Estimated reading time: 11 minutes, 34 seconds

Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

My Final (Teaching) Reflection for Fall 2017 Part 1/3


Estimated reading time: 11 minutes, 34 seconds

This reflection has been on my mind for a while, and I thought I would write it here and do it this way. 


The course is Core 2096, “Digital literacies with an intercultural context” and falls under our core curriculum Global World studies options. My class had students from different majors, fron sophomore to senior level. The public messy syllabus with many comments from my PLN is here. The course website (with aggregated student blogs and some details of major assignments is here). 

I’m co-authoring a chapter on Global Citizenship Education with my colleague and friend who observed my class all semester (for both our professional development and to prep for potential co-teaching) + 3 of my students from the semester inshallah. 

I’m considering doing it as a collaborative autoethnography. And I thought one way to start it off would be to do a final course reflection in a similar vein to what students did. Students wrote an overall reflection on the course, plus sections on three questions for three topics. The topics were digital literacies, global citizenship, and Intercultural learning. The questions were

  1. What are the most important aspects of this?
  2. Which course activities or assessments helped you learn this best?
  3. How could it be done better in future, or which assessments/activities would you change?

    I figured it might be cool if my observer friend and myself wrote our own reflection as a contribution to the autoethnography and then we get common themes across the 5 authors then supplement by adding our comments on each others’ + getting comments from other students’ reflections on their blogs.

    Overall course reflection 

    This course was extremely satisfying for me. First time I design and teach (mostly alone) an undergraduate course at AUC from scratch. First time I teach a non-freshman and non-grad student group. First time I teach about digital literacies, intercultural learning and global citizenship, even though I’ve written about them all and facilitated workshops and such on them. First time someone observes me all semester, and first time I ask my colleagues to do a Mid-semester assessment via SGID. First time I try a slightly radical holistic grading approach that involves students a bit more in understanding how grades work and what they mean and such (this was very tricky and needs tweaking). I also generally took lots of feedback from students throughout the semester and tweaked the course based on it, which worked mostly well, but probably frustrated some students – I did feel it was important in a course on citizenship that students have a voice, and I saw how some students felt they could tell me about things that bothered them and it got more intense near end of semester. First time I teach with a Soliya component (mixed results – more on that soon). First time I try to involve Wikipedia (the workshop was maybe 80% fail, and because of that it halted the project I had planned based on it, but some students still learned something useful and I’ve learned something to help me go forward). First time I ask students to do podcasts. Even though I didn’t give too much support and guidance, those mostly came out GREAT imho, and I tried flexible deadlines on this one, which I thought worked well for everyone. I’ll get into details of specific assignments as I go into each of the main course topics… But without looking at my stated learning outcomes, I know that I hoped students would get a little of each of the following to varying degrees (depending on their own interests and needs and starting points) 

    1. Digital literacies – gain some new digital skills, improve confidence with digital tools, old and new, and be critical users of the digital (know what to use when, when not to use something, and how to use something for a higher purpose such as activism). I feel this mostly happened but I did not do enough on privacy/security issues and failed to ever enact my idea of an activity around terms and conditions 
    2. Intercultural learning – explore their own identities, recognize their own hybridity and that of others, understand their own biases and be able to explore deep or controversial issues with people different from themselves in a constructive manner…and learn more about themselves and others in the process, gaining empathy along the way. Soliya helped with this, but also some course activities. I failed to prepare students for the tougher questions like how to respond when someone singles them out to speak on behalf of terrorists who work in the name of Islam. I didn’t always (often didn’t?) capitalize enough on the diversities in the classroom for fear of singling people out for scrutiny. I should probably give students opportunities to interact with others across the world beyond Soliya – I plan to this semester inshallah and most won’t be American (a specific request by this semester’s students).
    3. Global citizenship – explore their place in the world, as privileged Egyptians with a role to play locally and internationally, develop a sense of responsibility and a social justice orientation. This one sort of crept up on me (this as a learning goal) while I was participating in a taskforce on developing peace and civic education values module at AUC, which we later renamed Egyptian global citizenship. It was Jason Dorio’s visit to my class and how much it sparked students’ interest that made me try to circle back to it. I still don’t think we did enough of this, and I think students were right to suggest at end of semester that they should have done a community project where they actually made a difference in a real way beyond the classroom. I also felt I should have been better prepared for dealing with issues that might be triggered points for some students. It worked out alright in the end, but could have gone the other way.

    [side note: because this group were interested in education, I did a spontaneous trial of my curriculum theory workshop with them that worked really well, and we had multiple discussions on education. This was not in the original course design anywhere]

    Digital literacies 

    I’m gonna just do questions 2&3, since I’ve already written an article and given a podcast interview on the topic! 

    The GOOD:Activities that we did that went WELL

    1. Exploring digital literacies activity. This was a long assignment to make up for a class that was canceled due ot unexpected national holiday. I loved this activity because it used two OERs demonstrating the potential of OERs, and involved students doing many useful things including exploring their own digital literacies, and checking out two modules from All Aboard of interest to them to develop a dimension of digital literacy they wanted to work on. It also involved them doing parts of an OERu course, which included reading an article differentiating between digital literacies and skills, by me, and contributing to annotation of it (it was already quite full of annotations so it demonstrated power of and some students mentioned liking that). The OERu course also had other activities. I loved this assignment and would do it again. It needs time, so I’ll make sure students have 10 days or so to do it, as it’s really 3 parts. I like the self-paced aspects and the choices they have to self-reflect and do what they’re interested in for some parts 
    2. Mike Caulfield’s book – Web Literacy for Student Fact-checkers. I divided students into groups (of non-friends) to prepare different chapters of the book and present to class, with an activity. This went mostly well, most groups did well and had interesting activities. The podium internet was problematic that day but we worked around it, which in itself was digital literacy. 
    3. Digital narrative games project is among my favorites (second time I do it – did it first in my games class last year). These older students did much more thoughtful games and my biggest regret is that I didn’t have an avenue for them to playtest them more extensively with others. Next semester I hope to give more weight to this project, involve others (namely Mia Zamora and Alan Levine’s students) and use past students games as examples beyond existing examples there.
    4. Podcasting project. This was a very strange instance where I gave students quite a lot of freedom and limited guidelines but I really liked the results (and strangely I didn’t check on process, which is unlike me – but I did want to keep the freedom element). Students could work on groups of 2-3 or alone. They had a choice of many topics. They had a flexible deadline. They didn’t want to do drafts so they mostly submitted a good one to begin with. The changes I would make might be to assign it earlier in the semester and also make sure someone listened to it beyond our class.
    5. Mark Warschauer’s article on Dissecting the Digital Divide was a good choice for this class because students had particular interest in education AND in Egyptian issues. They found the article useful (I love that it’s critical) but outdated. For the future, I will search for newer stuff. Egyptian or nearby. It may end up being some of my own writing on the matter. I think I would keep Warschauer though. Perhaps invite a local speaker on the subject. 
    6. Sherri Turkle. We had a great discussion around a Sherri Turkle talk (TED Talk?) and students got really engaged and were very interested in talking about impact of technology on the younger generation. My biggest regret is that I didn’t contrast her work with that of Sonja Livingstone’s which I find more constructive and just generally more applicable. 
    7. Social media activism was covered by two different groups of students. One group talked participatory culture and one social media and Egyptian revolution. One of those presentations was excellent, the other less so. Maybe I should do these presentations earlier in the semester to give myself time to recap the topics in more detail if needed rather than have them just covered once by a group of students (I should discuss the entire process of these presentations which I developed during second half of semester and tweaked along the way – but it doesn’t fall under a particular category here. I’ll see…)
    8. Blogging and use of Slack. Indirectly kind of learning these two 🙂 Should have done more effort in terms of students reading each others’ blogs, giving feedback on good blogging and such…and reminding them to cite CC images. .. But overall they seemed to get used to blogging quickly and some said they enjoyed the less formal writing. They took somw time to warm up to Slack but i think knowing they could get a quick response from me on a private message and that we could share docs quickly on it during class time helped. It’s about using the right tool for the right thing, you know? 

    The BAD

    I would have to say the failure was the Wikipedia idea. The workshop didn’t go great. My bad for not asking for an English-speaking workshop facilitator and not clarifying that AUC students caliber required a more advanced, hands-on and interactive type of workshop. I also had the misconception that my students might like editing in Arabic. They didn’t. So finding articles for them to improve upon in English would have required more forethought. In future, If I do this again, I’ll give the workshop myself and possibly ask a Wikimedian friend (or more) from Europe to answer the students questions. The only reason I’m taking the European friends is that

    A. I have them via my PLN and they have experience with this


    B. I can answer the Egyptian oriented questions (learned enough from the volunteer who gave us the workshop and have many resources from online network and her). My reflection at the time ended up here on my blog.


    We talked about issues like catfishing (used some of Alan Levine’s tweets on it) and all kinds of issues related to security and safety online in a class session (using some parts of a vconnecting with Miranda Dean at DigPed last year). Two student presentations focused on these topics and they did REALLY WELL engaging their classmates. I do wish I had incorporated the resources better. I used some of the videos for different things, but next semester inshallah I’ll do a better job of it. Perhaps different groups working on different provocations for the same class session. 

    I also think, given my own interest in these things, I should have talked more about inequalities in access to technology and such for women and people in the global South, and also to talk about things like bias in Google algorithms, ethical issues in how Facebook and other social media exploit us (platform capitalism). I’m working on writing up some of this for an open access book chapter with Cheryl Brown – and adding those things to what Cheryl has written, I have quite a few more references and resources and ideas for activities to do! Goes to show you how writing book chapters can help you become a better teacher – both the one with Cheryl and the one I’m writing this blogpost for…

    Oh. And we didn’t tweet. I missed tweeting with my class. If we’re working with Alan and Mia next semester, we probably gotta tweet. And annotate a bit more (though we did a semi-spontaneous Copenhagen letter annotation and others joined in).

    I need to stop now to sleep…be back soon…inshallah, to talk about the other aspects of the course. 

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