Rethinking Taken-for-Granted Teaching Practices I

5 Jan

As it turns out, our semester starts a week from Monday! Yikes! Where did the break go?

I need to finish one new syllabus, and rework one for a class I taught last semester (I’m using a new book for that one, so I have to rework the readings as well). I woke up in the middle of the night thinking that maybe I’m taking some parts of my teaching style for granted, and not interrogating whether or not they’re worth it or meet a useful goal.

Online posting, for example.

I’ve used Lore.com for the last few semesters as a place to organize course material, share links with my students, and require online discussion posts. It’s been revolutionary in the classroom, but the more they change the interface, the less I like it.

What I like about online discussions:

  • Students who never/rarely speak in class get to show what they’re thinking about. Some students really excel in this.
  • Students can post links to videos and articles that contribute to the course.
  • I can share links with students that I can’t assign for reading and don’t have time to use in the classroom.
  • Online literacy is important. Participating professionally in an online space is a necessary skill.
  • Organizing the course someone other than the syllabus (a piece of paper some students obviously misplace) is helpful.
  • Online paper submission. I really want to ONLY deal with electronic papers this semester. I can’t stand (a) having some emailed papers, some online papers, and a bunch of paper papers, and (b) piles of papers all over my desk.

What I’m not sure about:

  • Required posting each week gives students 1 more thing to have to do. Unless I link it more to class, or make the requirements easier for students, it’s a pain for them. 
  • Using Lore has been a pain this semester– they changed what was a simple interface and made it needlessly complicated. Toward the end of the semester, they made some changes to bring back the simplicity, but my students were already thrown.
  • Using Lore (or something similar) is a learning curve for students. It takes time to teach them, and I probably need to spend more time in the classroom doing so. I suppose they already know Blackboard, but I hate it, and they generally hate it as well.
  • If I am only going to accept papers online this semester, I need an easy way for students to submit them. Lore has been needlessly complicated, and I’m thinking dropbox submission, or Google Docs, might be the way to go for simplicity’s sake (and learning either is a good job skill).
  • If I go with a different website, like Schoology, then I have to learn it. This coming week. But the nice thing about Schoology is it’s like Lore.com before they made it too complicated, and it integrates with Dropbox and Google Docs.
  • Or I could try to embrace Blackboard. But I already know I hate it, and I know it’s needlessly complicated for my purposes.

Maybe the solution is to:

  1. To use Schoology this semester. Try it out this week, and spend time teaching it to my classes this semester.
  2. Instead of mandatory free posts (i.e. the requirement that they have to post once a week, anything related to course material), I could given them a directed post/discussion question each week to respond to. They are also free to post anything else related to the course, but they have more direction in terms of what is required from them.
  3. Only take electronic papers from students submitted through Dropbox or Google Docs. No exceptions. Hopefully this will help the paper load.
  4. Use online posts more in the classroom.
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