Tapped In Perspective

 

| Top | Meet the Author | Perspective | My Learning | Getting Started | Using TI |

Originally published on the Tapped In Web Site

I wrote the original of the following article for Tapped In for their September 2002 Perspective. As they write, "TAPPED IN™ is the online workplace of an international community of education professionals. K-12 teachers and librarians, professional development staff, teacher education faculty and students, and researchers engage in professional development programs and informal collaborative activities with colleagues." Some of the features addressed in this perspectives, such as virtual pets and toys, no longer exist in the new version of Tapped In. You may read additional member perspectives as well.

Meet Derrel Fincher

Derrel (Derrelf) spent fifteen years in engineering prior to becoming a teacher in 1998. He switched careers when he found himself in front of a class of sixth grade math students for nine weeks in 1997 and realized he liked it! Now with certifications in K-12 Mathematics and Elementary Education he is a Math and Technology teacher at the American School in Japan. He discovered Tapped In when it was a requirement for his coursework in Pepperdine University’s Online Master of Arts in Educational Technology (OMAET) program but he found it so useful he now uses it with his middle school students as well as using it for discussions with other professionals.

| Top | Meet the Author | Perspective | My Learning | Getting Started | Using TI |

Originally published on the Tapped In Web Site

Derrel’s Perspective

The most significant learning for individuals occurs within a social context, whether it’s an engineering team trying to create a new product or authors discussing writing. I try to give my students the same experience of learning within a social context I enjoyed as an engineer.

Synchronous communications supports the social context and it allowed me to pursue two key goals: build on the emphasis on mathematical discourse I had in the classroom and help my students learn how to engage in professional discussions online. After investigating several chat options, all of which had one failing or another that would have made it difficult to use with sixth graders, I decided to try Tapped In as I felt I knew the advantages and pitfalls fairly well from my own experiences.

When I first introduced my students to the environment, I gave them some time just to “play.” I quickly found myself in the middle of sixth grade virtual reality still sounding just like a teacher: “Jane, please don’t get champagne from the vending machine. Tatsu, please don’t sic Balrog on Saori unless she wants to play. Bobby…” Well, you get the idea. When I next went into my virtual office, I found virtual toys all over the virtual floor. I started ejecting toys back to their owners, muttering to myself how I would have to remind them they shouldn’t mess up my office when it hit me—I was reacting just like they had left toys in a real office! I was seeing the environment as an extension of my classroom. But unlike my classroom, I could build new rooms in Tapped In. I quickly built a student plaza off my office and added several additional conference rooms so that students could meet in small groups or gather in one large area without popping into my office when I was in a meeting. Several students saw the improvement in my real estate and wanted their own rooms, which I was happy to give them. Students were soon checking into TI daily to chat with others, with many creating their own objects or rooms, and teaching others how to do it as well.

This was quite an adventure for all of us but was it worth the time we were dedicating to it? I’ll let some of my sixth graders tell about how they saw it:

“I think that the TI class discussions went very well in class. TI went well because it is sort of like you are not pressured to talk, you can just follow along and say something when you are ready.”

“I think TI was useful in learning. When we were discussing our algorithms, I found out, using TI, that mine wasn't correct. I also thought deeper when we were talking about Samantha's tile problem. I also think that TI is different from talking in class. I feel that I get distracted easier in class than on TI. Maybe it's because I can play with things in class. It's possible to do that on TI, but I find it more fun to actually touch and play with things. I could also be because I can sort of talk easier with people when I'm not face to face. I feel more comfortable at my house.”

“I definitely think that Tapped In was helpful in learning. Even if you were pretty sure about the answer you got you could still discuss it with other people, without having to be at school, and get other points of views. Sometimes I find it easier to discuss in Tapped In because you can write whatever it is you want to say and then you can read over it real quickly and make sure it makes sense. In the class room you can't do that since when you say something you it's hard to take it back.”

Comments such as these, as well as the interactions evident in their transcripts, showed we had successfully created a viable social context within Tapped In that supplemented the classroom. We will be in Tapped In again this year.

| Top | Meet the Author | Perspective | My Learning | Getting Started | Using TI |

Originally published on the Tapped In Web Site

My learning

It wasn’t always a smooth trip in our Tapped In adventure and I made plenty of mistakes. If you are contemplating having students in Tapped In, the following points are well worth heeding:

| Top | Meet the Author | Perspective | My Learning | Getting Started | Using TI |

Originally published on the Tapped In Web Site

Getting Started

  •  Send the students’ names to your contact at Tapped In so each student will get their own account. It’s easier to identify the students and they will take ownership over their persona.
  • Require every student to get a recorder and check occasionally to make sure they have it.
  • Create an email address just to receive the transcripts so you can monitor the online activity. Your Internet service provider or school can often set one up for no charge. I downloaded Eudora and used the free version on a separate machine to check that address. I had set up filters in Eudora so that when the transcript came in, it would redirect one copy to me and one to the student if they had given an email address.
  • Let the students’ parents know what you are doing and why.
  • Stress to the students that the student account is for them to use and has several safeguards. They may not register as a regular user because they do not meet the requirements and they may not use a guest account. (I had to deal with both issues.)
  • Stress appropriate behavior and explain the guidelines for using TI. Remind them you will be reading all of the transcripts.

| Top | Meet the Author | Perspective | My Learning | Getting Started | Using TI |

Originally published on the Tapped In Web Site

Using Tapped In

  • Model and expect professional-level communications from your students when they are engaged in professional discussions. This includes using correct capitals, punctuation, grammar, syntax, and spelling to the best of their ability, as well as staying focused on the etiquette of a discussion. Your students already know how to chat, but most likely they only do it with friends and have not had a chance to learn or practice communications in a professional setting.
  • After a few TI sessions, discuss what behaviors help a discussion and what hinder it. My students were most annoyed by mood changes and comments that fail to move the discussion along, as well as side discussions that people would start with each other.
  • Encourage students to use TI for class topics and have them send an edited transcript to you. Don’t let them just forward a transcript—you already have it. Having them edit the transcript will help you see if they really understand what they are doing and know how to pull information from the transcript
  • Create a separate room off your office for your students to gather in and have them set that as their home. Create several rooms off that room so you can have students gather in small groups to discuss a problem.
  • Meet your students online outside of school on occasion, and don’t be surprised if the quiet child suddenly becomes one of the biggest contributors.
  • If you get stuck, ask for help and suggestions from Tapped In staff and other users. Sharing is a way of life in Tapped In.

| Top | Meet the Author | Perspective | My Learning | Getting Started | Using TI |

Originally published on the Tapped In Web Site

 

Last maintained 11/09/2003

   

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Original Content ©2001-2008 by Derrel Fincher, Other rights reserved by individual authors

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