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If you are looking for the POT Certificate Class, the guided class ended in December. We currently offer our Yellow Submarine open syllabus for the class, available for free use by departments and colleges. Any department, cohort or group may take the class together at any time, simply by using social media for community. The POT Facebook Group and Google Plus Community are always available for independent classes.
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When designing an online class (I’m doing one now on the History of Technology) I try to keep in mind that I have the whole web to play with.
Starting from a position of control, of knowing that I have choices of what to offer my students, is important. To me, the materials make the class, not just by providing “content”, but by creating pathways for learning.
Many years ago, I was teaching at San Elijo campus and it was the first day of a new semester. After going over the syllabus, a student asked, “What are you going to do to get me interested in history?” I responded that the materials I’ve assigned should do that, the letters and documents and readings. I explained that they had all been carefully chosen to provide a real sense of the past, and would draw him in if he’d let them. At the end of the semester, he told me he thought that was bullshit on the first day, but it turned out I was absolutely right.
If I think waaaayyyy back (5 years, but it seems so long) to when I started teaching online, I remember being completely intimidated with the idea of teaching Art History to students through a computer rather than in a classroom. I could not conceive of how I would show images, encourage discussion of those images, give feedback, and do assessments. I suppose it didn’t help that I was given a canned, pre-done Moodle classroom, and no training or assistance.
I wish I had known what was out there for online instructors. I didn’t think about doing video lectures, or being sure that my syllabi, classroom, and feedback were not too text heavy. It was by far the most intimidating, confusing, and scary start of a semester in the 10+ years I have been teaching. Also, it was the LEAST successful, for me and the students.
I wish I had known about the numerous pedagogy and online teaching blogs that exist on this wonderful internet. I also wish I had known about teachers who post examples of interesting, clickable syllabi. Knowing about cool tools for myself and my students, and the idea of video lectures, intros, and voice thread for feedback would also have been amazing for all involved in that first, disastrous online class. I also wish I had gotten involved in the POT community right then, as this is a wonderful place to share ideas and tools, as well as give feedback.
Perhaps my discontent began with a perfectly innocent study, claiming student satisfaction with short video lectures. Or perhaps it was when I was cruising through Netvibes reading bits of things. Or maybe it was the student in the corner before class, starting the videos of a guy playing guitar, but only listening to the first 30 seconds of each song.
We live in a world of snippets, soundbytes and little pieces. To me, these are dessert, or spice. I like tweets and status updates sprinkled on my daily knowledge. But, to raise the 1980s cliche, where’s the beef?
I had a student last semester get angry at me because she was failing the class, and didn’t seem to know about it until week 12 of 16. I had been giving everyone feedback every week on every little thing. For her, she had failed almost every quiz, I think because she didn’t understand what she was reading. She only answered a question correctly when it was derived from a short snippet of text.
Yes, we know people don’t read full-length articles as much, that movies are getting shorter, that society is either engendering or catering to what they used to call a “short attention span”. We have studies showing multitasking doesn’t work, but those aren’t the ones that worry me. The ones that worry me show that students love snippets, and that the conclusion is we should provide more snippets.
I think it’s bad for anyone’s diet to have all dessert.
More importantly, we are losing the idea of how to put the snippets together into something with meaning. This makes some practice in digital storytelling an essential skill – we must learn to create narrative if nothing else.