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~ breakdown and some analyses by Stephen A. Tompkins ~

1)  How many other people were in your group?  List their names.

20 Responses:
  • 2 groups of 2
  • 7 groups of 3
  • 11 groups of 4

2)  If you served each day, you made 3 serves this unit.  Look at your serves in this unit.  Did you do anything different in your serves this time since you knew you would be fielding returns to them?  Please identify at least one of your serves (give date and title), and use it as an example of a serve in which you did either something different from or the same as serves in past units.  Describe what you did and why.

I seem to be engaging in a kind of overkill here, but I'm continually trying to force consciousness about the all-important serve.

1) These good and conscious changes noted by these students do not seem related to the posting pattern for this unit.

  • "In this serve I focused the entire post all around a specific chapter, 'The Try-Works'.  I digested the chapter by analyzing the spiritual aspects of Melville's motives for creating a chapter concerned solely with the Try-Works.  From this spiritual analysis, I figured out a purpose for the existence of the Chapter.  Not in any posts prior to this one had I approached a post in such a manner."
  • "With the serves on the 22nd and 24th, I changed my style a bit.  I noticed _________ tried to answer everything at once, and it made it harder for me to return back to her.  I felt like the future serves and returns would just be bogging down certain ideas with too much other material.  With my serve on the 22nd, 'here's a rather unpleasant thought' I just stated one idea and added a lot of support.  I wanted those who read it to focus on that specific topic.  I also noticed with the previous posts not all the questions I'd asked would be mentioned in returns, so this time around I was getting a vast number of responses out of 2 returns."
  • "I took a more specific example of something that happened in the story, which I don't always do.  I'd say I usually tend to talk more about ideas than specific scenes.  I don't think I did this for any other reason than this was a huge book and it was hard to come up with one general book theme, so instead I keyed in on something smaller."
  • "The one main thing I did differently was to focuse on a particular character and incorporate a quote from the novel.  I admired ______ use of quotes when she was in my group and followed example to do so myself....From working in groups, I have learned that the one of the great components of working together is realizing things you had not once seen, or seen in a different way."
  • My 2nd serve 'Taking a stab at the whale' for 10/22 was similar to serves of mine in past units in that I usually hypothesize for one post, and I think that's basically what I was doing with this one.  Still, it's different from my other serves in past units in that I think I was presenting and idea and opinion and sort of putting it out there for discussion.  It wasn't as much as being like here's my idea, what do you think as it was trying to get people to think about the idea I was presenting and provide further insight or other opinions.  At least that's what it seemed like to me.  Once again, though, I think it was probably the abstract ideas presented in the novel that influenced and changes in my posts, not as much the fact that I knew I would be fielding the returns.
2) These students consciously tried for provocative, conversation starters. 
  • "I tried to be a little more provocative in each of my serves.  Knowing that I would be fielding returns I wanted to help my group members come up with charged responses or questions that I could work with in my rereturns.  I also tried to tackle big and confusing issues."
  • "I think that knowing I was going to field the returns to my post made me make a little more of a conscious effort to post a serve that was a real conversation starter, something that could keep people posting for a while."
3) This student consciously tried to offer a fat menu of possibilites for response.
  • "I think that I was very conscious to make sure that there were several things in my posts that people could chose from to comment on.  I thought that this would help in continuing the serveing process."
4) Many students pinpointed the change in terms of asking questions, especially open-ended questions in order to elicit responses from their group members. 
  • "My first serve, 'Black and White' was different because it was the first time I asked a lot of questions during a serve and was really looking for the opinions of my groupmates.  In prior units, I was very opinionated and began clear and concise serves.  Moby Dick was harder to understand and I really needed group discussion to help me understand it."
  • "Nowing serves would be a little more continous it was easier to develope thoughts out over a little bit longer period of time.  This gave the chance to leave more open ended question or comments."
  • "My post for 10/22, called 'Nature: 1, Man: 0' was geared towards eliciting a response from those who I knew would be responding to my serve.  That's what i tried to do this time, change the style of writing to provoke some kind of response....I tried to take advantage of the fact that these group members HAD to respond to my serve to actually ask some questions i sincerely wanted answered."
  • "I tried to ask questions to get responses that would be different.  I really tried to guage the personalities with the questions I was going ot ask....I always try to be questioning when people are going to be responding to me so that I can open up the channel for discussion."
  • "I chose to pick a term that I had come across in the reading, do a little research in order to understand its meaning, and then share it with the group.  I think a major goal of discussion board writing should be to share knowledge as well as insights.  After presenting the definition of the term, I gave my own thoughts on its relationship to characters in the novel and then proceeded to ask for my group member's interpretations.  I thought that was a bit different. I wanted to put a little 'twist' on my usual, admittedly somewhat monotonous analytical drone."
5) Three students indicated they did not do anything different with their reponses with rationales such as this.
  • "I am pretty comfortbale with how i choose to post and i feel there is some variety in them, so I haven't felt the need to change anything too much from last unit."
I see evidence here of a great deal of conscious attention paid to the serve and, interestingly, a few instances of students learning from students in this regard.  The responses here also indicate what strategies the students think of when consciously trying to stimulate longer term discussion.

3)  Depending on how many people were in your group and how many served on a given day, you may have made 2 or 3 returns each day.  Think in general about your returns in this unit.  Did you do anything different in the returns you made this time since you knew the server would be fielding your return?  Please identify at least one of the returns you made (give date and title), and use it as an example of a return in which you did either something different from or the same as returns in past units.  Describe what you did and why.

The same kind of forcing of consciousness as above, but this time in regard to the return.

1) A few students actually seem to be consciously using the response options document!

  • "In this return, instead of just agreeing, which feels like the easy way out sometimes, I brought forth a level 3 response to the discussion.  Replying to _____'s post, I chose to input a 'Building' post by introducing some philosophy of my own into the discussion....The reason is because I wanted to add as much depth to the discussion as possible.  I knew I could accomplish this by utilizing a post such as a level three post."
  • "I didn't necessarily try to point out all of the flaws in people's arguments, but I tried to find evidence in order to disagree with peoples posts a lot of the time because I think it is one of the types of posts that makes you think the most."
2) A significant number were conscious of their role to keep the conversation going and consciously employed a variety of means, especially questions.
  • "Since I knew my group members would have to return my return, I basically either threw in a question or made some provocative statement that would merit a response."
  • "I tried to ask a couple more questions than I did in the past units in return to a post, and also was a little more free in disagreeing and supporting the idea to provoke some more conversation about the subject."
  • "I definatly returned differently now than in the last units.  The first thing I did, was either agree or disagree with the serve, throwing in my own opinion, just like I have been doing all along.  When I got to the end though, I added a question or two about the serve, whether it was something I didn't get, or something new I got out of it that I wanted the server to respond to."
  • "In this post I posed questions that I expected some sort of response oto."
  • "My returns were definitely different.  I tried to really extend the issue to not just bring it to another level but to allow the server space to rereturn.  I often asked questions in my return or asked the server to elaborate on a confusing passage."
  • "I tried to leave my returns more open ended this time so the server would have something to expand on."
  • "I think in my returns I tried to provide something to which the server could respond to.  Besides commenting on and expanding on the ideas the people presented, I tried to give them something more to think about so that it would maybe be easier for them to respond to my return.  I think my return to ______'s serve 'The whale and some other stuff' for 10/22 was different from my returns in past units.  I really think I took the ideas she presented and not only expanded on them but incorporated parts of her ideas with my own in order to develop a stronger overall idea or explanation to questions she raised.  I'm having trouble pinpointing exactly what's different, but I feel like I notice a difference in the type of return I gave."
  • "I think this was the first time I went back to the text and used specific passages for support, which made my return more believable."
3) Here's a welcome logistical change that results from more consciousness of facilitating conversation.
  • "i tried to post replys as early as possible to make it easier for others to field the return." 

4) Here's awareness of a pattern after the fact rather than consciously planned.

  • "well, reading over a few of my responses i'm finding that i often take the other side just to play 'devil's advocate' and show that there is another way of looking at things."
5) A conscious change in response to a "challenge," showing awareness of being in a community.
  • "I was responding to _____.  Now this girl is a posting theme.  She gets em up right away and makes some serious questions up.  I was trying to flex my returning muscles a bit but I just came up short compared to her post."

6) Only one indicating no change -- but comfortable that past strategy is aligned with discussion board goals.

  • "To be quite honest, I don't think I did all that much different in my returns for this unit.  As always, I try to keep the conversation going by saying something a bit 'out there' or mildly controversial to see what kind of responses that I get....I enjoy a little verbal sparring now and again."
As above, I can see a lot of conscious activity in regard to responses and some strategies for improving the return.  Both responses to questions 2 and 3 indicate students paying attention to what I want them to.

4)  A complete interchange in this unit consists of 1) your serve, 2) returns from your two or three group members, and 3) your fielding the returns from those group members.   Pick one example of a complete interchange in this unit (give the date and title of your serve) to examine.  First, describe as specifically as you can the returns from each group member to your serve.  What were the strategies of each return?  Cite your group members by name.  Viewed as a whole, how were the returns you received either the same or different?   In other words, did you receive a variety of returns?

By asking students to describe the strategies of the returns to their serves, I was trying to see if they would think in terms of the vocabulary I gave them, but I was most interested in whether they were aware that they getting a variety of responses or not.

  • "______ did a number of things with his post, agreeing and disagree with some things and adding his opinion of the issue.  ______ agreed with me and added his own somewhat humorous anecdote.  _____ agreed with my ideas and took them a step further, filling in spots that he thought i left out.  Overall I would say that the strategies and kinds of posts I received were pretty similar in nature, mainly agreeing with my thoughts and adding their own perspective or elaboration."
  • "The first return, made by ______, could be labeled as a 'redirecting' post.  The second return, made by __________, could be labeled as an 'enhancing' post.  The third response, made by _______, in my opinion the best, thoroughly 'enhanced/disagreed' with my post."
  • " _________ agreed and expanded on what I said by using examples of movies that illustrated what we are talking about.  This would probably be classified as enhancing.  The returns were varied, but much of that probably depends on the fact that one member agreed with me and another did not."
  • "______ agreed with my post and enhanced it.  ______ basically agreed and added.  _____ agreed. Mostly they were the same because they just reinforced what i had said in my post."
  • I think ____'s and _____'s returns were mainly building.  ____'s return seems to be a combination of disagreeing and building.  I think all the returns were the same in that they tried to expand and add to my serve."
  • "______ responded by weaving my thought into a point she made from her earlier post, and _____ enhanced my idea using a familiar concept from a horror flim."
  • "_______'s response was what I would classify as building.  In it, he synthesized my thoughts on the subject, incorporated his own and rendered his conclusion and view on the subject.  _____ (like ____) responded that she liked the fact that I had picked up on the term.  As ____ says, its true that often we breeze by terms that are deserving of our attention and analysis, in an effort to expedite the reading of the novel.  ______'s response was also a sort of 'building' response.  She did not merely agree with me, she went on to elaborate on the concept and present her own insights.  _____'s response was somewhat of an enhancement.  She did state that she was confused by my post and having a difficult time formulating a response but she 'put her ideas down' and shared her insights as well.  I respected the fact that she admitted to being at a loss for words initially.  It made me re-evaluate my post."
  • ______ disagreed flat out, and for good reason.  he showed that we should keep in mind that these characters might not be characters at all, but concepts in a gigantic allegorical literary work.  _____ agreed with some points but spent the bulk of his time expanding on my point and then raising some questions for me to think about.  I dont think he thought my perspective on the serve i made could be as cut and dry as i was making it.  _______, finally, had a simple, 2 line 'i agree' return, satisfying the 'Level 1' type of posts.  So i got a level 3, a level 2, and a level 1.  not bad."
  • "______'s return expanded on the topic of Hitler as a leaderand reconized the theme of a powerful respected leader and the impact one can have.  ____'s return expressed that i got him to question the world today in relation to the US leadership situation."
  • "_____'s return built on my serve and she also explored the similarities and differences between UTC and MD in terms of use of Christianity.  ______ dwelled on my serve a little bit and then suggested that I might have failed to consider the positiions of Tom and Ahab when I made my initial serve.  _____ sort of took my serve and then decided to go in his own direction with it.  He weaved Kant into his post and made a statement I wasn't really trying to elicit from him."
  • "I did not give my group that much to work with this post in my opinion, but they all answered very well. ______ told of another situation that reminded her of Moby, _____ enhanced my post by showing more dialogue, ______ just agreed.  It was definitely a variety."
The response option terminology is very, very evident.  And all but one of the students indicated that they felt there was a lot of "variety" in the responses and interchanges.  Two students also commented on how they received (and appreciated) responses from people not in their groups.  Now that's what I call a cyber-community!

5)  Using the same complete interchange, describe the way you fielded the returns.  In each case, what did you do?  Cite your group members by name.

This is the new element in this unit -- fielding a return.  Now the interchange is three steps long.  My purpose was basically the same as above -- what were they conscious they were doing, and were they striving for variety.

1) being very selective in fielding:
  • "I only replied to _______'s post becuase his post was the only reply that triggered any perception alterations.  After reading his posts, I had a much better understanding of the post originally made by myself.  Thus, his post was successful because it clarified the situation for me."
2) didn't field dead-end returns:
  • "I didn't reply to the other posts because they didn't fuel any response.  I don't see the point in responding for a third time if the reply hasn't changed my percepton of the original post.  As it reads in your 'Discussion Board Response Options' document, a transition is necesary when replying to a serve.  I didn't locate any transitions made by my two other group mates."
  • "____- i didn't respond because i didn't know what to say... 'ok, will do'???"
3) responded but not feeling especially stimulated to do so:
  • "I feel like although I did have something to say in regards to each person's return, I don't know if the returns really made me think too much.  I think peoples posts were just adding another veiw point to things.  I don't feel that peoples returns made me really contemplate whether my thoughts were on the ball."
  • "When I feilded the returns there was not to much I could say to ____ the conversation just ended.  I also struggeled with what I could say to ____.  I just went a little futher with what he said and contined to build the idea."
4) answering questions:
  • "____ - For my return to _____ I tried to clarify the portion of my serve that confused him.  I specifically focused on that point and tried to answer his questions.  _____- For my return to _____ I attempted to field his question about ultimate good and evil.  My post was a possible answer to this provocative question.  _____- I tried to answer ____'s question about the relation of the whale to the presence of God in our everyday lives.  This question was especially intriguing because it related the book to an outside influence."
  • "since he left me with so many questions to answer, i answered them, and gave reasons."
5) responding to disagreement:
  • "In his return, _____ disagreed with my serve.  In my response, I defended my serve by pointing out a flaw in his reasoning in his return."
  • "For fielding _____'s return, I think I was mainly defending my ideas that I presented in my serve but trying to incorporate her ideas into it where I could.  I understood where she was coming from with her ideas, but I still stuck to my original ideas, so I guess I was trying to explain them better."
  • "Well, ______'s return made me think about his view, and while i gave him credit in my return, i didnt think i was totally off base, and i didnt immediately concede to his disagreeing return."
6) disagreeing:
  • "_____-i told him that i didn't believe in bible decoding or hidden prophecies and that they may not apply to moby-dick."
  • "My response to _____ was pure disagreement.  I informed him that I appreciated his opinion on the subject but that my views were very much different."
7) agreeing:
  • " _____- i told him i agreed with him and was glad he was willing to go out on a limb."
  • "My response to _____ was agreement.  I liked her response as I shared her views on the subject.  It really got me thinking and I told her so."
8) questioning:
  • "My response to _____ was quite conversational.  I ended it with yet another question."
  • "I applauded _____ for adding things i had missed and asked him questions to keep the conversation going."
9) re-thinking:
  • "With _____'s return, I responded by agreeing with her point, then building in it, and then I actually started to see something I completely missed when I served."
  • "For _____'s return, he had brought up an idea that I hadn't thought about before, so I tried to take his idea and tie it into my ideas from my serve."
  • "For _____'s, I said 'thanks', but i also asked her to look at ______'s post because he made me think about what i had said, and since _____ agreed with me, she might benefit from looking at _____'s return to my serve."
  • "finally to ______,  with _____, it was cool because the conversation started at religion and moved beyond that.  if we had had more time to post back and forth to each other I think we would have gotten somewhere really really deep =D."
  • "In my return to _____ i accepted to change my views on Ahab by the end."
  • "While answering i had come to realize that like the world today, the opposing side is always the evil enemy.  This reply tied alot of the open conversations we had started earlier."
  • "HOwever, _____'s post, the shortest of all the posts, actually made me really consider the validity of what he said. . . . ,____ made a point so drastically out there (at least to me it was out there) that I really thought about what he said."
First, there's a nice range of different kinds of things going on in this "fielding" stage.  But two things especially jump out at me: 1) the students who either didn't respond or were not enthusiastic about responding to dead-end posts, and 2) the amount of what I would call "re-thinking."  Both of these indicate people deep into what the discussion board is all about.  Like, if you don't do your job, I'm not going to fake mine.  And like when you really do your job, it has great impact on me.  Both kinds of responses indicate the sense of community I'm hoping for.

6)  Above in #5 you described “what” you did when fielding returns.  Now, how did you “feel” about these returns that you fielded?  Did you feel more engaged in fielding some of the responses than others?  Were some more valuable than the others?  Were some more effective in stimulating your response?  How would you rank the returns in terms of the goal of keeping the conversation going?  Please be specific.  Cite your group members by name.

1) general good feeling:
  • "I liked all of the responses I received.  I enjoy the differing perspectives that I got from those in my group, _____'s responses were great because he really looks for the interesting, fun aspects of the novel, making comparision to recent films, etc.  ______'s are more analytical in nature (quite like my own) so I appreciate that sort of response as well.  ______'s responses were also interesting as she seems to work through her thoughts as she writes."
  • "I was really wrapped up in the conversation we were having and truly cared about the quality of my returns, not to say that I usually don't care but this was more for myself than for anything else.  The group did an awesome job of drawing the discussion into multiple directions and they all kept the coversation going."
2) good feeling because responding to disagreement:
  •  "_____'s response on the first day was good because although it didn't necessarily agree with his arguments it kept me thinking and i think it prompted the other group members to post."
  • "I felt extremely engaged responding to _____'s serve because I had a clear idea of what exactly I wanted to respond to and how I would go about it.  Of course, it's a little unfair for my group members, because the returner who disagrees is naturally going to spark a defensive response from me, while the returner who agrees--even if s/he is right to do so--won't spark any kind of interesting response."
  • "_____- tied for rank 1.  he didn't really agree with my initial serve, but he gave enough of his own viewpoint so that i could defend my own perspective and at the same time kind of acquiesce to his.  he and i could have talked about it for hours, because we both felt strongly about what we had to say."
3) good feeling because of an opportunity to add:
  • "____'s was easier to respond to because there was so much to do with it.  I found it easy to add on to what he said."
  • "On the third day _____ openly asked me to elaborate on something i had written in my serve, which i actually appreciated because it was to the point."
  • "I felt that the returns I got to this serve were easy to respond to.  Everyone brought up something I hadn't thought about or a new idea that I could think about and then work into my original idea."
4) good feeling because of questions that were asked:
  • "_______- rank 1.  he asked a lot of questions in his return, but before he did that, he really gave me a good insight into what was going on in his head so i knew how to respond.  he kept the conversation going the most...because its not about how many questions you ask, its about how much you say to fuel the other person's response."
  • "I felt more engaged in fielding _____'s responses as they had asked question that were interesting to think about and then answer."
  • "_____ asked me to clarify my argument which was valuable because it helped me revise a thought they I had already talked about."
  • "_____ and _____ both asked 'big picture' questions that I was pushed to answer because of the interesting topics posed."
5) good feeling because of similar thinking:
  • "______- I like repsonding to this because I had actually had similar thoughts at one point which I had not talked about.  It was reassuring to know that he had similar thoughts about the topic."
6) not so good a feeling, mostly because of receiving dead-end returns:
  • "_____- When I fielded her return, I agreed with what she had to say but didn't really seem to have much to add to it.  Her reply didn't strike me in any mind-altering way."
  • "In the case above, ______'s post lead to a dead end.  There really was no where to go with it, but considering the two of us wrote the same things in our serves, this is probably the reason why."
  • "Most of the returns just agreed and slightly enhanced what i said."
  • "I felt relatively ambivalent about the responses in general.  Most of the returns agreed with what i was saying and elaborated a little bit on what i was saying, which is perfectly fine, but it really didnt give me anything to run with."
  • "she agreed with my serve and left it at that, so there wasnt very much left for me to say."
  • "i felt like ______'s responses were conversation killers.  she either just said 'good point' or 'bring that up in class' or 'i agree'... nothing to respond to besides saying 'thank you' or 'ok'." 
The representative answers often share the common theme of how agreement often leads to dead-end conversations, while disagreement provokes engagement and more thoughtful responses.

7)  Still using this same complete interchange, would you say your thinking and/or group thinking was more advanced at the end than it was in the beginning?  Was the group activity worthwhile in this instance?  Did you or others get something out of it?  If yes, what and why?  If no, why not, and was there something you or the others could have done to make the experience more valuable? 

An important question.  Risky.  Scary.  Is all of this valuable?  I don't want to look.

Five students felt that their thinking or their group's thinking was not advanced.  Five students were somewhat ambivalent about whether or not the individual or group thinking was advanced.  And ten students felt that their individual and the group's thinking was definitely advanced.  Here are some representative answers.

1) not advanced:

  • "I did not feel that this particular exchange was very productive.  I did not feel I got much out of it.  The group just agreed with me.  I don't know if it was a lack of understanding how to handle it or a lack of effort I really do not know what the problem was.  I have learned how to make it more valuable by giving more options."
  • "I would say we did not get as much out of it because the group interaction was sort of minimal.  There were few instances where we actually completed the full interchange.  I think problems with the timing of the serves and response had a lot to do with this overall flop as a group discussion (on our part)."
  • "In this particular instance I don't feel as though our collective knowledge was enhanced.  I don't think this interchange was worthwhile, either.  I was able to see that one person agreed and one person disagreed, but that was about it.  I think the discussion board is an enormous amout of work for benefits we receive."

  2) kind of in-between:

  • "Unlike the class in general, I felt that I had more to say on the third day of posting than on the first two.  I saw the first two days as a warm-up and the third day as the finish line, when I would give it everything I had left in the tank.  As for the rest of the group, I think the level of thinking was relatively the same on the third day as it was on the first."
  • "i think that this was a good interchange experience.  however, i feel everyone could have gotten more out of it if myself and others kept up with the postings in a timely fashion."
  • "i think it was the same at the beginning as it was at the end... the levels of thought were constant and so were the posts/ responses.  personally i enjoyed it simply because i got to voice my liking for the book, and i always like to play devil's advocate..."
  • "I would say that the activity and thinking went progresively down.  From unit to unit however, there is a great improvement in my own posting abilities, and from what I see in my group they also are coming along nicely."

3) advanced:

  • "The group activity was worthwile, but a little taxing considering the server had to respond to every return."
  • "I'd say my undersanding was more evolved in this unit.  There was more room to play with ideas, and so much more development using this method.  It's almost like a debate, where if you go back and forth a few times to argue a point, one side gets further insight into what the other is thinking.  This technique was also loads more fun.  Your actually get to talk to an individual instead of just simply writing a serve thats for a collective group."
  • "yeah i actually think it was.  simply because the more times you make a post, the more chances you have to make a point and say something to strike a chord in another person.  i think in my group, we did a good job of saying what we wanted to say if there was a point in saying it.  if all we could do was agree, we didnt beat around the bush, we just agreed and offered some more instances supporting the first person's serve."
  • "I felt this was one of the stronger discussion board groups i belonged to.  I think by the end we were past looking at the novel as just a work and were able to see how our opinions and thoughts were reflected in the novel."
  • "Yes I think the post/response/field experience was positive.  When you know that you're going to have to respond to responses to your initial post, it makes you think carefully about topics that will be effective in promoting extended conversation."
  • "I think my group's thinking was more advanced at the end of this complete interchange.  I think that by replying to the group members' returns, it allows the person who served to be able to either further explain their ideas, defend their ideas, incorporate someone else's ideas into their own, or else show a change in opinion due to someone else's views.  I hope other people got something out of what I wrote, but I at least felt I got something out of the complete interchange."
  • "I definitely think my group thinking was more advanced in the end than in the beginning.  I really like group work- I feel strongly that I have benefitted greatly in seeing the book from an assortment of angles and appreciating, respecting, and evaluating all of the view points I have come across.  The group activity absolutely was worhtwhile."
  • "I don't know if the group thinking was more advanced in the end than the beginning but I do feel that the level of thinking was strong throughout the conversation.  The group activity was very worthwhile because it allowed us to develop arguments in new and uncharted areas.  I certainly got something out of this argument.  I felt that my group members pushed me to think even farther than I had been in previous posts.  Their questions brought my argument to heights that I hadn't even imagined when I wrote it."
  • "I think the conversation was just as engaging in the begining of the exchange as it was at the end.  I really like the idea of fielding becasue it did make things more engaging than juts a response that had or required no further action."
  • "I think the interchange did evolve by the end because each group member had a different way of looking at things in the book and we learned to weave those perspectives a little better by the end."
Ok, heartening response.  The positive people seem to feel so for the right reasons, and some of the negative stuff looks like it is allied to people not participating or not participating in a way they should know how -- as if advancement didn't get a proper opportunity.

8)  After reviewing your group’s work over the whole unit, can you point to examples of such higher level types of response options as weaving and re-thinking.  Please specify if you can (give dates and titles).  If not, can you suggest ways to stimulate such activity?  If, that is, you agree that what I have called higher level responses are indeed higher.

I ask specifically about weaving and re-thinking because I didn't think there would be much of that, and, in a way, I wanted to call attention to it and foster some in the future.  But, as noted above in response to question 5, there was a good bit of re-thinking going on.

  • "How to stimulate more group activity that has this level of work?  I think group members need to pick one tiny point and run with it.  people are always too on the fence about their posts, and being noncommital doesnt generate true responses.  I think people can only respond as well as the serves that are made.  it happens to me a lot too...and i know when i've made a serve that doesnt have the ability to generate good responses, but at least i post everyday.  i think anyone would have to concede that it definitely gets hard to serve sometimes when you feel like you've covered everything (and i know, i know, there's always more to cover)."
  • "I have to say after I've read some of these posts I noticed that WE LEARNED!  There were so many different ideas and views thrown out that we simply gained a bigger perspective of things.  I can't classify that as certain response.  I think that's what an education is all about.  In my opinion being steered in a new direction, or seeing a new light is even more powerful than any kind of response you can give."
  • "I can't seem to find specific examples, but in general I think that my group used higher level types of response options.  I also think that maybe it was just the type of novel that this was that stimulated higher level responses since I think you really had to go beyond just simple ideas to discuss the ideas presented in the novel.  Even if they weren't what would be classified as higher level responses, I think I definitely noticed a higher level of thinking."
  • "I think to enhance this type of activity, the first serve must be very flexible and open up lots of ideas in the returners heads.  Also, the returners must do more than just agree, they have to keep the conversation going by introducing more ideas, or disagreeing in certain ways."
  • "I don't know that there were any particular 'higher level' responses.  But I don't know that that's negative.  Sometimes the subject matter just doesn't permit those type of responses and sometimes you just want to go with your gut response, rather than attempting to mold your response into such a 'higher level' category.  Perhaps if posters prompted group members to look back to arguments others have made before making their responses, it would encourage more 'weaving', etc."
  • "Yes, I agree that they are indeed higher in that they provoke more thought, however if a person is not thinking in those terms their mind might skip over such response options such as we weaving and re-thinking.  I tend to think it is the way in which you are thinking more so than the level at times.  I feel that by asking questions in your post or by throwing out a broad topic, you have enabled the discussion board as a place for individual freedoms and thoughts and allow members to assess what they have interpreted and learned."
  • "The weaving came about in our group only when two of us were writing about the same things(see above), but this had its downside.  Where do you go once they respond?  Its so much harder to keep the conversation going."
  • "I didn't come across any re-thinking, but I don't see how you could stimulate this. The way I look at re-thinking is by adding your thoughts to someones post that completely changes their outlook on a certain subject.  It's something that just comes up; I think it's totally random."

Some gretziness:

  • "i'm sure that this 'experience' could have been even better if self explainatory things such as posting on time were done."
  • "I really do not think my group understood the process.  The higher level thinking was not really considered because we were struggling with the rhythm."
  • "I guess I really don't think there should be something as a higher level of posting."
Again, I'm not sure the group recognized that what they described above was "re-thinking."  But what's most  interesting here is a general perception that the quality of thinking in most cases has increased, even though they can't or don't point to specific posts.

9)  Is there any other comment that you would like to make about our current focus on fielding returns?

All I can say about this one is "Wow!":

  • "If people were interested in finding out information for their own use, such as a hobby, they wouldn't need coaching to understand how to communicate.  I've been on many discussion boards outside of school, such as one for motorcycles.  If I had a question or comment, I could post something and get responses. Nobody was concerned with enhancing the conversation or keeping it going.  If they had something to add they did, and if they didn't, they didn't.  I feel like if people were really interested in the books and the topics explored on the discussion boards they wouldn't need all theses rules and guidelines.  I think the quality of the communication ultimately comes down to how much people want to talk about the subjects.  If two people are interested in something they won't need to consciously focus on keeping the conversation going, it will happen because they want to keep talking about it.  I think the discussion board is becoming rigid and artificial.  The point isn't to exchange ideas and further our knowledge anymore, it is to post three times a week with each post consisting of 150-200 words.  It is just about fulfilling requirements.  We are required to talk about something whether we feel strongly about it or not.  This probably sounds more critical than it is intended to, but I thiknk part of the problem with the discussion board is that people aren't talking because they want to; they are talking because they have to.  It becomes an art to keep talking about something that you dont want to."
Other suggestions:
  • "I think fielding returns is a good idea.  However, I think that a more free-form serve-and-respond format might be more fluid and helpful.  Instead of just responding to the server, if we could respond to another return, it might take the conversation in a continuous direction (a la Talk Radio)."
  • " don't think that it should be mandatory to field.  If the conversation is not there than it is not there. Kind of hard to push the subject when there is nothing to talk about.  That is just for some.  I think that a lot of returns can be fielded, and some even require it."
  • "It takes a while to get the rhythm together maybe a meeting before we start posting to establish a rhythm."

10)  On another topic: We’ve noted that there are significantly fewer posts on the third day of the unit than the first and second.  What do you see as the reason or reasons for this fall off in participation?

1) over-extended:

  • "For the other groups with more memebers I would say that it is simply a lot of people to respond to in a short period of time---especially thoughtful responses."
  • "I also think that it gets to be a lot of work to do all of these serves and returns and now fielding the returns, so if people fall behind at all, they're probably less likely to do the post for the third day of the unit."
  • "i think that people just get caught up and tied down to other work as the week progresses."
  • "Maybe people don't have enough time to get caught up on the first two posts as these exchanges are seemingly too long to get completely done for their exact due dates."
2) running out of things to say:
  • "I just see it as people running into a wall.  Everyone makes a claim in the second series of posting that sums up the whole book, and leaves nothing for the end.  I find myself searching for something to write the last day that doesn't sound at all like my post on the previous day.  It's like we try to rush through the book too quickly; nobody's breaking it into pieces like we should be.  Another thing I've noticed is that sometimes things are mentioned and discussed in class, and nobody touches on the points during the posting.  Perhaps people feel like it would be too repetitive?  It makes sense, as the topics are covered, it leaves less to talk about."
  • "I see the reason for the lack of participation as being possibly a couple of things.  First, I think people have a harder time serving by the third serve just because it gets harder to think of new ideas."
  • "Although it is always enjoyable to receive feedback on ideas, sometimes it can become tedious to be 'forced' into attempting to maintain a conversation when it should in fact, be 'dead'."
  • "I feel that the reason for this is because many a point is initially brought up and others elaborated on that by the third time around there is less to draw from, speculate on, and talk about that was not mentioned or previously discussed."
  • "it could also be the case that people feel there's nothing left to say about certain topics."
  • "i don't think that a lack of responses is always a bad thing...sometimes not that much needs to be said.  i'm a man of few words, but i know what's important (ie. what should or needs to be said).  sometimes i just don't feel like talking about a subject too much especially when there are other things that can and should be looked at."
  • "lack of ideas at the end of the unit ( i will not post if i do not have anything of value to talk about)."
  • "I think most of it just has to do with the fact that people begin to run out of ideas to write about. Often times there have been so many different posts coming into the third day that it is hard to come up with an original idea to write about."
3) posting fatigue:
  • "Simply the fact that people get tired of posting.  Besides actual posting-fatigue, people might start to feel that every possible topic for discussion has been thoroughly exhausted."
  • "Oh that's easssyyyyyy.  Of course everyone is tired by the end of the week.  It's Thursday night, we read hundreds of pages, posted, posted again, responded fielded; Our creative wells were coming up dry.  The energy just wasn't there."
  • "I think that while the post/response/field scenario is effective in improving the quality of discussion, it can be a bit taxing."
4) laziness:
  • "Laziness of the class in general.  (i am also guilty of this myself)"
5) poor novel:
  • "I think people were not as enaged or intrigued by this novel as with others.  I heard a lot of people commenting on how much they hated this novel, not only this time, but for some, also, the first time they read it.  I think that because of this, people were less motivated to think about it."
I do think that I have to find a more appropriate formula for the amount of posting they are required to do.  There was a lot required here.  And if some people didn't post in a timely fashion, that made things especially tough.  But I also wonder if their thinking shouldn't be "exercised" more.  If they shouldn't be pushed to be in better thinking "shape" by exercising more.