By Felipe Beltran Mejia a physics teacher from Unicamp University (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
I teach General Mechanics, that is, a Classical Mechanics course in a US university. This year I'm lecturing for students of the Chemical Engineering program and we are studying subjects such as Newtonian Mechanics, Projectiles, Oscillators, Orbits and Rigid Bodies Mechanics among others.
Nowadays it is hard to encourage students to participate in class actively. Students have lots of questions but most of them are shy to ask. I believe they come from an educating tradition that does not encourage them to discuss openly in class. Curiously, that problem is more common with girls while boys are more active inside the class.
Social Media Education tool as a solution
On the other hand, students like hands-on and interactive ways of learning and they are frequent users of social and/or participative networks on the Internet. So, I decided to search on the Internet for a solution that could help them to ask questions in an interactive and collaborative way. One day I found that solution. There is an online software, a kind of social network, but more about group collaboration — rizzoma.com.
How does it work?
I use Rizzoma on a daily basis to interact with my students outside the class. With Rizzoma they are not shy and have a better will to participate and ask questions. It is my first year using Rizzoma and has been a total success: from a total of 66 students, 65 are subscribed to a class topic in Rizzoma.
How to invite students to use it?
At the beginning of the class, the use of Rizzoma is promoted by showing them the simple process of login and participation in the class topic. Also, I link the class discussions with the content inside the Rizzoma topic.
I put the topics that shall be discussed on the next class, maybe a problem of the book that will be revised during the class and also a video or an essay about something interesting related to the subject.
Before each class I put the subjects that will be discussed inside the class. Maybe a youtube video or an interesting blog post related to the class subjects. At the beginning you cannot expect too much participation. But as the time passes and the subjects get more complicated, they'll start using Rizzoma as a source of information and also to solve doubts.
I've used the media coverage of the Curiosity rover at Mars plus the cool videos of the Nasa describing the landing of this vehicle in the Martian surface to expose the second chapter of our program: Free Fall. Obviously, landing the Curiosity is a much more complex problem than those tackled at class, but it is a very actual and exciting subject that motivated my class.
Also, when some doubt arises and I'm not totally sure to respond immediately, I can tell to my students I'll check it out and answer later through the Rizzoma interface. In that way we get engaged in discussions out of class where I can link to an interactive applet or an animation that illustrates more clearly the ideas we were discussing at class.
Once a student told me he was stuck solving a problem. He asked on Rizzoma and, fortunately, I was online and answered him right after he finished writing. He said it was of great help and, otherwise, he will have quitted studying until he can come at my office.
Felipe Beltran Mejia
The idea of creating such a post came to us after we added "Commenter" role and got thanks from Felipe. We got in touch and several conversation later we decided to make a post about it. We are sure there are many ways of using different online collaboration tools in education. Do you know some? Or maybe you can think of other ways of using Rizzoma here? So, share your experience or ideas with us!
By the way here http://goo.gl/Odqw3 you can see more information about this use case, ask questions, to view the illustrations closer.