This year I am participating in a Faculty Inquiry Group aimed at improving online pedagogy. We are reading Flower Darby’s Small Teaching Online and working to implement some of Darby’s principles. One of the key principles she encourages is that of student engagement, something I’ve been interested in since 2005 when I worked on a Title III grant whose aim was to improve student engagement.
Darby encourages incremental changes over time to improve online teaching and student engagement. With that in mind I went online and found that California is intentionally improving student engagement in its online STEM courses. It calls this process “Humanizing” an online course. I’m fascinated by this idea and am working to humanize my own humanities class.
My question: how to get online students to read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and not just read an online summary of the novel. My solution: assume that students will encounter Spark Notes or some similar website in an era of “No Fear Literature.” Instead of trying to replace Spark Notes encounters, I extend those encounters by leading students back to the original and guiding them through a process of improving upon the notes by observing what is left out of them. Who knows if they still read the whole novel to get there, but my experience has shown me that they do encounter Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with a fresh appreciation of the language and complexity of the original.
Sha’Condria Sibley reads “Black Woman Steps Up to Mic”
This fall in Oregon, we were trapped inside for 11 days while wildfires destroyed forests and towns all around us. It was a bleak time and I wanted to use the time in some positive way. So I researched poetry readings online to include in my Women Writers class. Each week, students watch a very short poetry reading by an African American poet. Then they complete an “exit ticket” to reflect on what they heard and saw. My modest goal was to open a space in my course for Black Women Poets to speak without my commentary and with a modest apparatus–just enough to prompt my students to reflect but not enough to guide their response.
How do you feel about the term “learning designer”? Does it make you a little bit queasy? The language of “learning design” makes me a bit uncomfortable, but luckily at our college we have some colleagues who have earned our respect before they got their new titles. I joked with one of our learning designers that I thought it was funny that the email address for these colleagues was “idservices” which seemed anonymous to me (that is, there was no “ID” provided when we asked a question of “ID” services. Get it? Well, neither did they.) I am working hard to cross the learning design divide after years of comprehensive learning environment responsibility (CLER for short–yes, I just made that up). I am an educator who came to higher ed in the era before learning widgets.
So, how do I inhabit a widget-world of teaching and learning environments? So far, I’ve been trying to embrace it. This past year I have made more than a dozen instructional videos and posted them to You Tube. I used to use Jing and Flash, but now that I see that these don’t support Universal Design, I’m happy to move to a close-caption-friendly platform. Yes, it’s many, many hours of work, but I’m slowly letting go of some of my control of the LMS. No longer seeing CLER-ly.
Lane has taken a positive step in hiring a Learning Designer as a faculty member. We have had a smart and talented staff member in this role for years, but being staff rather than faculty limited him.
I worked with Kevin this spring to plan for streamlining and clarifying the interface for my online course. I had mapped all of my assignments to course outcomes, but previously I’d only done this assignment by assignment. Kevin advised a single snapshot and so I created Curriculum Map ENG 217 Course Outcomes with Activities.
The first time I introduced students to distant reading methods, I provided them with Franco Moretti’s “Conjectures on World Literature” and “Slaughterhouse of Literature,” two key essays that explain his purpose. For the most curious students with some English courses behind them, these essays are a revelation. But for many students I found that the essays were too dense. So this year, I have provided a 15-minute online lecture that summarizes and paraphrases Moretti’s purpose in these two essays.
This video lecture provides the context for students’ work this week: Working with Voyant tools to learn how to (in Paul Fyfe’s phrasing) “Not Read a Victorian Novel.”
After #METOO. Lauren Klein’s blog entry became part of our course this year.This was one of those times when teaching online and in a community college course is highly challenging, because there was so much complex background to discuss. But I linked to Klein’s blog for those who could make sense of the conversation, and in some ways Klein’s piece became a bookmark for next year’s curriculum update.
Step by step instructions for this week’s work with Voyant tools are here and here.
It’s already Week 4 of my second time offering a DH@CC course: “Reading, Writing, and Digital Culture.” It took 2 years to get the name changed in the catalog from “Introduction to Digital Humanities,” which no one on my campus understood!
The very first things students do in my class is to create a course-dedicated blog (or at least a course-dedicated page on an extant blog) and to introduce themselves on it, and so I did the same thing here. I walk everyone through the weeks as I see them unfolding, hoping I can stick somewhat to the plan. Although I couldn’t fit it in last year, I am working really hard to put together a modified/right-sized instructional demo for students to create a digital edition using smart phones and cheap apps. This idea and some of the scaffolding is totally indebted to Shawna Ross at Texas A&M, who provided a comprehensive introduction to this work in a webinar on programming for humanists. Her book with Claire Battershill, Using Digital Humanities in the Classroom, is out this year from Bloomsbury Academic.
If I do manage to teach my online students how to create a digital edition–of a menu, or a letter, of a book chapter–then it will be as part of their larger Omeka archive project, which makes up the heart of the second half of the term. Last year’s students struggled for the first couple weeks trying to figure it all out, but the feedback I got by the end of the term was that it was incredibly meaningful for students to be able to curate their own digital collection.
Next week, I’m working with Annemarie Hamlin at Central Oregon CC in a collaborative assignment with her students. Both classes will share their work in a Google doc and use the comments feature to talk to one another about their discoveries. Tune in in a couple weeks and I’ll let you know how it goes!