Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Here We Go Again

Given that the new course I'm teaching starts tomorrow, I came to the conclusion that I should probably start planning what I'm going to actually teach. That's not quite as "by the seat of my pants" as it sounds; it's course I've taught before, so a majority of the legwork has already been done by past PoC. (It's about time that guy pulled his own weight.) Most of the actual changes are cosmetic; I permutate the examples I used, I update the syllabus to include the new course dates, and I set up the university course page. Same old, same old.

But there are two significant changes, beyond the cosmetic uplifts. One: The first time I taught this course, I acquiesced to student requests that I post the class notes online. The result was a term of dismal, dismal attendance. This time, I'm both refusing to post the notes and taking attendance for marks--and if that doesn't put butts in seats, I'll start giving away free candy, or something. That might seem like a pretty small change, but it means a rather extensive revamp of my course notes. If you're creating slides students can refer back to at any point, you're free to be rather expansive, but if you're expecting them to furiously write (or type, these days) down the essentials, then you have to stick to the essentials, and leave the extraneous explanatory stuff for verbal espousal or blackboard writing. (Yes, I said espousal--going into teaching mode does horribly pedantic things to my vocabulary.) It'll mean a streamlining of my lectures, which is probably something my original notes could have used anyway.

Second, taking away the reading responses and replacing them with a blog component. For the last course I taught (a digital media thing), I had my students contribute weekly to a blog, posting and replying to each others' posts. Whether the blog had an overall positive impact is a matter up for debate. For some students, it served as a place for discussion, and granted them a voice they didn't--or couldn't, for whatever reason--exercise in class. Others tended to ignore it, and the skipped posts became this weight that dragged down their grades. Overall, though, I think the blog is a lot more in tune with the pop culture focus than the reading responses, so we'll try that out. (It's also a lot easier to point to as "innovative" in a job talk--though I'm totally just thinking about the students, of course.)

The trick to the blog approach, if you're thinking of trying it, is that it's a lot of work. Students are constantly making posts and comments, and you need to keep up with them. I'll admit, I fell behind a few times last semester. And that was with under a dozen students--now, I've got a full roster of 35. I'll probably have to keep up a regular daily check just to keep afloat.

But don't worry, blog. Just because I'm going to be doing some blog action on the side doesn't mean that I don't love you any more. I just want to do other blogs on the side. You understand, I'm sure.

Later Days.

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