Observations Reflections

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My observations began at the back of the room—I could see computer screens and (mostly) the backs of student heads. Had a clear view of the instructor, the whiteboards, and the projection screen.
Opened Class: “How are people doing” Response: lots of head nods.
By 10:32—class was in full swing. Computer screens varied, but the majority were filled with the course blog main page or with some type of writing (whether that be in personal blogs or on a Word doc)
Printer was at work throughout class time
Instructor gave a verbal explanation and wrote the directions on the blog.
Some students wandered in late---sat down, booted up comp, checked email, printed essay that was due, grabbed essay from printer, went to blog to write—was bit behind other students
Start of class—informal/free write 5 mins.; comparisons of readings. ----There was a slight hesitation, then clack, clack, clacking of keyboards and complete silence. Some students pulled up blogs, others MS Word
Informal blogging—verbal explanation and written explanation on projector
At the four minute mark: some students had a sentence or two, others had full paragraphs. Instructor gave verbal reminder “one more minute” and I could hear a sense of urgency in the tapping of keyboards.
Students were given opp to speak/share: one student volunteered information
Instructor: Brief scan of the rest of class agenda (1/2 visual creation; ½ group work with assignment that was due)
Instructor modeled visual activity—explained that activity is “jumping off point”—“triggers”—“digging for meaningful moments”---explained her approach to the activity and explained/interpreted her collage

There was lots of talk about what was coming in the semester and how this particular activity fit in with everything else---making he scaffolding of assignments transparent

10:45—moved to the front of the room—was seated at the teachers’ station; this workspace is clogged: two computer screens, two towers, two keyboards, two mice, tons of chords, the tech box on the right hand side. No clear view of students, their screens, or their workspaces
Students grouped by materials—searching for things—some students remained at screens, one student asked teacher for direct instruction—she explained through her example (really detailed)
Sounds: chatter, paper shuffling, printer going, interaction (generally).

Question: “Are we allowed to take this home and work on it?

Hear: student use the word “trigger”

See: some thinking—lots of student-student consultation and interactions—materials-shuffling and sharing

Question about Photoshop
Student Conversation: (A): “So I can do whatever I want, right?” (B): “Yeeeeeeees” (aggravated)
Another conversation: (A) “I don’t think I like my pattern” (B): “Yea…[inaudible]”
Student looking for ruler, lots of shuffling of materials
Change in location 3: took a walk around the room
Only 1 out of 4 males used the craft materials --- 1 who did was at an isolated 2-person workstation with a female (who, judging by informal chatter at beginning and throughout class was an acquaintance)
2 our of 14 females didn’t use craft materials
The majority of people were totally into activity—conversations, clear interest
11:01: cutting them off to talk about next activity

11:04: wrap up

As we moved to next activity, instructor typed directions on the board—then verbally explained; called it a “transition”
Point of activity (1) to evaluate their own writing; (2) to discuss their writing with classmates; (3) to form peer groups/support
Quiet ensued—funny, first “group activity” started w/the most quiet
Gradually, maybe a few minutes or so in, there was an increase in talk and then a decrease
The printer continued to work
Seeing: people reading
Students tended to consult each other for clarification
11:09: almost total silence (whispers, shuffling of papers)
11:12: Reminder to talk – a little more chatter, but, visually, looked lost in their own writing
Noted that it was interesting, like they didn’t already know what they liked or didn’t like about their papers—looking for something that they liked (or didn’t) seemed like a really unfamiliar activity
11:14: TALKING! (still a lot of independent reading and writing)
11:16: A lot more talking but still student writing (instructor has also noted this at this point in time)
11:18: lots of talking---instructor, begins closing down class—going over homework, asks for questions, collects drafts
11:19—see ya! 1 student approaches instructor

My senses were open to anything that intrigued them…but I was particularly listening for what the classroom sounded like, what students sounded like, how much they talked, about what. Also, listening to how the instructor phrases things, how she communicated with students (there was as much to read as there was to listen to---instructor consistently made sure that any directions were given in multiple mediums). Also, specifically changed my location a few times throughout observation---wanted to get a feel for the classroom space while occupying different spaces (but wanted my note-taking to be discreet—not interrupt students or make them feel “observed”)
What really interested me in this observation was how much students relied on one another to make sure they were “doing the right thing” in class—in terms of activities (there were two), students regularly consulted one another to make sure they were on the same page (even though the instructor gave verbal directions and provided written prompts and was available for any clarification). HOWEVER, when the second activity asked them to select (by marking) areas of their writing that they liked and didn’t like and to consult with a peer to talk things over…students were really reluctant to do this. I was expecting that the classroom would buzz with commentary…it did not. Instead, most students spent a lot of time with their own writing. It was as if evaluating their own piece and putting positive and negative values to “parts” of the paper was entirely unfamiliar. In planning this activity, we were thinking that, like ourselves, students would know (already) where that chills down the spine sentence was and where that place where nothing seemed to work out right was. This was an incorrect assumption. Also strange, since students consulted each other throughout class about what they should be doing, it seemed natural that they might also trust this consultation about their writing—not the case. Many student spent the entire work time (15 minutes) re-reading, thinking about, and annotating their own writing. While some students chatted and passed papers, it seemed that the majority worked in isolation with their own writing. I think this might be a good thing? I also think that this means that next time, students need double the time. (1) to read through and interact with their own writing, and (2) then to turn to a peer to have him/her work with his/her writing. To me, this observation was the most interesting of the entire day. It suggests that students are comfortable asking each other what to do but not do comfortable asking each other what to do when it comes to the writing that they have already done. They might ask, “How do I start this assignment” or “What does the teacher want” but they are much more timid asking, “Hey, this sentence sounds really strange, what do you think?” I wonder why the comfort with one advice-situation and not the other—especially since in the context of BGSU and GSW peer review should be so familiar. I wonder, what has happened that makes them not do peer-review friendly---was it the assignment prompt? Is it peer review in general? Similarly, what makes them so uncomfortable or so unfamiliar with their own writing when asked to look for great spots and not so great spots? They must have had time away from it—but it seemed like they had months and months away from it?
The gender dynamics in the room also caught my attention. Because the number of men to women is disproportionately represented by women and because all of the men sat on one side of the room (not together, but they were all on the same side) it was something that I noticed as soon as the first activity got underway. Working with digital mirror, I was not surprised that it seemed that the men were more likely to turn to techy creations and the women were more likely to turn to crafty/hands on creations. However, I wonder…what were the majors of the students who chose different mediums? Also interesting, a male student in the front of the room was working in Photoshop doing some snazzy things—he received help from students sitting in the row behind him with some technical matters BUT none of those students were using Photoshop—one, in fact, had chosen to use MS Word to arrange his images.
I payed particular attention to a female student who walked in late because I wanted to observe her “getting ready” stages. Her getting ready was not remarkable—in fact, it’s most likely the same routine I might have in a computer lab. Email, printing assignment, getting assignment, checking out the course blog space, getting into what everyone else was doing. There seemed to be no urgency to “catch up”—rather, the student progressed at and “as usual” pace BUT this didn’t seem to stump her or hold her back or ultimately affect her—as I have observed in other classrooms, students who appear to be “off-task” (checking email) are not negatively affected as learners (this multi-tasking is a familiar or natural routine/relationship with computers).
The instructor seemed like it was natural (rather than a conscious act or something that she had to remind herself to do) to present directions to students in multiple mediums—did notice that even with attention paid to different learning styles, that there were no comprehension checks
Another thing that I noticed was that the computers really separate the instructor from all students and students in different rows from students in other rows. Strangely, especially during the crafting, I felt like students in rows were almost in forts—they were in pretty private groupings, the screens hiding them from the instructor and from students outside of their own rows. Seems like the instructor also felt the separation caused by the tech-overload workspace designated to her because she often moved to the front center of the room to address students, circulated, and spent a significant amount of time in the back of the room where there is a large open space and were all students can be seen and where the instructors body is not entirely covered by technology.

9/2/2011 English 2070 East Hall 115 Instructor: Kerri # of Students: 19

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