Basis of Metacognition
Metacognitive Advantages of the MOO
The MOO-based Metacognitive Process
Examples of the Process
Discussion of the Annontated Logs
Large Group Discussions
Sharon Codgill implies that the more participants there are in a MOO session, the more potential there is for multi-threaded, multi-faceted discussion. And the richer the real-time conversation, the more possibilities there are for discovery, re-involvement, and learning while reading and annotating the MOO logs. Whereas participants in one-on-one and small group discussions might have caught most everything that was said online, it is more characteristic for participants in large group discussions to miss some of what happened and pick up on that material when reflecting on the logs later.
However, the obvious drawback to such multi-threaded discussion is the sense of chaos many students (and teachers) feel while online with numerous participants, especially when they are new to the MOO. Because so many chunks of text are scrolling onto the screen quickly, it becomes inefficient and sometimes impossible to read every word. Participants can either participate only in one or two selected threads of the discussion or simply sit back and read them all without replying much; trying to read and respond to everything is frustrating and chaotic.
In any case, participants commonly keep their statements brief during large group discussions--it has become a convention to write in short chunks while online synchronously. Perhaps it was this aspect of full-class discussions on the MOO that led Lee Honeycutt, while conferencing with me on this webtext, to ask, "have any of your student's expressed problems with reading the MOO logs and commenting upon how the speed of MOOs might actually constrain reflection? . . .I've found synchronous conferencing to be real effective for smaller groups, but I've personally found large group MOOs to be sort of reactive instead of reflective." Because the lines of dialogue that make up large group conversation are usually short, and because the different threads of conversation are woven between each other, the participants don't appear to have the freedom to read carefully over their words and other participants' words, overtly reflecting on the online writing. Instead, as Honeycutt points out, the give-and-take seems reactionary.
But large group MOO discussion is by no means non-reflective. Though it does modify the nature of the online reflective experience (making it difficult to stop and ponder any participant's comment in mid-stream of conversation), the large group MOO classroom experience is still reflective in two important ways. First, like smaller group discussions, the more populated conversations focus on the participants' writing, on their reading, or on some aspect of their learning. As I propose to Honeycutt, "the very activity of being online TALKING about writing is reflective--[reflective] on the writing that we're TALKING about. And in that sense, yes, even big group discussion on writing is reflective. . . ." Because large group conversations focus around aspects of the reading and writing processes, they are reflective conversations.
Second, large group MOO conversations carry the same opportunities for subsequent log reflection and annotations as small group conversations. In fact, the transcript activity becomes increasingly important as conversations grow richer, more multi-threaded, and more potentially-chaotic. If students miss out on some of the discussion threads online, they can read back through and see what else was happening; if they were altogether confused because of so much going on, they can find out not only what happened, but also why the discussion was confusing. While small group transcripts can sometimes serve as memory-prods of what happened online, students sometimes feel like they are discovering some of the threads in large group logs for the first time, while they reflect on the threads in which they were involved.
Incorporating Online and Offline Reflection into the Writing Process