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~ breakdown and some analyses by Stephen A. Tompkins ~

1)  Please name the one or two other people who were in your group.  

2)  Use the “Jacobs #1 (11/3-6)” forum postings for your responses to all questions in this survey.  Look at the date and time of the serves by you and your other group members.  List the serves in chronological order.  Who served first, who second, who third? 

The purpose of this question was simply to set the students up to answer the following questions, but you gotta love this comment:
  • "I was actually a bad community member and didn't realize my group until it was too late...before that realization came about I was pirating other people's groups and butting in with them.  I believe I volleyed an Alladdin serve and possibly somebody else's.  As far as my serve, I don't think anybody cared to touch it.  Must've been a slider in the dirt..."

3)  Describe – using the “five eyes” or some other labeling – the nature of each of those serves (including your own).  What kind was first, second, third? 

I was interested in seeing if there is variety or not, if some eyes predominate when students are given free reign, and -- not least -- if students can recognize the various types.

Several responses indicated more than one type of "eye" in their answer, which will explain why the math doesn't work out.

Analyze:    26 times
Synthesize:    22 times
Internalize:    15 times
Hypothesize:    9 times
Criticize:    7 times

There was only about a 50% correlation within groups of people labeling posts the same way.  In other words, in a group about half the time everybody would call a post the same thing, say synthesize, and half the time they would label it different eyes.

Hmmm, pretty good spread among three of the eyes.  I wonder, though, about the low number of hypothesize -- too easy? too obvious?  And I wonder too about the low number of criticize -- too hard? too early in the discussion to render a solid judgment?   Hmmmm.  Or maybe nothing to worry about in the numbers here.  But I am kind of distressed that at this point in the semester there isn't more ability to recognize the eyes.  If indeed that is what happened, for it is true that most posts are not cleanly and totally written from one perspective, so maybe that accounts for the discrepancy.  So, maybe nothing to worry about here either.

4)  Would you say that there was a variety among the serves in your group or not?  Explain.  If there was not variety, why wasn’t there, and what could have been done to achieve it?  

Variety is on my mind because of my intuition backed by anecdotal evidence that one major reason that discussion stalls is lack of variety in the discussion points.  The reason for the eyes is to help students be conscious of options and alternatives before they post, so that discussions can have several possible paths.

All but one indicated that they felt there was "a variety among the serves," and over half of the respondents said they felt there was a good deal of variety.  Here are some representative responses:
  • "....the field and volleys all added something new or enhanced the post in pretty good directions."
  • "I didn't get that feeling, reading each serve, that anything was redudant or repetitive.  I feel like everyone put very different ideas forth and different ways of looking at things."
  • "i do feel that there was variety. we each spoke about different topics... BUT at the same time we had all read each others, and so we could intertwine another post into our own."
Here are two interesting distinctions:
  • "I would say there was some variety...but I don't feel that variety is that key in this situation as long as each person paints the picture with real passion from their own experiences and their own opinions are spiced with variety and creative thinking."
  • "Yeah.  it's cool, i think we're all different people, and we made posts about the things that made us think as we were reading.   We didn't consciously try to make posts about different things or try to use different 'eyes'..it just ended up being that way because we think so differently." 
This respondent is the only one who felt there wasn't much variety, singling out one of the group members for criticism for not following guidelines (Yay!):
  • "Eh, there was somewhat of a variety among our serves, i feel ____ could have tried to do a different type of serve because ______ had already dont a synthesis-type post."
Variety seems to have been on people's mind and was achieved.

5)  In the instructions to this unit you were asked to “read whatever serves in your group are on the board before you serve and then offer a different approach in your serve.”  Did you read the other serves (if any – you may have been the first server, of course) before you served?  If not, what was the reason? 

Trying to see if what I have harped on as necessary proper practice to achieve discussion goals has sunk in.

All of the respondents except one indicated that they read whatever serves were already posted before making their own response (unless they were the first to post).  The answers brought up some interesting observations about the practice of looking at other people's posts:
  • "I have always tried to read my group members' posts before I post.  If you read what they have already posted you are better able to tailor your post to them."
  • "I read a few of the serves ahead of mine just to get an idea of what people were thinking."
  • "I was sorta wondering why this was instructions for this unit--becuase I have been reading those that post before me since the vbery beginnging of the class.  I usually like to get a feel for what people have been talking about so I don't talk about the same thing."
  • "I always do because even befor eyou said it, I did not want to repeat what my group members were saying.  You would look stupid on the board as well as wasted a possible reply."
  • "I always read the serve before mine, mostly so i do not bring up the same topic in my serve, and also to sort of get my creative juices going, which helps me come up with ideas for my own post."
  • "I wanted to get a sense of what my group members thought were the key aspects to the assigned reading chunks before i gave them my feeling of what i thought the key aspects were."
Below is the response from the lone student who did not read any posts that had been made prior to  responding:
  • "No, when I was serving, I certainly didn't look at anyone else's posts.  When I was returning a serve, I did--but see, personally I don't like to look at anybody's way of thinking because I just wanted to be influenced by what I believe at that moment in time and don't feel that another person's view would help, only hinder my train of thought."
Looks like the party line is being followed.

6)  If you read the other serves before you served, what went through your mind as you thought about your serve?  Did you consciously try to make a different kind of serve?  If so, how did you do that?  Did you use the “five eyes” or some other method? 

At this point in all these surveys, even I am tired of me asking these questions!

Almost all of the people who answered this question stated that they consciously tried to make a different serve, and approximately half of the respondents indicated that they consciously used the "five eyes."

Here are some good soldiers, who looked at other serves and used the five eyes:
  • "When I posted my serve, which was the first, I drew from the available 'eyes' from the '5 eyes' document under course documents."
  • "I def consciously tried to make differnet serves and i think i did make mostly different serves than the others before me.  I try to tie in the 5 eyes with my own random thinking to provide some structure."
This student looked at other posts but doesn't mention the five eyes:
  • "Once I saw that no one had already brought up what I wanted to talk about, I continued with my idea.  So I definetly tried to make a different kinda post than the others in my group."
Here are some interesting comments about posting decisions after reading others and considering the five eyes:
  • "I read ___'s serve as an analysis, and I knew that mine was also an analysis, but I thought that since they were on different areas of the novel that we would be ok, and I thought we had some good back and forth in our posts.  If I read ___'s and realized they were the same or similar, I would have re-written mine on something else."
  • "I know we were to try and change things up from one post to the next to keep a variety, so I tried to do that as much as possible with my post, without changing what I wanted to talk about.   ____ synthesized on the topic of strength and obligation.  I felt my topic was far enough away from his that it still added to variety, even though I synthesized too.
These students did not use the "five eyes" to guide their responses:
  • "I just wanted to get an idea of where the pulse of the group was located.  What kind of vibe was going on. I did not really consider the five eyes for the first serve.  I went with a topic and wrote on that trying to give my group stuff to bounce back to me.  I feared using the five eyes because I did not want to say too much and leave nothing for my group to say back to me."
  • "I did consciously try to make a different kind of serve but I did not use the 'five eyes.'  I guess I just tried to pick a different general topic."
  • "I tried to eliminate the other people's serves from my mind.  If someone did character analysis, I would try not to think about any individual characters.  I didn't try to pick a topic based on the 5 eyes.  Instead, I tried to come up with something different to use."
  • "I did not look to the five eyes at all, but I did try to walk a different path completely.  I like to read other people's serves to make sure that I don't repeat what they have already said, but I think of my topic before I read what others posted so that my mind is fresh."
  • "i did not consciously try to post a different type of serve.  i knew what i wanted to say, so i said it!"
  • "I dont read my group members posts and then say 'well she synthesized, now i cant do that' because if i have another good synthesis to make, for instance, i'll post on it.  I wont sacrifice a good post idea just to sound unique when i'm posting, and if there are two good syntheses on one day, so be it. thats my opinion."
This student didn't read others or use the five eyes:
  • "I didn't consciously try to make a different kind of serve because I already knew what I wanted to say.  There wasn't a high likelyhood of another group memeber posting anything similar to my post.  I don't use the five eyes to guide my posts because I try to find the most interesting topic to discuss regardless of what 'eye' it is.  I think the material being posted is much more important that what classification the material might fall under."
The interesting and valuable thing I see here is that many students were not just slavishly following my exhorta but were making healthy discriminations and exercising a healthy independence.

7)  Look at the interchanges initiated by your serve with each of your group members.  Did those interchanges each go through the full cycle?  (Full cycle in this unit: you serve, you receive a return from a group member, you field that return, the group member volleys back to you.)  Specify which did and which didn’t? 

There were three members to each group, and I was both trying to get some data here but also raise consciousness in the minds of those who were responsible for discussion interruptus.

Only five out of the twenty-one respondents indicated that all of the interchanges went through the full cycle, and this response is interesting in that regard.
  • "yeah they all went through..and for some of them we didnt know where to stop, so we just kept going."
Here are some representative answers for those who indicated that some of their interchanges did not go through the full cycle:
  • "I did the full interchange with ___, but ____ didn't volley."
  • "For my interchanges with both of my other group members it got to fielding the return, but my group members did not volley back."
  • "The only one with a full cycle was ____ and I on my first serve.  The rest had incomplete cycles.  I feel that there was some confusion in my group about volleying.  We didn't really understand the concept."
  • "No, it was a one-pinch, hit to the second baseman for the 4-6-3 double play."
Certainly not a high percentage of completed interchanges.  We live in a fallen world.

8)  If you had an interchange initiated by your serve that went through the full cycle, look closely at each step and describe the sequence.  (If you had more than one full-cycle interchange, choose the one that has the most interesting things to talk about.)  What kind of serve did you make?  What kind of return did you receive?  How did you field the return? What was the nature of the volley shot back to you?  Expand your description wherever there is something interesting to say.  For instance, were some steps easy, some difficult?  Take your time here – try not to skimp in your descriptions.  

I try to get them here to look very carefully at a cycle and reflect on the process.

The underlinings are mine, indicating students using my vocabulary to describe aspects of the interactive process:
  • "My second serve invovled internalizing Harriet's experiences in the Northern United States.  I especially liked the interaction I had with _______ because he brought up some very interesting points from an economical point of view that I had never considered.  When I returned again, I added to the points he made and made some general references that he ended up agreeing with.  I was emotionally involved in that cycle and found it very interesting."
  • "My serve was a combination of synthesis and analysis I would say, and ____ did a lot with her return.  I see her weaving with a idea that came up in class, and she also enhanced by using examples from the book.  She ends with her own answer to the overall topic I had introduced, and then ended on a question to keep the conversation going.  The two of us after this had the same kind of responses.  Both of us seemed to be building and re-thinking as we took into account eachothers thoughts.  We ended witout an overall answer, but a better understanding of the topic."
  • "My serve starts out analyzing--I talk about what I think to be a technique Jacobs uses in her writing, and I analyze the what she has acheived through the technique.  But then- why discussing that analysis, I came upon a question, or rathe a hypothesis, that I asked the other members in the group what they thought.  I was definetly frustrated with _____'s returns.  He didn't really take a close read to what I was saying, and therefore, his return didn't really conver what I had brought up.  So this made it all the more harder to return to his return, becuase I felt the need to re-explain myself, since he didn't really talk about what I had brought up.  He also misinterpreted a lot of what I had to say, and just seemed to skip over things and not really concerntrae on the point I had made.  I felt that ____ made very good returns.  He definetly seemed to be building on what I had to say.  He would give his coments on what I thought using the book, but then he would also make other references as examples for his thoughts.  I also felt like he was specifically trying to do this.  Like he had made a strong effort to make a really good return that would not only add to my thoughts, but allow for further conversation, which it did."
  • "I made an analysis serve.  Then ____ gave me a disagreeing and building serve.  I gave kind of a clarity and building serve, then she gave an agreeing and disagreeing type post for her volley (one on one subject, one on the other) and she also gave her own views to further enhance the post."
  • "My serve was an analyzation of the grandmother and Benjamin.  Each had a different way of dealing with slavery so I asked which was more effective.  _____'s reply- She expands upon my argument by adding information to support both descriptions of the grandmother and benjamin.  At the end of her post, _____ likens Linda's method of dealing with slavery to a combo of the two aforementioned characters.  My return fielding- I expand on this idea of Linda encompassing a combination of those around her.  I then take a stand and explain that I would sympathize with benjamin and fight for my freedom.  I extend that idea to ____ and ask her what method she would use.  _____'s volley- _____ expresses that she sides with Linda on this issue.  She then takes the argument out of the context of the novel by suggesting that this difference in opinion might relate to the nature of men vs women."
  • "I made a serve that was mainly hypothesis.  _____'s return seems to be building and maybe a little redirecting.  He took my idea and used it to bring up another issue that he saw.  I guess my fielding of the return was building.  I didn't really have a particular category in mind when writing it, but I usually try to at least comment on and add to the ideas presented.  I think I was mainly trying to bring up something he could respond to.  ______'s volley also seems to sort of be building, but he's also actually criticizing and internalizing a bit, I think."
  • "my serve was analytical in nature... would classify _____'s reponse as 'building' I would classify my return as enhancing....I'm having trouble classifying _____'s response but it looks as though she didn't have much trouble in taking the questions I raised and expanding on my thoughts."
Here's a student -- one of 2-3 apparently, as we have seen before -- fighting the system but certainly aware of it in detail, as the vocabulary shows:
  • "The serve I made asked some broad questions.  I don't think it's important to analyze what classification the post falls under, but how much the post makes the group think.  I think this post was successful because it provoked though among the group not because this one was an internalize post and the other two were analyze posts.  Looking at the posts from this perspective misses the most important aspect of the posts: how interesting and thought provoking are they."
I do especially like the way many of the students see the process through the vocabulary lens I have been promoting.

9)  Take a look at the description of the sequence you have just described in #8.  If you had it to do over again, is there a post that you would do differently?  If so, why?  If not, can you focus on one specific step in the interchange where either you posted and a group member responded or you responded to a group member and explain why you think your post worked or was best in that instance? 

Ten out of the seventeen respondents said they wouldn't do anything differently.  But here are representative responses from students who said they would do something differently, given the chance:

Being selfish, but interestingly so:
  • "If I could do it over I would make my serve a bit more complicated to answer.  But I am not unsatisfied with my serve, I would just want the returns to be a bit meatier so I had something to field."
Being unselfish, giving others more and better to work with:
  • "I'd say my last response to her I'd like to do over again.  I would have liked to had made it longer.  Though I do make a new claim that ______ picks up on in her response, reading it over again now reveals that my actual point was a little confusing.  I wish I had thrown in more the idea I was getting at."
  • "I think I could have been more clear in my response to _____'s return because I was rambling a little bit but I couldn't help it.  If I had thought about it more, I probably would have made more sense and made a better argument."
Change on the basis of new knowledge:
  • "The post I made at 3:50 on Nov 5th is the one post I would have done over.  I would have done it over because eventually, I agree with Mrs. Flint's jealous acts.  I didn't realize how messed up she was at the time of my posting.  I hadn't finished the book just yet, and well, by the end of the book, I was sickened by all people involved in the upkeep of slavery."
  • "I think I would have taken one of the posts and maybe synthesized it with some of the conditions we saw in UTC."
Interestingly, the "selfish" response indicates a realization of what effect the quality of a serve has in generating significant interaction.  And the "unselfish" responses indicate a nice sense of community.

10)  In the instructions to this unit you were asked before each post in the sequence to “read all the posts in your group that are on the board and then consciously try to ‘weave’ the ideas of and the ideas stimulated by others into your posts where possible and where appropriate.”  Did you read all the posts on the board in your group before you posted at each step?  If you didn’t, what was the reason?  If you did, did you do any “weaving” in your own posts?  If so, please specify where.  If not, can you say why?  

I was pushing the higher level responses, and it seemed obvious to me that one purpose for, or perhaps one result of, thoughtfully reading the posts of others would be to weave them together in a response.

Thirteen of the twenty-one respondents indicated that they did read all of the posts in their group, and five of those who said they didn't read the posts indicated that they were the first to serve.  Eight out of the twenty-one respondents indicated that they did do or see some weaving in the exchanges.  Here are some representative responses about the "weaving" part of the question:
  • "I weaved more in the second round of serving then I did in this unit, becuase I felt that in the second unit what _____ posted made sense to me and I thought it would also make sense to ____.....I couldn't weave nessecaily with _____, becuiase I don't think he got what I was trying to say, so I felt like I had to clarify things."
  • "Weaving is a difficult step.  You barely have an example of one.  The posts are not related enoug uslaly to weave outside one serve."
  • "there are a bunch of times i included one girl's post in my exchange with the other girl.....we were all working together to get to an answer to my question, and through the posting, we were always citing the third person outside of our immediate exchnages in order to prove or disprove a point."
  • "I thought about trying to weave ideas together, but I didn't find any situations where weaving would have enhanced the conversation.  I didn't want to weave just for the sake of weaving."
  • "I wasn't really able to do any weaving, though, because I just didn't see connections between ideas that were being discussed or didn't really think that it would help the particular discussion."
  • "I did not do much weaving as many of my responses were answers to question where weaving would have caused me to have digressed rather than elaborate."
  • "Well, I love the weaving concept, even though I would have to say it's one of the more difficult schemes to work with inside a post."
  • "Yes I read all of the posts but there wasn't a whole lot of weaving going on."
  • "i didn't actually weave too much.  i think it was because my thought was much different."
Not much weaving going on.  It's true that even I don't have good examples of it to model for them.  And it may be that certain of the highest level posts are simply going to be rare and can't be forced.

11)  Still using this same complete interchange as your point of reference, 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?  

This is one of those really important questions. 

Fifteen out of the twenty respondents felt that their individual/group thinking was more advanced by the end of the interchanges.  Here are some representative answers:
  • "I htink we both got to thinking from each other's posts, especially becasue there was valid argument on both sides of the disagreement.  I think out posts were pretty solid from the start, and didn;t lose any momentum.  It was definitely worthwhile in that regard."
  • "I'd definately say it was more advanced at the end.  I'm confident that we could have kept right on going with the post; there were so many ways to look at the topic.   What I got out of it was the ideal post that serves to keep the conversation going.  The initial post was open ended, with not much supporting evidence, but that's what made it ideal for discussion.  The returns following that post kept right on building, and a lot of re-thinking was occurring.  I feel it was a good interchange."
  • "The group activity was very worthwhile.  We brought the discussion out of the context of the novel and used it as a tool for discussing the differences of men and women.  When I read this novel I had no idea that an argument like that could be generated from the text."
  • "I think the group experience was quite worthwhile because often times one of my group members or I would bring up an argument, and another member would think about it in a coplete different way and have a different perspective."
  • "Definitely more advanced and worthwhile! I got a lot out of it- as always it is interesting and enlightening to contemplate and relate to what and how they group memebers think."
  • "yeah, and the reason i say yes is simple...when you only have one perspective in your head, you're at the first level of thinking, the first plateau. when you talk about it with a group (and in our group, almost no one COMPLETELY agreed with anyone else, which was good), and you are constructively criticizing (as occurred in our group) and working towards a better understanding on both ends, you reach another perspective.  I consider this second plateau 'advanced.'"
  • "Sharing with the group helps you see the views of others as well as sharpen your arguing/conversing skills."
Here are some representative responses from those students who didn't feel the individual group thinking advanced as a result of the interchanges:
  • "To be quite honest, I feel as though the interchange had potential to become more advanced but somehow fell short of it.  I think a lot of it has to do with the work we were discussing.  As it is autobiographical it did not seem to lend itself to the sort of extended dialouge that I think you were hoping for here."
  • "honestly, i think our group was at a high level from the beginning, so i don't think the posts were necessarily 'higher' at the end, they were solid throughout."
Ok, responses here would seem to indicate that the students felt they were getting something out of the multiple interchanges.

12)  If you had an interchange initiated by your serve that did not go through the full cycle, where did it break down and why?  

Probing for reasons as well as giving a heads up that the idea is to complete the cycle.

As should be apparent from the representative responses below, the two reasons given for the break down in interchanges were people failing to respond and/or there being "no where else to go" with the discussion:
  • "it broke down when one group member didn't want to respond, and when one group member took too long to respond. when he eventually did respond, he claimed it was tough to respond to my post not because it was as dead end post but because he agreed with me too much to respond.  Either that is exactly what a dead end post is or its just a sweet post, im not so sure.  I wasn't about to respond saying I Really agree with the fact that you really agree with me."
  • "It broke down with poeple not responding.  In some cases there was nothing to say to the response.  I really could not volley back in once case.  In other cases I think it was just forgetting."
  • "Mine broke down by a group member not volleying back.  I am unsure as to why they did not."
  • "For my serve, ____ made a response which I fielded, and then he did not post again after that.  _____ simply agreed with everything I said so I didn't know what else to talk about."
  • "My 'women are crazy' interchange broke down after my response to _____'s post.  Looking it over, I could see there is really nowhere else for him to go, unless he wanted to comment on the change of opinion I had at the end.  My response was a 'case closed' kinda thing, so there wasn't too much more to discuss."
  • "The interchange was cut short because I guess my ideas just weren't as cutting edge as I had hoped in the initial writing."

13)  If you were responsible for an incomplete interchange, what was the reason?  Did the reason have to do with your uncertainty about how to respond or something else?  Did you provide a reason for your absence to your group members?  If not, why not?  

I've been thinking that a significant mark of a sense of community might be giving a reason for not posting.

As above, the main reason for not responding was a dead-end post.  Although several students admitted that they did not provide a "reason for their absence" to the other group members, only one provided a rationale for failing to do so:
  • "I didn't provide a reason for my absense.  I guess I didn't just because I kept putting off responding to it thinking I would be able to think of something to say later but I just never did."
If I want what I want here, I'll have to bring it to student attention forecefully, since it is obviously not something they think of doing on their own.

14)  If a group member was responsible for the incomplete interchange, did he or she provide a reason?  If so, what was the reason?  If no reason was provided, how did you feel about that?  Did you prompt a group member to make a response?  If not, why not? 

Once again I'm looking for the dynamic involved in missed posts.

Reason given:
  • "Yes, she let us know that she had a small window of time in which to respond to us.  I felt she was sincere.  I also politely reminded her in class to check out a new post and respond when she had the time."
  • "She did try to provide a reason.  She told us that her life was busy and she would try to get on the ball."
A bit peeved at no reason:
  • "no reason provided, it sort of put me in a tough spot but most of our interchanges went fairly far."
  • "No reasons were provided, and looking back I feel curious and a little upset that we couldn't make it full circle.  Yes, I did prompt a group member to make a response by reflecting on my field."
  • "It is a little discouraging when you take the time to really think about and develop your post and then there's not a active response to it (I'm also thinking about my talk radio post right now).  It kind of negates the effort you put into it."
Not my job:
  • "Its not my place to tell a group member to get their act together.  They are responsible for staying involved.  No reason was provided for my group members abscence."
  • "No reason was provided for _____ not responding to my serve.  I didn't really think much of it.  I guess I just figured he was busy with other work or things or just wasn't going to respond at all.  I think I'd rather get no response at all than a poor response, though.  I didn't prompt him to respond.  I guess I didn't really think of doing that."
  • "I never prompted another group member to respond, I guess I just thought it wasn't really my place to do that, but people generally did not provide reasons for why they didn't respond either. "
A dose of realism:
  • "There was no reason given for either group member not completing the interchange.  I wasn't bothered by the fact that they didn't give a reason.  Ultimately, we are all doing this for a grade.  If there were no reprocussions for not posting, I don't think there would be too much activity on the discussion board.  If a group member isn't concerned with his or her grade and doesn't want to post when they are supposed to, that is their choice.  If they don't want to I'm not going to badger them to post.  If my grade were based on how much my group memebers posted I would be more interested in why they weren't posting."
  • "no. but i didn't really care.  to be honest, i love discussion, but the less i have to post, the more time i have to read, study, and live.  i didn't prompt the first member because the last poster was late on posting. and the last poster just didn't do one last response or post, so it was just an effortless thing on their part. but i do not hold any hard feelings, it's crunch time and everyone's got a pile of work just waiting to be done."
Hmmm, dare I base a person's grade on whether or not others in the group participated as they should????  That would be something.  Again, if I want this kind of nudging to be part of the community, I am going to have to make it explicit.

15)  Do you sense any difference in how you posted or how you felt about posting in this unit that has the extra volleying step?  Is the longer sequence basically the same or different for all intents and purposes than the shorter sequences?  Is there added value or the potential for added value to longer interchanges?  Explain. 

Do you think or act differently when you know you are in for the long haul?  And I guess I was trying to see how far I could stretch them and how they would feel about it, find out where the law of diminishing returns sets in.

A feeling that it pushed them harder:
  • "It made me want to write better posts again knowing that we would have to respond more than once."
  • "I think I noticed a difference in how I posted since I was more conscious of trying to write something that my group members could respond to.  I think it was actually harder for me to write my posts in this unit.  I don't know whether that was because of knowing I needed to try to keep the conversation going or whether it was because I just had a harder time thinking of things to write about with this novel.  I think there was a difference with this sequence than the last unit.  Maybe I just felt the pressure of trying to keep the discussion going or something.  I think there could be added value to longer interchanges, but I think it would be more valuable with longer novels or novels that have a lot of deeper ideas to discuss maybe."
  • "I think I tried to find topics that would be somewhat controversial so that the converstaion wouldn't come to a dead end right away.  I wasn't worried about picking a five-eye at all.  I just wanted something to keep us interested.  I think there is added value to longer discussionbecause you put more thought, can ask more questions, and you should be recieving a response you can agree or disagree with."
  • "I know I defiently concerntrated on making more organized posts, like you had suggested in cass.  I usually just like what comes to mind after reading something that inspires me (which I couldn't totally get out of my system when posting) but i did try to use more quotes as reference to what I was thinking, and I tried to make sure there were several options of responses that i could've received."
  • "I like this cycle better than the previous units becasue I think it provokes a better serve from the initiator to keep things going.  I also think that it forces the responders to look more deeply into the post because they know they have to respond to the field."
  • "I suppose I felt a little more pressure when serving.  I was hoping that the ball wouldn't deflate during play, but that is something that's going to happen anyway as the sequences get longer.
Mixed response:
  • "I feel the volley step helped in some cases but not so much in others.  When the conversation died I saw no point in beating a dead horse.  But when the conversation was still alive it was really good to keep it going."
  • "I think that in some cases, there is added value with this added step.  However, sometimes I feel as though the extra step may lead to thoughtless jibbering for lack of a better term.  I feel as though where a conversation may have naturally concluded, it is forced to continue and it becomes quite apparent that it is in fact 'forced'."
  • "I'm not really sure if there is added value for longer interchanges.  I often seem to find topics fizzling out after at most the field of a response.  Group members have usually made their arguments by then, so unless people are willing and able to re-direct or enhance the conversation, it really isn't that functional. Although the last step did feel a little forced, I think it will gradually increase our abilities to keep the conversation going, so it could be a good thing."
Fighting artificiality:
  • "I think it is discouraging when you are making a post that you know no one is going to respond to.  What is the point of that?  I think the fact there is an artificial, predetermined number of times we are required to post comprimises the honesty of the posts.  People aren't talking and saying things because they want to; they are posting becuase they have to regardless of whether they have something to add to the conversation or not.  It should be up to the group to determine how long the posts should be."
This student sees an interesting qualitative difference when the 4th interactive step is added:
  • "The last unit was nice, because it allowed the server to return any thoughts that might have changed once the other members of the group responded.  One served, somone responded and the server let them know how their thoughts were influenced.  Adding the extra step changed the whole process significantly.  In this unit, it's almost as if it's set up for arguing.  This back and forth is perfect for building points and debating, rather than simply reflecting on a given point.  I hope that makes sense.  I see them as two different practices."
Hmmm, well, about 30% of the students did feel some conscious difference at the beginning when knowing that the extra step was there.  I'd say it is a good thing that they did.  I'd say that they were recognizing an important truth.

16)  The second wave of posting in this unit (Jacobs #2) got off to a very slow start and may not, in fact, finish.  What do you see as the reason or reasons for this fall off in participation and/or for the slower response time?

Dangerous questions to ask!

The weekend:
  • "The first volley was just finishing as the second came around.  People usually tend to take a break in between and well---that was the weekend!  I saw it coming that the work wouldn't be done in a timely fashion a weekend is time for a break (until Sunday night maybe! ha!)."
  • "It's the weekend!  No one likes to get stuff going on the weekend."
Stale topic:
  • "Slavery has been discussed and debated more than any other topic this semester.  People probably just stopped coming up with new and exciting ways to explore many of the questions that have already been covered."
  • "I honestly feel as though there really wasn't all that much to say about the novel.  I think that this became apparent in last friday's class."
  • "Ideas got stale??"
  • "I want to say that there was nothing much left to talk about, but that seems obvious.  The discussion in class died too."
  • "I was just extremely busy, including 2 exams to study for, from Thursday through the weekend and had a hard time finding time to focus on thinking of something to write.  It's very possible that other people had exams to focus on this past week, too, and that could have affected participation."
  • "Exams. Seriously."
  • "The first wave, with the added step, just took a lot out of us."
Fallen human nature:
  • "people are lazy."
  • "Just people gettin lazy and uninterested."
Well, at least it wasn't because they were tired of looking at my puss!

17) Is there any other comment that you would like to make about our current focus on reaching a volleying stage?

More required at this stage:
  • "It's a good idea.  But it obviously hinges on a solid serve.  Without a good serve these vollies could have been painful."
Cuts some things short, drags others out:
  • "Volleying is good as it calls for a full circle workship, however depending on the topic of the post, it could mean dragging something out to the point that one does not volley."
  • "When a conversation is going well great--but if it comes to an end it's really hard to find soemthing to write about!"
Smaller groups:
  • "I like being in smaller groups- You get to focus more on specific posts instead of worrying about responding to so many different ones."
  • "i liked having a smaller group with more 'volleying' going on."
  • "I don't think it needed to take us this long to get to the volleying stage.  The quality of some posts was probably compromised along the way because people knew that they weren't going to get a response to their post. What was the benefit of taking such small baby steps to get to this point?"
Intriguing reaction:
  • "Simply put: as the posting gets more complex I think it gets more interesting."
  • "I actually have really been enjoying the discussion board in this class lately, I think it has become my favorite part of AL because it allows me to speak my mind but I can take the time to formulate my ideas well, and I can also hear other people's perspectives on the issues.
A good word for the teacher:
  • "I would like to say sometting else.  You get mad at us for being quiet sometimes, but I enjoy listening to you.  You have much experience in the field and lecturing us for the second day of serving is actually productive to our serving for that night.  It puts some nice ideas in our heads :-)"