I had my last face to face class with my blogging group today. It was a great class and we covered a huge range of topics from the native people and languages of the Canary islands to the location of the 20 official casts of Rodin’s thinkers (one was recently on show in the main shopping street in Cádiz).
In the last half an hour of the class we got talking about the course and how we felt about it. We discussed some of the questions that were suggested to me in the comments to my last post, and we spent quite a long time on this one question in particular :
Did you find the emails useful? If yes, in what way?
To recap, over the last three months we have been using email as a way of extending our classes beyond the four walls of the classroom. After every lesson, one of the students writes a summary of the class and emails it to everybody else, regardless of whether they actually attended the lesson or not. Likewise, I email a list of possible extension tasks, which have been typically a variety of writing tasks, of sharing and commenting on photos and online clips, texts and images. I responded to all the tasks by email, with comments and corrections which were sent to the whole group. Often students would email me back with redrafts or queries and requests for future lessons. Over the three months we have racked up almost 300 emails (290 to date).
They all agreed that the emails had given them a strong sense of community. One even said that it was like inviting her classmates into her home! Another commented on how the emails make her think in English at home, amost like having an extra class. Another student appreciated the immediacy of feedback and corrections by email as compared to on paper, and that she felt she really learnt a lot, not only from her own corrections, but also from those of her classmates. She shyly produced a wad of notes, where she had collected her homework tasks and those of her classmates, along with my comments and corrections, all well-thumbed and highlighted.
There were some joking remarks about the workload and I asked them whether they’d ever felt frustrated by seeing other class members writing enthusiastically and prolifically and feeling that maybe they didn’t have the time to do the same. I told them that I’d felt that way sometimes on an online course I’d attended recently. It was stimulating and creative and there was a great sense of community, but there was also a great sense of guilt and frustration when I didn’t have the time, or the energy, to participate at the same rate as some of the others. They all shook their heads. They said they’d felt no pressure to write and one student talked about “contagious enthusiasm” and being motivated to write by reading the other students’ messages. One of the students said, very simply, “I’ll miss it.”
And so will I! But the experiment continues :-).
The next step is to take the class onto the blog. We will no longer be meeting face to face, but I will be posting a task to our class blog every Monday morning, and, fingers crossed, the students will keep posting too. But that, as they say, is another blog post …