I recently had the privilege of seeing a presentation by Jose Antonio Bowen from Southern Methodist University called "Teaching Naked". His presentation was adapted from an article he wrote called "Teaching Naked: Why Removing Technology from Your Classroom Will Improve Student Learning" (available here: Teaching Naked). So, you are probably wondering, "how could this apply to my online class, which is pretty much technology dependent?" Well, I found that some of his suggestions could possibly be adapted to work in the distance environment in ways to optimize the learning experience. However, there was one in particular that jumped out at me called Inkshedding.
Inkshedding is an idea that has been around for some time, and is basically an adaptation of freewriting. The idea is to have students write on a particular subject, and then pass their writing on to the other members of the class (or group). The other members then mark areas of the writing that are "striking" to them, or that make an impact on their "take" of the subject. These are observations that constitute deeper thinking, or a different viewpoint, on the part of the writer. The difference between inkshedding and regular freewriting is that students are composing for an immediate and known audience - this seems to change the way that they write, forming it into a more conscious dialogic exchange.
This idea seemed to me very adaptable to the online environment, especially with the new feature in Blackboard 7.2 that allows for moderation of the discussion board. My idea is this:
1. Students would be given a topic to write on, with the understanding that only once all the writings were completed would they be available for reading by everyone else in the class (or group).
2. Instead of allowing the students to post to the discussion board as they each finished their writing, the instructor would moderate the board up to a specified due date, at which time all writings would be released for review. This would somewhat maintain the immediacy that is possible in the f2f environment, while still allowing the students to respond asynchronously.
3. Students would then be allowed to create one post in which they commented on the most "striking" aspects of the other students' writings. This could, again, be moderated so that all responses were available for viewing at the same time.
4. The most commonly referenced writings would be compiled and could then be used for discussion by the whole class asynchronously.
What would be the benefit of this?
1. Students would write knowing that their work would be read critically by their classmates.
2. Students would have to come up with their own opinions, rather than taking opinions from others in the course who posted earlier.
3. Students would begin to value their writing more and strive to achieve the status that those creating the deeper writings would attain.
4. Students would become more involved with the material through the process of reading and critiquing other's work.
For more information on Inkshedding please see "What is Inkshedding?" .