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Innovative Uses for a Computer Classroom?

Cliff posted more than 11 years ago | from the non-tech-classes-in-a-tech-environment dept.

Education 350

flard asks: "I will be teaching a Freshman English class at a medium sized public university, in a computer classroom for next semester. Every student has their own machine with an internet connection. I am thinking about using a weblog for them to post their work and critique each other. Do you guys have any other cool ideas on what to do and what NOT to do?" How can the computers best be applied to assist in teaching a non-technical class? Use of a weblog is a start, but are there other pieces of software that can be deployed in such a setting?

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Waaay back in the 90's (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6278651)

Spring 1997 to be precise, I took a College Writing (English) section that was focused on online writing. Some of the things we did in class involved not actually speaking in class, but "chatting" over IRC with each other (even role playing as various internet folks and taking their views in the discussion). Personally, had blogs been as visible then as they are now, I think that would've been a great addition. Many classes have regular journals as part of their requirements anyway.

A couple of negatives but at least a suggestion... (5, Insightful)

WgT2 (591074) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278973)

I have taken 3 graduate classes that were internet based. My experience is that unless I just absolutely enjoy the subject being taught then forcing me to do online that which could be done, the real interactive way, in class is a horrible waste of your students' time. So,please don't rob your students of the valuable input that comes from the spontaneous interaction that can only happen in a classroom setting, especially when it comes to asking for critiques of one another. Doing this in class or face to face can save lots of their time. However, you can have students post the process that a particular paper is going through; their changes and what not. For instance: documenting in a blog what he/she incorporated from student X's critique. I have six years of paid teaching experience in Spanish and just as many in other areas on a volunteer basis...

why not use slashcode ? (0, Offtopic)

Sad Loser (625938) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278656)

also introduces them to concept of open source, open peer review.
As they can get at the source, they can build new functions onto it. This could be an assignment.

Re:why not use slashcode ? (3, Insightful)

sokeeffe (210737) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278710)

Why not? Well for starters it's not very relevant in a non-technical course to ask your students to become programmers. Its one thing to ask them to use something like Slashcode but kinda pointless to get them into modifying it without taking away from the course itself.

Re:why not use slashcode ? (2, Funny)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278714)

>> As they can get at the source, they can build new functions onto it. This could be an assignment.

I don't think your average C compiler is going to do well with Freshman English compositions.

Re:why not use slashcode ? (1)

jimson (516491) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278728)

These are English students.......write new functions???

Re:why not use slashcode ? (1)

Mr Smidge (668120) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278731)

As they can get at the source, they can build new functions onto it.

Nice, but I'm sure he's teach an English class rather than computer programming..

Re:why not use slashcode ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6278732)

As cool as this sounds, I'm not sure too many freshmen (who happen to be taking an english class, not a CS class) at a public university would have an easy time about it.

Re:why not use slashcode ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6278735)

because PHPNuke is so much better (and written in PHP; slash is still living in the 80's with perl)

Slash is a pain in the ass to install by the time you install all the drivers to get perl and slash to interface with mysql. PHPNuke does it all with a 2 minute setup/install time from a freshly installed distro.

Re:why not use slashcode ? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6278745)

"As they can get at the source, they can build new functions onto it."

What the fuck is wrong with you? They're english students - they're not going to be coding anything.

no offense (1)

SHEENmaster (581283) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278762)

but the average English teacher/class would have no freaking clue to modify perl code.

A wiki textbook might be a better idea.

first (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6278657)

first suckas

FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6278658)


Submission System (5, Informative)

sdawara (152503) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278659)

Rohcester Institute of Technology has a online submission system that checks for
1. Minimum assignment requirements met
2. Plagiarism
3. Submission/Deadline requirements

Hope you can get that setup :) They work great here at RIT. You won't believe how effective the plagiarism avoidance solution is.

- Santosh

Re:Submission System (1)

jacoplane (78110) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278920)

Could anyone point to open source/commercial systems of this nature?

Re:Submission System (1)

Surak (18578) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278962)

Ok, you've got my curiosity up now. Particuarly about the plagiarism avoidance system.

I could see how it would be possible to design to a plagiarism avoidance system using expert and/or knowledge-based systems techniques.

Obviously you can check to make sure things are attributed properly to their sources -- this entails merely looking at the syntax of the of the quote in question and verifying that all the attribution requirements are there and cross-referencing that with the references page, verifying things like title, author, date, etc.

No brainer there. You can verify to make sure that two students didn't submit the same paper (or close to the same paper) by doing diff checks or perhaps using the technique bantered about here in the SCO case of doing 5-line MD5 comparisons, walkign through the paper and overlapping them, etc. That makes sense.

But with a statement that is totally unattributed in a research paper -- unless you had a MASSIVE database of possible source texts, I don't see how this would be possible or even practical.

So I gotta know -- 1) am I on the right track as to how this thing works (this is just total guess work) and 2) how well DOES this thing work? Is there some technique I'm missing here?

Enquiring minds want to know :)

Re:Submission System (1)

LogicX (8327) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278967)

But do they use it for anything besides physics? In the IT Department they use [] to combat plagiarism. Students submit both program code and papers there. (Along with usually submitting them to a first-class [] folder).

PERL (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6278662)

Can Larry Wall revoke Slashdot's perl license and shut this site down? maybe we could start a collection and bribe him.

Well... (2, Interesting)

craenor (623901) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278665)

Strange as it may sound you could have them each log into IRC, set yourself as the Moderator for the channel. Then take turns working on sentence structure, spelling and grammar.


Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6278799)

i lrnd 2 spk nglish ovr IRC!!!!!1111 this werks g8t!! lol

Let's see... (4, Funny)

tinrobot (314936) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278666)

Instead of passing notes in class, the students can use instant messenger to call you names behind your back.

Of course, with a good packet sniffer, you can snatch the notes from their grasp and read them aloud. Just like with paper!

Re:Let's see... (1)

Wes Janson (606363) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278788)

Been there, done that. Only problem is when the teacher sees everyone typing away on the screens..

groups (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6278667)

Why not use a Yahoo group and subscribe them all.
You could disallow non-students and maintain a very private discussion.

Groups bad... (2, Informative)

TWX (665546) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278765)

"Why not use a Yahoo group and subscribe them all."

Yahoo! Groups is not a good idea for something that is University Curriculum, especially if it is required. If someone managed to break into the system, there is not IT department to run to, and if Yahoo! changes policies, then you are left holding the bag. If you intend to use collaborative efforts digitally (which I strongly recommend against), at least use something that is available locally, provided or maintained by someone that you can go yell at if something goes wrong.

interesting idea (1)

dema (103780) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278668)

A weblog sounds like a really cool idea. It would also be neat to have some sort of forum setup for them to access and have disscussion on class topics and such (a forum just seems like a more "live" things than a weblog).

How about (2, Funny)

nicodaemos (454358) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278669)

letting them compete for First Post on /.?

Re:How about (1)

Blondie-Wan (559212) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278812)

Letting the students even see Slashdot would probably be the last thing an English teacher would want... ;)

First (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6278672)


I had a computer lab English class once... (5, Interesting)

TWX (665546) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278673)

...and it degenerated into the teacher saying "stop touching the keyboard" every five minutes. No matter what concept for curriculum one comes up with, as long as the students can get onto the Internet, they will. I even was more creative than most, since I SSHed to the university solaris server, which was an arguably legitimate use, only to then launch a black and white console IRC session. I didn't get caught, but several other students with IM clients or GUI-based IRC clients did. Nothing punitive came of it though, because there were no real enforcement policies.

The class could have been much more efficiently run without computers, or at least without a live Internet connection. Some (like my case) will always find a way though the campus network, but if it can be minimized, that's the only way it will work.

I Second This (5, Insightful)

blunte (183182) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278790)

And since I'm replying to an "interesting" post, mine may not be flagged FLAIMBAIT... maybe :)

Computers are a tool. In this setting, they'll be a distraction. They're not going to make a very non-technical class like this more interesting. They'll just provide an outlet for disinterested people to keep themselves busy.

Back in my day, we used books and notebooks. When it came time to write a paper (a formal effort, not a weblog), we did use a computer. But that was not during class.

I think you really need to look elsewhere for ways to get students interested and involved. Computers will be a mistake.

Teacher problem, not computer problem (4, Interesting)

fm6 (162816) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278909)

Sounds like your instructors are not very good at maintaining the interest of their students. If you need "enforcement" to maintain the attention of the class, something's really wrong with the way the class is being taught.

I adhere to the other extreme: school computers should not be in "computer labs". Students should be using them all the time: taking notes, looking up references on the internet, IMing relevent data to classmates without disturbing the class as a whole, etc. Yeah, this can be abused. But if students are not motivated and involved in the classwork, they'll find ways to goof off, period.

Don't take my word for it. Look at schools that have followed this philosophy. Higher test scores, increased attendance, increased interest in writing...

Try a wiki (4, Interesting)

ca1v1n (135902) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278678)

Google for wiki. It's a website that anyone can change, keeping a changelog of course. You could have a lot of fun with one (or a few) of those, especially if any type of creative writing is to be going on.

Use Slashcode (5, Interesting)

mikeophile (647318) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278679)

Post an essay topic, let the kids review the submissions with mod points given to your favorite students. Just like Slashdot.

Re:Use Slashcode (5, Interesting)

Osty (16825) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278949)

Post an essay topic, let the kids review the submissions with mod points given to your favorite students. Just like Slashdot.

Or better yet, use Scoop [] and let everybody moderate. Picking favorites is just asking for trouble. I'm sure you could give mod points to everyone in Slashcode as well, but I don't know how much hacking this would involve.

Anyway, both engines are probably excessive for the job at hand. Something along the lines of PHP-Nuke [] would likely be more than sufficient.

Lord of the Files (4, Interesting)

mikeophile (647318) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278977)

Thanks for the karma, but I was being a little sarcastic. Since no one is calling me on it, I'll do it myself.

Giving an elite few the ability to moderate posts on the basis of favoritism barely works on Slashdot, let alone a high school classroom.

Imagine the resentment that could be generated towards the class mods for weighted moderation.

Imagine the abuse of power that a mod could use against a classmate they didn't like.

Teachers have favored students, no question. But giving mod points on that basis would undermine at least the illusion of fairness.

I think the only reason Slashdot works at all is the relative anonymity of the posters. Most moderation here seems to be on the basis of the posts alone.

If you use Slashcode in the classroom , give everyone a mod point per topic. I think it will save you a lot of headache later.

If anyone thinks this is some sort of commentary about our beloved Slashdot , you might be right. I'm only a little bitter about never getting any mod points myself.

Collaberative Review (2, Insightful)

thehossman (198379) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278682)

I think something like the system that powers [] would be usefull.

Provide a forum for both discussion of instructor posted "articles" as well as a way for students to post their own writting samples, which can be reviewed/critiqued/commented-on by other students, in such a way that the "cream" rises to the top, and is more visible by all students.

Answer: don't (5, Insightful)

Gay Nigger (676904) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278683)

Computers are best left to technical fields. Plus you have the problem of the learning curve - how much will it take people to figure out how to properly use whatever technology you require of them? Remember, it doesn't matter if you think it's easy - if it gives them any kind of trouble, you're going to have to take time away from what you're supposed to be teaching to help with with the technology.

I say, leave technology out of English. Time would be better spent teaching the way that it has worked for hundreds of years - without the computer. Sure, computers can aid those with good typing skills in getting a paper done faster, but they far and away are useless in such courses as a teaching aid. If it were an engineering course, I would say differently - the world has changed much through the transition from slide rules to calculators to computers. But leave English out of it.

Computers make you write poorly. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6278769)

Computers have created a society without attention spans or connection to the real world around them. Writing is a physical activity that should take time to produce quality results. Blogs are useless and a horrible waste of time. Please have your students write well not in excess.
Check out this article from one of Americas best essayist/poet/fiction write []

Re:Answer: don't (3, Insightful)

A non moose cow (610391) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278826)

Agreed. It would be like wanting to teach an art class in a machine shop full of programmable lathes.

OOooh... that might be cool actually.

Re:Answer: don't (2, Interesting)

datawar (200705) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278830)

Used properly, computers can be a very valuable resource in any classroom. They're not a specialized tool, like a calculator, that can only be used in certain, well-defined fashion - they're generic tools.

Most everyone in a given college classroom has at least passing familiarity with web-browsing and basic messaging systems (whether IM or forums), and so, unlike other posters have suggested, there should not be much of a learning curve.

From weblogs, to real-time commenting on what's going on in class, to anonymous questions (useful if someone in the class is shy about asking, for example, a question about grammar), to a million other possibilities, computers should definitely be used by a resourceful teacher.

A creative use of the computers in the classroom will definitely be better than a bunch of bored students wishing they could just suft the net or IM...

Re:Answer: don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6278955)

...anonymous questions ...

Yeah, good one... Guy next to me starts typing... then a question appears on the monitor... "hmmm i wonder who wrote that?"

Writing (4, Interesting)

Minam (456447) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278688)

My wife taught an English writing course for several years (to non-native speakers) and used some Perl scripts I wrote for her to do things like forums (where the students were required to participate in online discussions about topics of interest to them) and a "random topic generator" (where a topic like what would appear on the TOEFL would pop up, and they had 30 minutes to write an essay on it). My wife also did the old-fashioned thing and had the students turn in papers, but she would type them up and post them online so that the students could see how each other did. She must have done something right, 'cause the students always loved her class.

I suppose what I'm recommending are forums. Never really used weblogs, so I can't comment on that.

I have a better idea (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6278730)

how about we get the spare classroom,
get your wife and a few of her girlfriends,
and have a perl necklace party? Bukkake and
computers go hand in hand, pardon the pun.

Tablet PC's? (1)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278691)

Just wondering if they were tablet PC's or regular PC's (laptop or desktop, doesn't really matter). At Drexel University, we just started using tablet PC's in several classes, but the main one non-computer science/engineering related would be for math courses. The tablet PC's enable students to easily work out problems using the ability to "write-out" the math problems quickly and easily save into Word documents as image files by using the pens to free-hand the symbols, etc., used in math courses.

Not sure how else you would use them in an english class per say, but it at least would elliminate the need for typing in on the keyboard (not that it would make it easier for the instructor to read later on :P )

Two possible uses... (1)

wo1verin3 (473094) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278693)

1) Modifying report cards/grades (old unisys machine login: iladministrator pass: xxx)

2) Porn. nuff said.

Re:Two possible uses... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6278717)

someone has to WRITE the porn?, eh??
I need something to read when I go to the bathroom

Re:Two possible uses... (1)

JDWTopGuy (209256) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278815)

If the students are willing to jack off in class, you already have a problem, even without porn.

Who the hell is going to spank their monkey in the middle of class? Duh!

don't spend too much time on technology (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6278697)

I took a class like the one you describe as a freshman, and the instructor spent substantially more time helping students who were unfamilar with web publishing, and even basic computer skills in a few cases, than he did helping students develop their writing skills or discussing course reading materials.

In short, be sure you don't lose focus on what's really important to teach during your course.

Wiki! (2, Informative)

dubStylee (140860) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278700)

I suggest looking at setting up Wiki [] . Collaborative writing with ability to make links inside and outside the wiki and the ability to edit each other's texts which will put a different spin on the nature of the collaboration. Also, the sheer simplicity of it will focus the students on the content rather than on playing around with a bunch of software widgets.

A word of caution: (5, Insightful)

FalconRed (91401) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278702)

Use the computers only where it makes sense.

The Weblogs are a good idea, because it allows the students to critique each others' papers on their at their convenience. And of course the Internet is a great research tool.

However most teachers fall victim to the temptation of using computers too often. Putting today's lesson into Flash may be "cool", but it doesn't help the student learn the material. English is about the written word, not about the latest technology.

Also, if you use the computers on a regular basis, there will always be a few students with poor computer skills or who crash the machine that will demand immediate attention. This iterrupts the flow of the class and cuts into precious class time.

Think twice about trying any of the suggestions here. Because college classes should be about learning first, using technology second (or third, or fourth...)

Re:A word of caution: (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278887)

Which skill will serve the students better later in life - familiarity with Microsoft Windows, or the ability to write research papers in formal English with footnotes?

If you said footnotes, try again. Nobody in uses footnotes after college is over.

New uses for computers in the classroom (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6278704)

They make dandy paperweights. Sutdents need to know how to do real math without calculators. Hell, I'd even advocate the return to the slide rule and abacus. When the power goes out, what are they going to do? Probably die. Pity.

Re:New uses for computers in the classroom (1)

beerman2k (521609) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278882)

It's not easy to use an abacus in the dark, and its damn near impossible to use the slide rule :(

Re:New uses for computers in the classroom (1)

I am a bad speller (682766) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278916)

two reasons why computers are a good thing in the classroom

1: ability to do real reports and research in a short amount of time, Ever try writing a report in one hour in class with nothing but a binder and an old encyclopedia thats shared between the class

2: people will be useing computers when they get into the real world

as for your argument that people wont know how to do math is just silly +-/* is drumed into kids till about the 7th grade, no reason to force a 10th grader to waste thier time when they could be learning new ideas, and when the power goes out they will use batteries

Things NOT to do (1, Informative)

sosume (680416) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278721)

Things NOT to do in class with pc's

- Do not give students an 'open' environment (shell). They'll break out of it in no time and ignore the rest of the class. Even worse, they'll hack other students' (or the professors') computers and make a mess.

- Do not allow file sharing whatsoever EXCEPT via a main central shared folder. Any other way will eventually result in warez and pr0n.

- Do not allow e-mail or IMs to be read during class. Another disaster for non-class related communication. Better yet, disable all network communications except maybe port 80.

- Do not allow students to run non-approved programs. If they want to, they should use their home pc for that.

- Constantly run a sniffer on the class segment to check for 'abnormal communication'

Okay, maybe you can create some exceptions to these rules for the highest graders. But you shouldn't.

computer lab for non-technical courses (5, Informative)

pcboss99 (463534) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278747)

I'm an instructional technologist for a large university, and your concern here is one I find myself discussing with a lot of faculty lately.

Here are some precautions and some ideas:
* Be careful how much you require your students to learn in order to use the tools you choose -- frustration with technology will overcome any benefit from the tools.
* Identify and use 'peer experts' in your class to help you teach the basics.
* Using Blogging in a writing class is a fantastic way for your students to gain ownership of their writing online, but you'll have to work hard to encourage anything like collaboration, peer reviewing, or even quality. This is a good use for a detailed syllabus.
* An easy way of supplementing a Blog is to require the students to build a web-based portfolio on which they can post edited 'highlights' from their blog.
* Be precise about your requirements. I recommend giving seperate credit for 'participation' and 'attendance' online. This means that they have to do something meaningful to get the 'participation' points, but by simply posting anything they'll earn the 'attendance' points. Sounds hokey, but it really works to show students how to go beyond just posting to posting something worthwhile.

Okay . . . enough edu-speak. Let the technophiles sound off, because I'm curious to hear what these creative minds will offer as alternatives to blogging.

--- Brian Richard

Finding sources of cliche's (3, Interesting)

jemenake (595948) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278748)

As time goes on, I keep discovering that more and more commonly-used cliche's trace back to famous pieces of literature. (ie, "Neither a borrower, nor a lender be", "Good fences make good neighbors", "Out, out.. damned spot!", etc.). It surprises me how ignorant most people (including me) are about where these came from.

Now, looking back on my English experiences, I think it would have been pretty cool if each student were given a phrase and they had to use the net to find out what literature it originally came from and have to read enough of the surrounding text to be able to describe the context of the scene where the phrase occured (like Lady MacBeth trying to wash the blood off, etc).

A single weblog? (2, Informative)

metalhed77 (250273) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278749)

Perhaps a weblog for each student would make more sense. A single installation of moveable type ( can service an arbitrary number of weblogs. You could also have one main weblog where each student turns in the link to his work, and where assignments are posted.

Re:A single weblog? (2, Informative)

jodo (209027) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278978)

Check out [] It has the ability, if desired, to have separate blogs for each student. Also a "book" format for collaboration. And even a separate forum. And static pages as well. Very nice. Students can even learn the meaning of taxonomy! ;->

Teach the Dangers of Spell Checkers (2, Funny)

mengel (13619) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278758)

Many people fall into the "if the spell checker liked it it must be okay" trap. Many variations are possible, but my favorite is to run "Jabberwocky" through a spell checker and tell it to "Just fix it". A friend of mine used to have the results from an old Macintosh spellchecker on his wall...
Twangs brilliant and the silver tongs did...

Re:Teach the Dangers of Spell Checkers (1)

zakezuke (229119) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278958)

Was was that grammar check bug in either word 97 or 2000?

"unable to follow directions" was incorrect
"Unable to get an erection" was correct

Something like that... it was something to that effect, which I first learned about it after a niece of mine got a kindergarden report card... and other parents were most miffed.

Suggestions... (1)

Obscenity (661594) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278760)

P0rn. At least watch their pings some, so that they have a fear of being caught. You can be responsible for what the view during class time, unless you make a "contract" in which their parents sign and it specifies what they can and cannot do. And there might be some skript kiddies too, so make sure they cant install any foregn software such as... nmap and ping flooders. If they can figure it out themselvs, how to DOS someone, or hack into a program. DO NOT TAKE AWAY THEIR COMPTUER RIGHTS!!! Explain to them why it is wrong, and then teach the class about what that child did, and how to make sure it does not happen again. Don't make a child loose privelages because he hacked someone, just make some backups, and use it as a teaching oppertunity. Next, you don't want to make the interface too complicated, not everyone wants to learn about computers and how they work. (nobody important anyways...) Make sure that if they absolutely hate computers, that it wont be too hard for them to do their work. Have some tutorials and README's on hand on a server for their access should the get in a bind. And make sure you're understanding to those who have trouble, not eveyone knows a lot about computers, and we need to integrate them in a friendly enviornment. Most of all, make sure they have some fun learning, because then they'll retain all that you teach them.

Not about computers but, (2, Insightful)

INMCM (209310) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278763)

Whatever you end up doing, be lienent on those paper deadlines. Freshmen are the worst for doing quality work on deadlines. A good thing to do is set a deadline for class one day. Then say that you think they could use a little more time on their work and push it back by a class session. This is a life saver for the student who punched out 10 pages in one night and really did not have a chance to proof it.

at my school (1)

slobarnuts (666254) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278768)

at my school all work is submitted on a forum.

Attendance is calculated by posting lecture summaries in another thread.

questions on work can be asked in a forum, which allows the professor to only have to answer the question once.

there is also javaIRC but no one uses it.

Testing is done online with a perl script that generates random questions for each individual testee.

There is a drawback, if it crashes, and there is no backup, (happened before) it causes major problems.

In short (1)

Ricin (236107) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278771)

See it as an addon. Don't turn the blog (at home) into the whiteboard (in class). You're a teacher not a webmaster. Refrain from commenting on the blog yourself but merely read it and use it as feedback. Encourage students to use it though but let *them* do the discussing.

(all IMHO of course)

Language classes (1)

doorman (61472) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278774)

With a cheap mike and headphones, the computer could easily be used to record and playback speech. Sort of similar to the old language labs schools had with tape decks and study carrels that you practiced speech in.

Ever heard yourself talk? Sounds different when played back, and that can be a useful tool when teaching someone proper pronunciation.

TikiWiki (2, Informative)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278776)

TikiWiki [] is a combination of Wiki, CMS, Forums, chat, blogs, image/file galleries and a lot more that let users collaborate in a lot of different ways. It also have a very highly configurable permission system, that enable controlling what some can do and some others no, or what features a group or an user can access.

Here's how it works at my uni (2, Informative)

NemesisStar (619232) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278777)

While we're nowhere near the 1 computer for every student mark (something like 1 for every TWENTY) we do have quite a good infrastructure set up for those who are 1337 enough to know it exists.

* We have our own irc server, which is meant to be used for only Uni related topics but somehow falls short of that

* The uni has a newsgroup server and most subjects (at least that I do) have a newsgroup which the lecturer/tutors check regularly and answers questions

* Each lecturer/tutor has an email address that they can be contacted on for answering questions of any type. That is to say questions like "If I were to be sick on Tuesday, how would it affect me" as opposed to "wanna date ROFL"

The downside of all this is that we no longer get assignments printed out and handed to us in class, we have to go to the course website (oh yeah, each course has a website) and download the PDFs and print it out ourselves. Some of them take up MANY pages.

We also have a place where we can submit our assignments/projects electronically which saves BIG BUCKS on printing costs. For the students that is, the cost is usually passed onto the school which prints them out because it's easier to read for the lecturers/tutors. (bit of a double edged sword that one)

All university administration is handled via computer - ie signing up for classes/tutes etc. which is fantastic when it's working.

I guess a lot of that goes outside the scope of the question, but hey, at least it opens up some branches which you might not have thought of and want to explore further.

Sexual Education (1)

ad0gg (594412) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278781)

Sex Ed. nuff said

phpBB2 (4, Informative)

macemoneta (154740) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278782)

phpBB2 [] is a great community forum system that's easy to setup, extensible, and requires little or no maintenance. You can easily create forums that the students would find interesting and useful (homework discussion, reference sources for research, suggestions for class projects, etc.), while still allowing instructor oversight and moderation. Private areas can also be setup (invisible to students), to allow the instructor to have their own discussion areas as well (or areas where students can work on group projects, isolated from other student groups).

The phpBB Community Forum [] is an example of the software in use, if you want to get an idea of its capabilities. All open source. I'm not involved with the project, just a happy user. :-)

Re:phpBB2 (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6278918)

Postnuke! [] With all the built-in modules and extensibility via other modules, and whatever PHP coding you could/would contribute you'd have a heavy-duty classroom portal-- with a module for the phpBB2 forum system described above available too. May be a bit overkill, but it'd almost certainly have everything ya'd need...I use it for five or six Intranet sites- very useful for the lazy... ;-)

MUSHes (5, Interesting)

Boatman (127445) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278792)

Have them explore a multi-user text-based reality simulator, like Elendor [] . My little brother learned his excellent writing skills on Elendor, as a byproduct of interacting textually with extremely literate and picturesque writers.

He has been playing for about 7 years now. I asked him about the character he plays... and he could have gone on for hours. Read some of the "Role Play Logs". Amazing. And amazing that they're ephemeral - imagine if every action were logged! We could spend years just as spectators, watching wars and communities from hundreds of different perspectives.

don't tolerate a single bit of aolspeak (4, Interesting)

colmore (56499) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278794)

In that context, they're going to be using a lot of AIM slang, announce on the first day that it's an English class, and you expect English spelling and English grammar. In general I don't like computer classrooms, especially not for English. They get in the way of actual discussion. The best environment for a literature class is a big table where everyone looks everyone else in the face. Don't just ask your students to memorize the plot, ask them to think critically about the books. Why is this an important thing to read? What does it say about society? Literature is more than a fancy way of telling stories, don't let them discuss books on the level that they'd discuss an action movie, they're definitely capable of deeper analysis than "it was cool when..." Also, for high school English, don't underestimate short stories. You should definitely be assigning a lot of novels as well, but frequently young students are much better at thinking about short works critically. On the first day, have them read Hemingway's "A Clean Well Lighted Place" to get the ball rolling. You can read it in 10 minutes and the story obviously exists for a reason other than to tell about some event that happened to some characters. Also, I'd suggest The Bell Jar, Lord of the Flies, Huck Finn, and Catcher in the Rye as great books for ninth graders. If you're going to do any Shakespeare, Othello is probably the most accessible of the 4 tragedies. As far as the computers, I wouldn't use them for anything beyond in-class typewriters. Certainly don't make them do powerpoint presentations or webpages. What on earth does that have to do with English. Some sort of continuing reading response diary is a good idea, but make sure out-loud discussion and debate outweighs typing. Oh and they should be writing an essay a week, at least. It's a shame how poor the writing of most high schoolers is. Anyway, good luck.

oops (3, Informative)

colmore (56499) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278859)

Since i've been thinking a lot recently about becoming a highschool teacher, i just read it that way.

Anyway, yeah, make sure you teach them to be a bit more critical readers than me.

And apply for a room transfer. A computer classroom is a gimmick. Gimmicks have their place in highschool - it's your job to hold their attention even if they'd rather be 100 miles away, but in college anyone who doesn't feel like learning can just leave. The computers will only distract the students. They can post to a blog using library computers or their own computers during time outside of class. I promise you that your class will go better if you get a better room. Ideally one with a table like I talked about above.

Oh and you weren't very clear in your question: is this an English class as in books and composition, or teaching the English language to those who don't know it? There are a variety of useful computer applications for learning language. Literature on the other hand is for dead trees and human discussion. Your students will be reading their email and not listening if you put computers in front of them.

computers for english (1)

cindy (19345) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278796)

It's been a while, but as I recall freshman english was supposed to drag "victims" of high school english up to a level of proficiency where they would have the reading comprehension and writing skills necessary to survive in a college environment. If this is still the case (maybe skills are better these days - or expectations are lower), I would be careful to avoid using the technology just because it's there. The last thing they need is another distraction. I can see how a weblog might be helpful. However, some of the worst writing I've ever read has been on the internet, and some of the worst of that has been on weblogs.

Try a forum, not a weblog. (5, Informative)

Selanit (192811) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278813)

As I understand them, weblog programs are designed to allow one person to post an article, and then other people to comment on it. I do not think this is well suited to what you want to do, because 1) you will have multiple people posting multiple works, 2) you will probably not want to allow comments from random strangers. Using weblogs, each student would need to have his or her own weblog, which would make it more difficult for collaborative use of the type you envision.

For these purposes, a forum would be much better; forums allow for multiple, separate discussions to take place in a centralized area. They also allow the forum administrator to lock down the forum in such a way that only members can post messages, and the administrator gets to say who can be a member. This would help keep the discussion on topic. Each student's work would go in a different thread -- say Sally M. Haverforth posts the first draft of her argumentative essay on Milton's treatment of women in a thread called "S. Haverforth -- Milton: Masochistic Misogynist?". Subsequent comments from her peers would be replies to that initial posting, keeping the whole thing neatly organized.

If you have access to an appropriately equipped server, I recommend phpBB [] for the job: it's easy to set up and administer, open source, free of charge, and fairly easy to use.

Dont let them touch it (1, Funny)

JVert (578547) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278819)

Have all computers powered up and in fully working order. Turn off the screensavers and make sure the monitor doesn't turn off, and that the network icon is active so they can see that it is connected. You want a nice fat green start menu just begging to be pressed. Now for the entire course anyone who touches their computer gets an immediate F.

The discipline will be priceless.

Do not allow (4, Informative)

phorm (591458) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278820)

Anonymous FTP'ing or such things. It took us one weekend with somebody leaving the anon FTP open for a nice 7200 new folders to be found on the server at work (no, it wasn't me)

Journalism (1)

poptones (653660) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278834)

A blog is an OK start, but it tends to be a vanity publication. I suggest making it a bit more formal and giving them an opportunity to develop their research and debate skills. Example: give'emn a topic at the beginning of class and they have to research the subject sufficiently to develop an argument, and deliver it by the end of class.

I'm really not keen on computers in the classroom unless it is required for technical reasons. Face time is too precious as it is, it seems stupid to waste those fifty minutes with everyone's face buried in a CRT when they can do the exact same work on their own time in any public library.

Classroom Computer (ab)use (2, Informative)

luxin (628286) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278841)

During my freshman year I had a few classes that were located in computer labs such as programming and a business class. In both cases no one would pay any attention to the instructor. AIM, ICQ, news and just surfing were the main culprits. I would recommend pulling the plug when you plan on actually teaching them material and then finding a way to limit there activities on the internet during assignments. I think you will find that most people will tend to do other things during class and not the work at hand. I would have to say keep an English class in a regular classroom, to keep the distractions to a minimum. I would promote the use of these resources as a study aid or way to complete assignments.

Toss out the computers! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6278843)

Technology is ruining our society and social skills... Be a pompus ass and require them to WRITE (with pencil & pen) their journels. Too many kids today have short hand from chat and stuff and it's leaking out into the real world. When I have to do a google search to see what a student meant when he stated in a story that he was roflao, then I knew it went too far!

(Not really, thats a ficticious example, but it does happen!)

By the way, don't no english folks go correcting me grammer or spelling... (TIC)

What not to do. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6278848)

Distributed Child Pornography.

You're welcome.

Nicenet (1)

barchibald (207846) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278849)

Try . Simple, widely used and FREE. It's designed for the classroom.

Re: (-1, Offtopic)

zr-rifle (677585) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278851)


Consider your intended curriculum (3, Insightful)

Ra5pu7in (603513) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278852)

Imagine teaching a basic math class to second graders and giving them calculators. They'll learn how to use calculators. They won't learn basic arithmetic.

You'll have to look very closely at what you want your students to learn. This might be the ability to spell-check and grammar-check their own writing without being dependent on a word processor. It might be to write regularly. It might be to read available text and review them.

Whatever it is, you will want to make sure the computer is nothing more than a tool - like a pencil. As several others have pointed out, it is very easy to abuse computers in a classroom setting. Access to the Internet is very hard to control completely and IM/IRC are not much more effective than group discussions.

The main benefit of computers might be minimizing paper. Sending the assignments and notes to each computer and having students do their assignments on the computer to send to you could be a great savings in paper.

Information (1)

rosewood (99925) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278855)

The best thing I would want a computer infront of me for is information

What is my grade? What did I get on that last assignment? When is the next assignment due? Any errata on that? Can I chat with other students in the class re whatever I want?

etc etc etc

Im so borring. Sorry :(

Its Too Bad.... (1)

carterhawk001 (681941) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278856)

Its to bad you dont have a mac lab, with those it is much harder bypass the restrictions on what you can and cant do, not to mention the difficulty of damaging the actual software. However, i would reccomend you make sure your machines are using Deep Freeze, as it resets the machine to a predefined state at every boot, so if you get a virus or a bunch of p2p software, you just reset and it is gone, it is also very convenient, as you can defrost a drive for one boot, and can set a non protected area, so students can save documents localy.

Prior knowledge (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6278864)

Will your students be able to type?
Do they have experience using a computer?
Are they comfortaqble using a mouse?
Do they know where the any key is?

The first thing I was taught in my teacher ed classes was not to assume any prior knowledge.

My advice would be to forget the computer room for teaching English. If not your class will turn into a computer class.

The answer is Don't (3, Insightful)

MerlynEmrys67 (583469) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278870)

If you don't have a reason for using computers, then just don't use them. I think putting computers in educational settings in many cases is just plain dumb. Why can't you just teach the materials, then let students create and turn in assignments electronically. That doesn't require computers in the classrooom, unless you are given to let students do their assignments during class.

Now if there is an additional "writting lab" or something like that that isn't instructional, but hands on (in otherwords the students are expected to be doing something rather than lectured at) that is a great use for a computer lab. Each student can use the time to do what they need to do.


Why not use a forum/bulletin board? (2, Insightful)

Jorge Pereira (684021) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278876)

Well, you could try setting up a forum. I'd go for that in favour of your standard weblog (not that a forum can't be made into a weblog).
Setting up a forum allows you to create different areas, with diferent themes. It could also be interesting that users could pick their own avatars, theme, and you can set static user titles, titles by post count, etc.

phpBB [] is incredibly easy to setup. If you have a running DB (MySQL, PgSQL, whatever), instalation is is a snap. I suggest you take a look at it. Visit their Community Forums for an example.

Other software you could take a peek at:
OpenBB [] - another great forum system
Course forum [] - never tried it, looks good

I've also used InvisionBB, which I don't know the URL offhand.

Slashorcizes instead of busy work... (2, Funny)

Dareth (47614) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278898)

Have them correct the spelling/grammar errors for any 100 slashdot posts for a particular article.

Shouldn't be to hard to find them errors eh?

Privacy concerns (4, Interesting)

drdale (677421) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278905)

One thing to investigate when you are setting this up is your school's policies on student privacy. At my university, at least, we have to be a little careful about letting students see other students' work. I often do (low-tech) peer review sessions; I will have students read drafts of each others' papers and give comments. It is all anonymous, because in my classes I never have students put their names on any assignment or exam; I do it all my grading by the last 4 digits of their ID numbers. And it is voluntary; I do this on the day papers are due, and those who choose to participate in the peer review get an extension to make corrections. If you choose not to participate, you simply turn in your final draft that day (and leave class early!). Still, my dean told me last term that I need to start having students sign a sheet in which they formally waive their right to privacy and agree to participate in the review.

Squishdot on Zope (0)

snerfu (43580) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278915)

I think the Squishdot product on Zope makes for a pretty nice weblog. It has nice easy control setting for allowing others to moderate and post things. I have never used slashcode, its probably the same way.

Provide it as an alternative (1)

Spasemunki (63473) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278930)

My experience taking classes where computer postings were required has been that the posts quickly become dismissed as busy work. Many people ignore them, or make only a token effort. They put in less effort than they would if they had to discuss in class, because a lame post to a course web site gets ignored in the flury of posts before the deadline for the weeks response, whereas there's no way to step back from a moronic comment made in a regular discussion. So I would recommend against required web/blog based assignments. Particularly in non-technical courses, they often seem contrived.

On the other hand, an idea that several of my professirs took up was to allow students to use computer-based forums (web boards, email lists, etc.) as alternatives to class participation. In some cases, students who were obviously petrafied of speaking in front of a live class could offer insightful comments and lively debate via a web forum or email list. Meanwhile, folks like myself who enjoyed shooting their mouths off in front of the prof kept discussions going in the physical world. By having the class room and online activities compliment eachother, rather than forcing one or the other down the throat of a student for whom they might not be appropriate, you give some folks who might not otherwise contribute an opportunity to get more out of (and give more to) the class.

Another useful thing that I've seen in non-tech courses is providing access to sources via a course web site. This is, unfortunately, subject to a variety of copyright restrictions, but students appreciate being able to get sources as a pdf or other document via a web site rather than having to trek out to a library reserve and feed their laundry money into a copying machine. It also has the advantage that no single student (or subset of students) can tie up a resource during a critical period- such as right before a paper or test. I had a professor who would post copies of articles from his private collection of out-of-print sources on obscure East and Central Asian history as pdf or ps documents on the course site, and their availability this way saved a lot of time and money in trying to track down sources.

So the overall recommendation would be this; make it flexible, make it helpful, and make it appropriate for the medium. If you can't say definitively "this is so much better than doing it offline", then it probably means you're about to embark on a serious folly.

if you have good LCD display (0, Offtopic) (562495) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278941)

you can use the classroom as a theater to watch terminator 3. atleast that is what we did, when i was in school :)

Anonymous posting/critique (2, Insightful)

Double-O-Penguin (683449) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278942)

If you have any sort of online posting/review process where the students can view and critique an essay or other assignment, it would probably be wise to allow for anonymous posting and response.

The critique portion being anonymous is simple. If someone wants to point out negative aspects of the assignment, they don't have to worry about the other students thinking they are a "teacher's pet" or just being malicious. Once the novelty of posting anonymously wears off, you should start getting some honest feedback. Of course, you'll need some mechanism to prevent responses that don't fit within guidelines set forth at the beginning of the course.

The anonymous nature for the author is, perhaps, not as necessary. It would allow a student who is below the average level of ability to escape being branded as "slow". Some teachers in my past felt that embarassment was a powerful motivating force. I don't think I agree with that. Embarassment is always associated negatively. Why would anyone think a negative emotion would encourage a positive reaction? Maybe that's just me...

You could also throw in a few "fake" anonymous essays along the way. Perhaps they would reinforce or remind the students of topics covered a week or two ago, or possibly introduce a new topic coming in the next couple of classes.

Freshman english.. no problem (0, Offtopic)

arcanumas (646807) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278945)

Freshman English you said? no problem!
Just install some FreeBSD's with the Lynx browser, make them write their work in SGML using vi.
Then, if you see someone whose eyes don't roll like a Slot machine when you announce this , let him browse Slashdot while the others concentrate on your teachings.

I had a class like this (5, Insightful)

kenneth_martens (320269) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278957)

My freshman year of college I had an English professor who focused on teaching us to write for an online audience.

To illustrate the difference between writing for print and writing for the web, one of our projects was to write a research paper and then adapt the content for a website. She taught us the bare basics of HTML, as well as some design styles.

But the main thing she focused on was how we had to adapt the content for the medium. Paragraphs had to be much shorter--preferably not paragraphs at all, but rather a list of bullet points. As a rule of thumb, she told us that we had to cut the length of the information to 25% of the length of the paper. Much less than that and you lose important information; much more and you lose the interest of the audience.

Also, she demanded that the websites be readable in any page order. No fair making users click through the pages in order, because they simply won't do it. So while you can lay out a nice long cohesive argument in a research paper, you can't do that in a website. You have to post your conclusions right on the home page, and then have links to other pages that have supporting material, but in such a way that each page can be read without having read or seen any of the other pages.

Competant communication in online media is a deceptively difficult skill, so if you can teach your students a few simple things like that (and if they actually learn) you will have helped them immensely.

Do you really want peer critiques? (4, Informative)

MemRaven (39601) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278963)

It seems like you're looking at a situation where everybody's going to be roughly on the same level, which probably means that they're not going to be too advanced. Remember, you're the instructor. That presumably means that you have more insight than they do, and that they're in your class to gain your insight. With that in mind, do you think having Sally critique Bob's work is going to be more useful than your critiqing Bob's work in the first place? In fact, if you then posted the results to the class saying "this is what made Bob's work good; this is what made Bob's work bad," that would probably be far more useful than having Sally spout out drivel at Bob. After all, you're not going to be able to review every comment, so how do you know that Sally won't tell Bob lies (inadvertant or not) and overall reduce Bob's skills even more?

This is not to say that you will end up with a bunch of people who are morons critiquing everybody else's work and ending up with them all dumbing down even more, but it's a possibility. Another possibility is that they'll all rise to a level of Borg-like hive mind and produce amazing work. Personally, I'd bet on the former more often than the latter. Although in classroom settings people often open up the door to peer review and discussion about works and ideas, it's almost always moderated and on subject, so that the instructor/moderator immediately has the opportunity to call "Bullshit" when Sally is full of it, or "Bravo" when she has a deep insight. If you've got blogs gone crazy, you don't have that control.

Peer review on something technical probably works much better because you're focused on getting something done, and on getting the correct results.

It might be better if we knew what type of English class this is? Are you teaching them the basics of the English language? Are you teaching creative writing? Is it literature, comparative or not? Is it focused on a particular style of writing and literature? English covers so many different things that the possibilities for effective use of technology are really different for each of them.

But something that you probably should do if you don't pay heed to the many people telling you to get the heck out of hte computer lab for the English class is something I've seen for business meetings. They're systems which are essentially whiteboards where students can post questions online for you to cover during the lecture, as well as comments, anonymous or not. So if you're covering Wuthering Heights and aren't properly covering the psychosis of Heathcliff, someone can say something like "Please cover more Heathcliff's obvious lack of proper seratonin function" or even just "slow down, you're going too fast" and you (and/or everybody else) can see and/or respond live.

rotflmaostc (1)

Klimaxor (264151) | more than 11 years ago | (#6278975)

If you're going to be using computers as a major medium in your teaching, why not include in the subject(s) Internet Lingo (also known as Ebonics for Geeks) and all the pretty acronyms people come up with for...EVERYTHING. With all the Text Messaging done with cell phones, and now being carried over more and more onto the internet, it's able to become an acceptable form of the English Language. It may seem lazy, but i see more and more people, even those that are older, using it. Why not give the students an advantage with being taught about it, where it originated from, and all the many uses for it. This may, infact, be a good learning experience for yourself, since i'm sure most of your students know most of it already. Make it a big group discussion, ask around the room for different ones, and opinions on them, and most of all, have fun. Students seem to have the ability to learn things better if it's something that they use out of school, and if you can link these things to more of the basics of English, they just might understand :D

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