One thing I tried with my summer French 1 students this year (a very small class) was giving them an opportunity to share via a Padlet after the first or second week of class. I asked them questions about what interesting things they're learning about French as well as how to navigate class, what they're surprised about, and what's currently challenging. I wanted this to be both a way for them to see they're not alone but also get them talking about their experience. I was pleasantly surprised by the meager yet enthusiastic participation I witnessed in this activity. My favorite part was the response echoed by a few different students about what surprised them the most about their online course (taken from a copy to take out student names and comments):
So, students were surprised at how much they would be communicating with each other! I found this surprising, as, like I said earlier, the students don't have a ton of opportunities to communicate with each other. It seems like my goal for this type of activity was met... the very nature of this activity seemed to contribute to students feeling like they're able to communicate with each other.
Doing something like this in the summer is pretty easy, but when it comes to the larger class sizes we accommodate in the fall or spring, I knew I would have to be a bit more strategic to get this to actually work. So, I wanted to release a Padlet for this week (we're at about week 8 in our semester), giving students an opportunity to share similar pieces of information as this summer experiment.
Here are some things I did to elicit student participation (and even recognition that we were doing this), as this is not a required activity, nor can it be (not worth points or an official part of the course design):
- I let students know the week before (via Remind) that "something" was coming. I tried to build a little anticipation by keeping it somewhat a mystery. :)
- I gave myself plenty of time to think through all of the "systems" type of details on Friday that would go into a successful posting and management of the Padlet for 2 different courses.
- I created the Padlet, made clear directions for exactly what I wanted students to post, created a sample post for them to follow as an example, and then made a quick YouTube tutorial for how to post.
- I replaced the normal Google Slide announcement with the embedded Padlet to make it "front and center" in the course landing page (pretty tough for anyone to miss it).
- I also encouraged students to share a picture of themselves (and shared a picture of myself in my example post to get things started). This can sometimes be a controversial move with minors in the online setting, but it certainly isn't required, nor should it be a true security issue within our closed online environment.
The results? So far a lot of really great participation. I've also been able to comment on some student posts to answer questions, and I'm seeing the students comment a bit, too.
My hope is that in the future I'll perhaps do one or two more Padlets this semester, next time mostly or completely in the target language (French).