This semester has been so weird. And yet, it’s been amazing. I sat at my desk in my home office while my students sat at desks and kitchen tables, on couches and beds, each of us looking at computer screens instead of each other. They could see my face; I could not see most of theirs. Most of our conversation happened via typing on Discussion Boards and in Blackboard Collaborate’s chat window. And yet… in at least one class, we managed to become a cohesive group; to have intense and productive conversations about texts; to laugh together; to find comfort in our meetings and discussions.
At the end of each semester, I usually do a “flood-the-board” activity: I’ll leave the classroom for about ten minutes, allowing my students to take over the room. I leave pieces of chalk (or markers) for them, and they get to write all over the board, filling it up with ideas, skills, insights they’ve learned over the course of the semester. I love what happens in those ten minutes. I stand outside the door, but I don’t go too far. I can hear them through the door – quiet at first, then murmuring, and eventually there’s laughter and shouting as they all read each other’s comments and interact with them – they spur each other on, they write jokes (like the comment about my apparent penchant for wearing turtlenecks one semester…), they have fun. And then I come back in, they giggle as they settle down and watch me read their board… I snap photos of the board and share with the class via email afterwards. It’s closure – even though they’re still working on their final essays.
This semester is obviously different. But I used Google Jamboards to try to replicate at least some of that. I put them into breakout groups to allow them the chance to chat with each other as they posted, though I don’t think they used that (I didn’t see any mics turn on in the groups). The board they came up with is just as great, though. Here it is: