Saturday, November 6, 2010

Online and "Online"

I am using both Richard's post and a conference presentation this weekend to articulate some thoughts I have had this semester about my presence as a teacher in the networked classroom. I would like to explain what I have gained from my grading online this semester, with the understanding that these benefits may only apply to me and perhaps may even be limited to this point of my teaching career, and are not an invitation for all to simply abandon paper grading.
First, I will say that  the term "online" added to "class" creates an instant bad reaction in me. I had experience both with an online class I developed at my previous college job and with teaching online classes for Georgia's eCore, which delivers classes that are not tied to any campus. The workload was horrendous and there was a completely mercenary feeling--I had little sense of these students registered in my classes as individuals. The attrition rate was higher than any other class I taught, and despite copious comments on my part (I would use MS word and insert comments as bubbles and also include the compare drafts feature), discussion posts, synchronous chats and what not, these classes never came close to delivering the same kind of success for students or feeling of accomplishment for me as a traditional class. Thus while I like technology in my life and I am the kind of person that sees it as fun and not a feared element, I did not see the value in online delivery or using technology other than in the setting of a traditional classroom.
In a way, I see my cluster this semester as a traditional classroom that uses non-traditional methods of learning and teaching, not as an online or hybrid class. My students post everything on blogger and I use google docs for grading--the result is not only that my students see writing as an activity which is not "work" but frankly I see it that way as well. The whole ritual of packing my briefcase with papers, taking them home, placing them on a desk like a bomb that is about to denotate and kill my mood had gotten quite tiresome (especially after making the idiotic mistake of teaching Fall II and Spring II, thus going now on my year and a half of teaching with only a two week-break last winter and a three-week break last August). I also see these writings differently: because they are always part of a blog they are never just papers, and as I look at my comments I see that I don't repeat the same comment across essays even if they have the same problem--the personalized blog which hosts these papers has created a need for a personalized delivery of the "these paragraphs offer no support for their claims" message. Not to mention that I can simply work on two or three at a time on some break wherever I have online access, regardless of whether I have the pack of papers with me.


  1. I tend to agree across the board with Luke here. I do think of my class as "hybrid" because I have brought to my class a lot of techniques from teaching online, but my use of the term "hybrid" may be simply semantics. I guess I should say that my course is not hybrid, but my teaching style is or some such.

  2. I'm glad you bring this up, the issue of posting comments (i.e. this paragraph does not support the thesis) in response to students' writing directly on the students' blogs. Here, I'll admit I did it for their first papers and these very structure/grammar based comments sneak into my comments even on their lower stakes writing. Yes, I realize it's an issue I need to deal with-my need to be in control- and let my students work/rework/revise without my big-brother-like comments haunting them. When you brought it up during our presentation in Hartford, it got me thinking and I felt a bit ashamed that I'm guilty of posting comments, which I should reserve for more private communication via e-mail. I'm sure it take a lot for my students to show case their writing on their blog, and my comments might be discouraging them rather than encouraging them to enjoy writing as long with my praise for interesting observations, I also include grammar/syntax/paragraph comments.

  3. It seems to me that the issue many of you (Luke, Magda, even Phyllis in a later post) are grappling with isn't really intrinsic to the use of technology in the classroom; rather, your use of technology highlights a tension in your field that predates the technology, namely what the role of the English teacher is and should be. Is it to create formally sound, Stepford grammarians, or critical readers, writers, and thinkers (or, perhaps in an ideal world, both)? It may make for some self-critical teeth-gnashing along the way (to quote Prof. Van's reminder: "put that pen down!"), but I think it's great that this seminar is giving you the space to reevaluate and reconsider the type and mode of the feedback you deliver on student writing.