Saturday, September 18, 2010

Making Connections (with Only Two Bars)

The first of the semester is always a crazy rush of this, that, the other, and then the unexpected. No exception here. For the first time I am teaching ENG102 as a three hour course, one on Tuesday and one on Thursday. I made this decision without really looking at the Fall I calendar so it finally sunk in on the first Tuesday that I would not see these students again for two weeks! If we did not get the technology (at least Blogger and Google Docs if not Gmail) then we’d have to spend a big chunk of the next class, two weeks later, on tech help. 

Suffice it to say we did get it all up and running, but this involved students running outside of the building to get a signal to pick up texted codes to verify their existence to Google. In some cases students could not get a signal at all, so Google now has my cell-phone number on file quite a few times (thank you, just this once, Verizon Network).  So suffice it to say that at the end of the first week 95% of my ENG 102 students are online and posting and are all linked through my blog. But I need to sit and rethink what we do in class and what we do at home since we will miss that one or two day gap between shorter classes for things to “sink in”. I think I will be answering a lot of student emails this semester, though I am thinking of setting up a Q&A on my classes’ Google Groups instead. 

That said, currently I am also considering collapsing my Google Groups for all my classes into one. After all, I cannot think of a good reason to separate them at all and it might be interesting to see if my 099 students wander into my 102 discussions and vice versa without my prompting. By analogy, on Blackboard this would be like 3 classes sharing the same discussion board but with the bonus of being able to start their own discussions and upload images and etc. I think I will set that up this weekend. So, my 102’s are ready to be “one big class” and I will have them start cross-posting and –cross evaluating over the next few weeks.

The ENG099 class is mostly up and running on Blogger. The "tornado" on Thursday was just prior to my class and quite a few students came in over an hour late, so I had to work with them at the end of class. However, everyone had a great time on and a few of my students donated 1000 grains in under 30 minutes. Next week we are going to sign up for the Beta version which tracks scores and allows teams so we can compete with other classes. 

One quirky thing I have done is have my 099 class read and discuss The Hero’s Quest/Monomyth before my 102 classes do in a few weeks. So my 099 students will be charged with writing up a collective introduction to the Monomyth for the 102 students! I hope. We’ll see how that goes.

As to connections outside my own classes, I am working with Ximena for sure around mid-term and Luke and I getting together to consider connections a bit later in the term between my 099 and his 101/103 cluster. I also need to contact Magda and Corbett about connecting either this semester or building up something for next. If I can just get through the next week!

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