Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A (Very Late) Midyear Reflection

Hope all are well and enjoying all the snow Northern Canada should be getting -- I read yesterday that they have had to cancel a number of dogsled races and snowmobile rallies across Canada due to slushy, rather than snowy conditions and the fear of falling through usually solidly-frozen lakes and rivers. A pack of irritated Huskies stated last week, "Give us back our snow, New York."

So, there's that.

(This is by way of an apology for my late submission of work.)

Goals for MYSELF for the Spring (because I matter):

1) To lighten up and have more fun. This is a personal goal as well as a classroom goal, and my ultimate hope is to make it my students' goal as well.

2) To streamline the web tools I use and go paperless. I'm going Blackboard (gasp), with quite a few reservations, least among them is my perhaps paranoid fear that the school will spy on my students and my various Mohammeds will end up on some no-fly list due to their discussion forum responses to "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways" or something. Nonetheless, taking a chapter out of Jason's book (and perhaps others), and ever so tired of schlepping three course loads of paperwork between two different schools with no real office in which to leave things, and tired of back pain, accompanied by the fear of losing or misplacing papers, or spilling wine and coffee on them, or having them damaged by the water that inevitably finds its way into my bag, or eaten by my adolescent razor-toothed mammal, I have been having students submit all work to Blackboard, and it's been working out quite well so far. I have also been having students do more brainstorming and prewriting and reflecting on their essays prior to the submission of the first draft I see, and Blackboard submissions allow me to respond to these initial steps immediately after class so that I can see what they are working on and they can get my feedback about that prior to their moving on to the next step. This has been really invaluable in the six-week semester: with classes meeting 4 days a week, the turn around time on small-stakes work like this is really helping the students stay focused.

3) To facilitate better discussions in class by focusing more on the students discussion forum responses. I am bumping up the deadline for discussion forum responses to readings so that I can have more time to review what students are interested in discussing or confused about before class. In the past I have had the deadline be one hour before class, but by making it Midnight the night before, i can better target my lectures to address their interests and concerns.

4) To stage the writing process more BEFORE submissions of essays, especially in 102. I've always had problems balancing the discussion of reading in 102 with the prewriting process, and we end up getting bogged down in revisions because first drafts end up so far off the map. I've had great planning/prewriting success in 101 this semester, so I'm working on adapting it to 102.

5) To keep it simple, to avoid confusion about deadlines or web tools. Nothing too ambitious this semester -- I'm scaling back reading and odd assignments, trying to focus on the big assignments more, and staging them in a more transparent fashion.

Goals for STUDENTS for the Spring:

1) To become more comfortable with web-based tools and research.

2) To feel the rush of seeing themselves "published" on the web (via wiki-project which will still be Wetpaint -- not moving to Blackboard for that).

3) To feel like a member of a community of learning at all times -- not just when they're in the classroom.

4) To take control of their own learning and learn to access the massive wealth of online tools available to them. I'm going to make them find documents on the Internet that help them learn about writing topics and reading topics, and to present them to the class.

5) To feel more confident in their reading, writing and critical thinking skills. To learn to think for themselves.

6) To stop hating poetry. Why, oh why do you hate poetry so?

Reflection on my own entries:

What entries? Did I do any entries? Oh, look there's one.

OK, I've been awful about posting. It's embarrassing really, and I'm sure I will not be invited back for another year. Some part of my brain thinks that if i just write a lot every third week that I am making up for it. But I don't think it works like that.

I will have a seven hour gap on Fridays between classes and tutoring, so I should be able to get my butt in a chair to post more often.

The few times I did manage to post: Plagiarism seems a major concern (maybe I only post when I'm annoyed about something). I will try to find more positive things to discuss in my posts (add this to goals). I also want to start using the forums more and reading other people's posts more often. Oddly, my mother does that. "Did you read the comment Dr. X put on your latest Community 2.0 post?" Do other people's mothers follow our blog? Some people should not retire to Palm Desert.

Not much of a reflection, but there's not much to reflect on.

Inspirations and Influences

One thing I am hoping to do is to open up the research paper topics in all my classes this semester. It's been easy to do in 101, but 102 and 220 (Hunter) have been more difficult -- still working on it. One of the things that worries me about not assigning specific topics and letting students choose their own topics, or at least from a wide range of topics I have prescreened, is that it is difficult for me to give them specific guidance in their research projects and it is difficult for me to keep track of their progress. I love Professor Dragan's idea of creating personal research pages for students' projects to give them a place to keep track of their research and link to their sources and their actual work. Inspired. And yes, seeing other students surfing their classmates' research pages and commenting on them would make that research process (so often isolating) seem that much more community based. I love it.

How to link up with other classes. No idea. Lost in the woods. Wandering, lonely as a cloud.

OK, I'm going through a Wordsworth phase.

I look forward to seeing you all soon.

Corbett Out.


  1. Very nice reflection, Corbett. Lots to chew on.

    Since you are doing most of the work on Blackboard, it will be hard/impossible to have your students connect. That leaves you Wetpaint and the student projects--maybe a simple exercise in evaluation using Survey Monkey or Google forms? That could be easily done across (your own) classes; you could even have classes from another school evaluate the LAGCC students and the other way round...

    What do you think?

  2. I suppose I could try to connect my 102 at LaGCC to my 220 at Hunter, maybe for peer review. Alternatively, I could not use Blackboard for Discussion Forum types of assignments (really only using those in 102), keeping them on Wetpaint, I just worry that using two different websites would end up confusing them. Do you know of anyone who has used a NIng or Blog for some types of assignments, but Blackboard to submit work, keep track of grades, and store documents?

    I could connect the 101 and the 102 for the wiki projects on wetpaint, I suppose.

    I'll check out survey monkey to see how I might be able to use it.

    Thanks for the advice, Ximena.

  3. Much like yourself, as I reviewed my last semester's posts, I became aware that most of them were fueled by something that did not work in class and/or had me worried/annoyed. Your objective about enjoying/having more fun with tech platforms which will lend itself to students enjoying the class mroe is something I hope to aim for this upcoming term. I'm just worried about the class becoming too lax and students not submitting/completing assignments.
    Lastly, much like yourself, I'm still unsure how to connect my ENG 101 with another class. Are you teaching ENG101 in the Spring I term?