A World of Wonder

I have to admit, I wasn’t thrilled about participating in online discussions and I felt uncomfortable recording my voice online for voicethread comments and presentations. When the class first started, my schoolwork level was at its height and I began to fall behind on the assignments for this class. When I finally was able to organize my activities and begin catching up on work, I found that I was spending twice the effort and time on tasks just because I was so unfamiliar with working in an online atmosphere (in fact, this is my first-ever blog post). This was evident in the time I spent on the first couple of discussion posts, which took me a grueling two hours to construct. In a face-to-face classroom setting, I am usually one of the most opinionated students and often have no restraints jumping into debates. Suddenly, when I sat down to compose a response I found myself with little to say and contribute. The issue wasn’t so much that I was apathetic to the matters at hand, but rather that I was so fixated on the fact that I was contributing a written piece that after the 30 minute time limit passed, could no longer be edited. I worked meticulously, terrified that if I left mistakes in my post they would not only be easily identified, but also indelible. With each post, however, as I began to warm up to the class, I became less self-conscious about my writing and was able to formulate my opinions much quicker.

The Biggest Challenge-voicethread.com

As our fourth week in AP USGOV begins, I have grown not only to be comfortable in a virtual classroom, but also to appreciate many aspects of online learning. In the past week we were assigned our first group presentation, which was originally one of the things I was most concerned about because I had never used voicethread before and I was uncertain how to communicate with my partner. As it turned out, the group presentation was one of the most engaging projects in our class thus far. Communicating, even while my partner Jennifer and I were in different time zones, was surprisingly simple. Dividing up the work so each person contributed an equal amount was also an easy task because the class is independent in nature. Overall, this group project probably went the smoothest out of all the ones I have done for any class. In some cases, I have even found online learning is even better than learning in a “normal” classroom because everything is adapted to your schedule. On our first exam it was incredibly nice to come home and take the test when I felt prepared, relaxed, and awake. I also prefer watching the lectures as a video because I can take notes at my own pace, rewind parts that I missed, and most importantly chose to do them when I am attentive.

The War on Terror

Learning about government in general has been a fascinating experience. As a subject, social studies was never my passion until I starting taking AP United States History. Through taking APUSGOV I have been able to augment much of the material I am learning concurrently in APUSH. All of the legislation, reforms, administrative policies, and elections that we study in history class have become more meaningful just from reading the first unit. I find that with every new week through the videos we watch, discussions we contribute to, essays we write, and projects we complete, I begin thinking about topics that I never would have considered before (e.g. the war on terrorism and the conflicts it creates with our individual right to privacy).

Overall, these past four weeks have both been an important learning experience and a pleasure. I cannot wait for what lies ahead in APGOV and am even excited for my next blog.

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14 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am doing blogging with students taking my course “Integrating Technology and Literacy.” Most of the students want to be teachers or are teachers. Most have never had a blog before. They post to their blogs weekly. At first, some of the blog posts sounded like academic papers. It took them some time to get used to writing for an audience and to use images. However, in the world we live in today, writing for a public audience will become increasingly important. Your course sounds fascinating. It is also interesting that you are taking the coure virtually. We can expect to see more of that happening. As a high school student, how do you feel about taking an online course?

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    • Hey Judy Arzt,
      Thank you so much for reading my blog post and commenting. Already with my first blog experience I have to completely agree with you that there is a certain mindset required for writing blog posts much different from papers. While I was preparing my post I noticed there were certain phrases that sounded too formal and overall, just did not flow with the ease that is important for blog posts. I really enjoy taking an online course as part of my high school experience as I can see such classes as becoming an increasingly important and prominent part of education. Thus far, I have really liked the material we are learning in the class and the only challenging part has been adjusting to the online discussions and group projects although even that has become increasingly easier as the time goes by

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      • Hi Judy. I’m sure Julia will get back to you soon with the student perspective, but I thought I’d reply with mine. We use a Learning Management System called “Haiku Learning” which has a discussion module embedded in the LMS. Students have assignments to respond to open-ended essential/driving questions, and to then return to reply to each other’s responses, and discussion ensues. These discussions are part of the grade.

        I’ll let Julia answer about how she feels about the level of engagement with these discussions.

        Thanks again for reading and being a contributor on our blog!

        Mike

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      • Hey Judy,
        Every week we are assigned to participate in questions and our level of response is graded on depth of analysis. For the next week, we must comment on our classmates discussion posts and also respond to any comments we receive on our own. Overall, I think the engagement is pretty extensive. The posts that I have seen have been well thought out and very insightful, which is one of the many benefits to writing out response. I personally read all of my classmates contributions to the discusion before commenting on certain ones.
        I hope this answers your question,
        Julia

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  2. Julia,

    I am extremely impressed with how reflective you are with your own personal learning process. I think your awareness will definitely be an advantage to you as you continue your academic career and continue to be a lifelong learner. Nice post!

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  3. Great post! I am the same way when it comes to posting things online when I know that I can’t edit them after a certain point. I’m glad that you are becoming less self-conscious so that your online persona is more reflective of how you are in a face to face setting. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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    • Thank you Mary Beverly for reading my post. I hope by the end of the course that responding to the discussion question will become a second nature. I think my gradual progression to becoming comfortable in the course is testament to how online courses can indeed capture many aspects of the real life classes.
      -Julia

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  4. I love how you describe your journey into online education! I am sure that many of your sentiments will resonate with people around the world who have taken an online course for the first time. In particular, I enjoyed your reflection on taking an online test for the first time: “prepared, relaxed, and awake.” Right on… a huge advantage of working on your time rather than the school schedule. Thank you for sharing, and best of luck with the course!

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    • Thank you Brad. Working on my own schedule has really been a big lesson for me. I am so glad to complete tasks when they are most convenient for me; however, procrastination always seems like an appealing option. Overall, the class has been a big lesson in time management because both the amount and quality of work expected is high, so putting tasks off is not really an option.
      -Julia

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  5. This is a visit to yet another post relating to “OSG’s AP U.S. Government & Politics” and again I’m impressed by the content.

    Your opening paragraph deals with your apprehension in starting the course. Unfamiliar technology and demands added to the time work might normally have taken in a face to face situation yet, with growing familiarity, your confidence grew. Fear of the unknown can hold anyone back from achieving but the ability to overcome our fears, to learn from our mistakes, to embrace the new gives us the strength to grow.

    Perhaps my favorite part of your Second paragraph explained why you preferred watching lectures on a video. So many times when I was at university in the early 70s I wished I had the ability to pause and rewind a lecturer more intent on volume than explanation, particularly in mathematics. Being before the days of personal video cameras, phones or other similar tech, this wasn’t an option. I smiled as I read the last sentence of the second paragraph and consider, “If only I had the ability when I was a student.” 🙂

    It seems a part of higher learning, the more we learn, the more we realize how little we know. Ignorance may be bliss but it’s with eyes wide open we can only truly learn. I’m glad you’re discovering that which once you wouldn’t have considered. You have set yourself on a path of learning I hope you keep throughout your life. Learning is a lifelong journey I’m still traveling.

    @RossMannell
    Teacher, NSW, Australia

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    • Thank you so much for your reading and replying to my blog Ross. I really appreciate all of your feedback and advice. It has been a continuous lesson for me to follow through on tasks that I find difficult or intimidating and I think I am finally comprehending that benefits and valuable lessons only follow on such a path. Having lessons recorded is such a blessing and I hope I will be able to use such technological advancements in college. It is so much easier to take notes and also provides for a great way to review before tests. I also agree that going into tasks unaware but with an open mind can produce many rewards. Again, thank you for your comment. It leaves me with a lot to think about.
      -Julia

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  6. Hi Julia
    I love your blog post specifically because I can relate. In our government class, and during our first trimester economics class, we’ve used blogger and twitter for different assignments. I can relate to how you’ve progressed to becoming more accustomed to these mediums for learning. At first I didn’t really understand the point of using either, but on blogger, it’s interesting to see perspectives of people in different classes that I don’t get to sit in on and listen and contribute to their conversations. As for twitter, it’s interesting to follow political party members and other news stations such as NBC. Seeing all of the different perspectives in one place is really interesting. I wish we had an AP Government class here after reading your post. Good luck for the rest of the year.

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