[Live Blog] – Hubs and Spokes

Jonah Howland
English Department
Urban School of San Francisco

[Live Blogged – please ignore mispellings and awkward wording]
Was a skeptic, but now sees many more advantages than the problems that they had.

Skeptical that students are not as different, maybe more changes in media.

Students practice acquire knowledge and make sense of it, just the media has changed. Subject is the same. Geometry, Languages, History have been around for a long time. Enterprise of teaching and learning remains the same.

The online written conference
Has used for five or six years.

The Hub and Spoke Humanities Class
Most of learning is transacted to inward, radial, teacher very much in the center.
Teachers model, prompt, tease, interrogate, and direct traffic
Good enough for Socarates
Students as acolyte.

Builds rigor and accountability.
Safe and contrived, like fishisng a stocked pond with a guide

Other problems occasioned by the conventional architecture
Primary on quickness, extemporaneity
Solution – group projects
problem – accountability and balance of effort

Schism between the relative informality and structuredless verbal schange and what is expected of students in writing
solution – in-class writing, journal writing
problems – futher entrenches hub and spoke structure
generates mounds of material for teacher’s one-on-on assessment and response

Solution – Online Written Conference

Example (American Romantism) – need to slow down, observe, and reflect and respond. Facilitating goal.

Record an observation. Read and respond to all classmates in the group. Rethink and rewrite their own piece. Want to have conversations of information not discussed in class and interests them. Make connection between seemingly disparate parts.

Primacy on reflective staying power, appetite, and insight
Students are accountable to one another in the building of an end-product
A kind of intermediate practice in composition – neither discussion nor essay writing but helpful practice for the latter.
Standards for strong work are set and communicated through the exchange.
Teacher’s function – combination of Adam Smith and Alan Greenspan

Allows for development of their own voice.
When students need guidance, teacher can give

Uses First Class – Use of conferences
Has course expectation – all online.

Similar to threaded discussion or forums at various other products.

Asking student to take risks with help from their peers.

Showed examples of student work.

Howard views the conversation as little as possible and as much as necessary. Will look at the paper turned in at the end.

Does build in time to bring in important threads brought up by the students. almost every week.

Big books hard to teach with demands of students. But use conference as a support group to help students get through the book.

An espirit de corpes that is built between groups.

Challenges and complications:
Timeliness and accountability to each other – ease of access is helpful.
Works best organically, it should generate its own momentum
Setting and maintaining reasonable expectations
Hard to summon authenticity, light social engineering is helpful [ seprarating friends to create mixed groups of grade level and ability
Monitoring if you make it too much of your job. Have to find balance

Key – What are the Learning Goals?
This is the key to success in all aspects at the Urban School

has given domain evidence of provocation.
Clear informed, purposeful writing
Grasp of larger meanings and implications of the essential questions and concerns of the material
an openness to the ideas, concerns and needs of others

A less teacher-centric classroom. Was in-class and individual, now a third
Student testimony tends to favor this activity, but is a lot of work
Richness and range of inquiry in formal essays and projects is greater
Authenticity of learning and propriety ethic
A democratizing and metastasizing experience

Useful axioms
Play with the prospects – try it out, see how it works
Attend to the effects as well as the affects
Student feedback is telling
Keep your eyes on the learning goals while making adjustments to your pedagogy.

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