Aruging is something that all middle schoolers love to do and my challenge was show them how to do this kind of discussion in a school context. Why not build on this natural inclination and extend their science literacy?
Our district has just started to really see the value in Edmodo and recently began to have a district sponsored Edmodo community for our school. I created 4 different groups and the science teachers split up each grade level into 4 groups. Here are the directions for how to create a small group within the larger Edmodo community.
Teacher Setup: Facilitating and Managing the Conversations
All of the science teachers joined each of the small groups. This allowed them to have co-teacher status and moderating abilities. We knew that there was going to a huge flow of traffic and we'd need every teacher to be reading and approving comments to keep up and make the conversation really flow. Each group had an equal number of 6th, 7th and 8th graders assigned to it. It means that each group had about 120 members.
Pre Conversation Preparation: One of the Big Keys to Our Success
The week before the conversations started, we took students into the computer labs to make sure that they were properly in the Edmodo community, that they had a school appropriate avatar and that they joined the right small group.
I know this sounds easy. But it really wasn't. You can't imagine how messed up student accounts can get. Students forget their username and passwords, so instead of figuring out what was already in place, they'd just create a new account. The social studies teacher was also using Edmodo and he had them create a second account for their social studies work. Once we realized this, we stopped that practice and got things fixed but there was probably 50 accounts that had to reorganized. We also had to make sure that students had followed the signon directions and used their district email account....not everyone did this. That created a HUGE mess because if they forgot their username/password, the Edmodo "I forgot my username" didn't go to an email account they knew how to access.
We all agreed it was one of our smartest moves to start a week early in getting everyone online and into the right group. There isn't any way we could have sustained a conversation AND gotten all the accounts straightened out. Now I can tell you that all 556 students are properly registered and signed into their correct classes and small groups.
Getting the conversations fired up
Each group had the prompts the same prompts on that first day of discussions.
Post one paragraph that supports rebuilding communities in hurrican prone regions using the best evidence from the articles, videos and pictures you've seen. Be sure to include the MLA citation of whatever source you chose to use.
Post one paragraph that supports relocating communities in hurrican prone regions using the best evidence from the articles, videos and pictures you've seen. Be sure to include the MLA citation of whatever source you chose to use.
The science teachers picked one week for this discussion. Monday and Tuesdayswere assigned for the purpose of getting all these argumentation paragraphs entered into Edmodo. Followed by Wednesday and Thursday which were days for reading other people's posts/ideas and adding comments, questions or additional resources to the discussions.
It was exciting to see the comments start to pop up...and I should mention that we set up the groups so that every comment had to be moderated by a teacher before it was posted to the group's discussion stream. Honestly sometimes I was overwhelmed because the comments came in faster than I could read, approve/deny them.
Quickly it became apparent we had to crack down on netiquette and using standard English conventions. Luckily all of us were able to send/receive emails and we stayed in close touch via email....and what cracked me up was that we were all the same building...just in different labs throughout the building. If things got really difficult, we could run over to the other lab. For the most part, we stayed in our own labs and just worked with our students.
The comments got better and better.
Kinzie, I see your point but should people be forced to leave their homes? If they were to relocate people would have to leave. Also natural disasters occur almost everywhere, should they be forced to leave too?
This would be a pretty typical comment which we thought showed good form---the student referenced the person to whom they were responding, made some acknowledgement of what the person said and then asked their question and offered their own idea.
@Will M I understand that people could rebuild stronger homes but how much would that cost the government? In this article I didn't get any facts about the cost to rebuild which makes me very curios whether we have the money to rebuild these new homes that are supposedly stronger, and if the homes are built to be stronger there is no guarantee that they won’t get damaged by another storm so would it be worth it to spend billions of dollars that we don't even have in the first place to test if these new homes could withstand a hurricane?
Students began to get into the flow of the conversation and really enjoyed reading what other people had to say.
Over the course of these 4 days, our 480 student wrote over 5,000 posts/comments. That's a lot of discussion and I'm thinking they'll never forget the issues surrounding hurricane public policy.