longing; Western hierarchies and classism; and the role we as Americans should play in the world. Here's a taste of what the chat was like:

madmillertary: CD* also shows that a utopia can be different for different people and
one person's utopia can be different than someone else's #10final
6/14/2013 1:45:17 PM

* CD stands for Candide by Voltaire

jrosen97: @AjulianK @madmillertary i don't think there is such a thing as a "perfect
world" nothing is ever as perfect as it seems #10final
6/14/2013 1:46:39 PM

dzuck0114: A complete U/dystopia is not possible. CD and 84* show that always in
society there will be upper/lower classes.@bennituchman #10final
6/14/2013 1:49:13 PM

*84 stands for 1984

swimer123: The books we read this year were very European and class based.gave me
a greater appreciation for America #10final
6/14/2013 1:49:47 PM

ILove10HEnglish: @ILove10HEnglish: @TikvahWiener we're all stuck in a bubble and
must open our minds to the larger problems in the world! #africa #10final
6/14/2013 1:51:08 PM

dzuck0114: @swimer123 @bennyweisbrot @tikvahwiener They [books] show us that it is
human nature to lust for what they [people] can't have. #10final
6/14/2013 2:31:24 PM

livmylife1: @swimer123 #10final I agree that Adam and Eve show that man always
wants more

6/14/2013 2:31:31 PM

jrosen97: @TikvahWiener @livmylife1 #10final But in sonnet 116, the enjambment
shows his [Shakespeare's] continuation of his thought on true love, not physical love.
6/14/2013 2:33:16 PM

bennituchman: @TikvahWiener Judaism disciplines us and makes us choose what is
best for us even is it is contrary to what people initially want #10final

6/14/2013 2:33:59 PM

solomonrapoport: @swimer123 but that brings us back to the point of reaching for the
impossible. If u try for a perfect life, ull get a full life. #10final
6/14/2013 2:36:12 PM

madmillertary: @TikvahWiener @solomonrapoport life needs its flaws and mistakes,
you don't live a full life unless you learn from them #10final
6/14/2013 2:38:56 PM

What I found was that the students made comments that were far deeper and richer than I expected and did so in a natural and organic way. Which leads me to my next benefit . . . .

Five: Digital Literacy. The students saw that an online forum can be a dynamic place to exchange views not about the tawdriness of Miley Cyrus' twerking but about matters of deep significance to themselves and the world. They adhered to the rules of netiquette, which we had reviewed only minimally, agreeing and disagreeing with each other respectfully, and making social media a place for lively, sophisticated, and engaged dialogue about important, soul-deep matters.

bennituchman: I'm ready to discuss and respond to each other #10final
6/14/2013 1:36:30 PM

solomonrapoport: @AjulianK I disagree. He finds his version of a "utopia," although it
may not seem ideal #10final
6/14/2013 1:43:12 PM

AjulianK: @solomonrapoport I wrote how he finds a good society. But it doesn't fulfill
his criteria of a utopia #10final
6/14/2013 1:44:01 PM

jrosen97: @swimer123 #10final but doesn't it make you realize how corrupt society is?
including america?
6/14/2013 1:51:12 PM

dzuck0114: @BennyWeisbrot I dont agree. Although book is described as dystopia,
would the Inner Party say that they live in a dystopia? #10final

Six: If you're into Big Data, a Twitter chat supplies it in a way that a discussion only vaguely does. What was interesting to me was that the students who participated most in class were generally the ones who tweeted the most. Generally. Not all. And I have the stats to prove it:

Top User Analytics

Word Cloud Visualization

Twitter Hashtag Analytics

Now that I have this information, I know how to set up an even more effective Twitter chat next time, by showing my students exactly what I'll be looking for and what they can do to make an impact in their chat.

In fact, here's my new Twitter chat rubric. I'd appreciate feedback on it.

Quantity of Tweets
Quality of Tweets
Creativity and Originality


Tweeted 40-50 times

Made deeply insightful comments about the literary works, their contexts, and the way the works applied to the world and to the self
Responded to moderator, fellow classmates, and chat participants; initiated discussions based on others’ responses
Led discussion into places that were surprisingly deep, thoughtful, creative, and fun. Introduced information from other disciplines into the discussion


Tweeted 31-39 times

Made insightful comments about the works, their contexts, and/or the way the works applied to the world and to the self
Responded well and enthusiastically to moderator, classmates, and chat participants
Led discussion into places that were deep, thoughtful, creative, and fun (DTCF) or introduced other disciplines into the discussion


Tweeted 21-30 times

Made adequate comments about the works, their contexts, and/or the way the works applied to the world and to the self; some information may be inaccurate
Responded consistently to moderator but inconsistently to classmates and chat participants or vice versa
Elaborated well on comments that led the discussion into DTCF places or that showed multi-disciplinary thinking


Tweeted 11-20 times

Made insufficient comments about the works, their contexts, and/or the way the works applied to the world and to the self; a number of observations were inaccurate
Responded inconsistently to moderator, classmates, and chat participants
Elaborated inconsistently on comments that were DTCF and /or multi-disciplinary


Tweeted 1-10 times

Comments showed faulty understanding of works, their contexts, and/or the world; much inaccurate information
Rarely responded to moderator, classmates, and chat participants. Was perhaps playing Fantasy Football or doing online shopping during the chat
Did not follow the discussion into places that were DTCF and/or multi-disciplinary. Seemed lost and confused

What about Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation?

As you can tell, I wasn't as concerned with the mechanics of writing as I would be in an essay. I did tell students that they couldn't use the wrong forms of its and it's and their and there and that I wanted them to make some sort of grammatical sense in their syntax, but a Twitter chat isn't the ideal place to teach proper mechanics. About two weeks before the final, the students had handed in a five-page term paper on one of Shakespeare's sonnets, and they had had multiple opportunities to write and revise their writing throughout the year. My aims for the Twitter chat were different, but I do see digital literacy as an important part of any classroom, not just an English one, so I was satisfied that the forum was an appropriate one for my purposes.

Ready to Try?

If you want to ask additional questions about this assessment format, feel free to contact me at Tikvah.Wiener@gmail.com. But if you have some experience on Twitter and want to give this a try, I can assure you you and your students won't be disappointed. And please let me know how it goes!