Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Reflecting on 2nd Semester of Teaching Digital Literacies Course

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I originally named this post “what I wanna do differently next semester” but that would imply this was not a good semester… And that’s just not the case. I am writing this after submitting my grades and getting the inevitable emails. My favorite is the student who wasn’t disappointed with his grade (slightly less than he expected) and said it didn’t matter, he enjoyed the course and would take another course with me if he could. And that he’d like to pass by me sometimes. Love. Love. But also there were the ones who felt they were unfairly treated and I explained. Actually, there were a few of these that I preempted. Ones who I wanted to know that I appreciated them but their performance just wasn’t an A.

The thing is. I think I’m getting somewhere good with the holistic self-grading thing. I’ve broken it down so students rate themselves on particular things that matter in the course before they give themselves a grade. More than half the students gave themselves the grade I gave them. Of the remaining few who got a different grade, most of them gave themselves the grade I thought I would give them… But some of them did slightly better and some slightly worse. Ok a couple of them way worse. They need to work on their self-assessment skills. Which in itself is a skill I should work on more.

So here are some things I wanna change

  1. Be more explicit about how to do well in the course. I usually am, but some people add the course after drop and add, so I need to repeat it not just at mid and end of semester. And while I always ask students to think for themselves about this, I can still give vague guidelines
  2. This semester and last semester I encouraged students who have special circumstances/needs to let me know so I can take it into consideration. Many do, some don’t. Usually I’ll excuse absences and allow late assignments. But I realized a couple of things which I’ll mention in my next two points
  3. Some really serious students ask if they can make up missed classes. I realized the exercise of thinking of how someone can make up a missed class is useful for me. And it makes those students catch up better (my class isn’t sequential but they’ll have had similar experiences). Next semester, though, instead of just asking them to submit a blogpost reflecting on the topic we talked about in class, I might ask those who missed class to discuss it. Some will, some won’t. But something.
  4. This semester I pro-actively allowed students to make up for poor participation or missed engagemooc assignments by doing some ds106 and netnarr assignments. I don’t know that I wanna make it a habit for students to skip stuff, but I also made this a one-time deal. They could use this “make up for missed work” thing only once in the semester and for particular things or just to boost their grade if they’ve been slacking earlier. Just thinking of how to revise it and to clarify which kind of assignments it makes up for and which not.
  5. I always struggle with keeping up w posting grades. I read student blogposts on time and I post notes for myself on them and refer to them in class… But grading on Bb is exhausting for me. Especially with the problem w my hands (arthritis) making it really difficult to navigate the columns. But perhaps if I had a system of simple grading following Peter Elbow where I grade on 3 levels: done well (2), done but needs improvement (1), not done (0) then I can work directly with those who need improvement. I am wondering also if students should be giving each other feedback on their assignments and by doing so, get better at assessing their own work. I could, at the beginning of the semester, ask them to assess blogposts of other students and say which ones they liked best and which ones need improvement and why…
  6. Lateness. Part of me wants to allow lateness to class because circumstances like traffic happen. I’m clear w students that some assignments cannot be late for reasons, but most other assignments it does not matter. I take into consideration people who consistently submit on time, but allowing lateness a lot is my way of accommodating people with mental illness, health conditions and family/personal issues (I had about a quarter of my class in that situation this semester, that I know of). But I also feel like students need to learn to be punctual and know when it’s essential to be punctual. I flipped this semester when several students came late to their OWN group presentations!!! I do not care if students are late to my class, but not to other people’s presentations and definitely not to their OWN!
  7. Students have asked to do more group work and presentations. I’m gonna try to do some more low-stake group presentations in future and use these as sessions where being on time is more essential.
  8. I have failed (as I often do) to teach students proper citation of images and how to get CC images. I need to push this more next semester. The citing of other stuff (written text) works ok. Because I’m not the first person to suggest it. But the images. Man. (Pauline Ridley provided this awesome resource on image citation she made/uses which also cites Alan Levine who is awesome on this topic, and offers multiple resources so I’m likely to use it)
  9. I’m thinking of assigning students more articles I’ve written myself. As a way to make sure they have an easy-to-read intro on a topic. I used to hesitate to do this, but then it’s like flipping the classroom with an article instead of a video! Why not, right? Especially that I don’t lecture at all in class.
  10. Soliya continues to be a confusing experience. Some students love it (but they’re a minority) and many truly hate it. And quite a few have technical problems. I want to find a way to turn even the bad experiences into good ones, or at least into useful reflections. I still believe in its value and in intercultural learning in general but haven’t found my equilibrium yet. And every class and student will be different. The long (8 week) Soliya felt like too long for my students last semester. The compact (4 weeks) this semester seemed too short (if someone missed out a couple times, they missed a lot).
  11. I hesitate about whether to use Twitter each semester. I’ve finally decided to use it anyway at least once. Some will love it, some will hate it, but it’s worth the exposure of how to use it academically, even if they never use it again
  12. I always use lots of tech in my class and let em know it is because it’s a digital literacies class. In future, I should factor in time to reflect on why we use each tool for what purpose and such. I do know that Slack grows on students eventually…

I’m sure more will come to me over time

I tweeted this earlier and it already has 100 likes!

3 Comments

  1. Hi Maha Re 8 (image citation, CC etc) I’ve a page at blogs.brighton.ac.uk/visuallearning… with some advice and relevant links

  2. What an incredible reflection – such detailed thinking about what, where, when and how to improve student learning experiences and outcomes. I’ve had similar thoughts to many of these points, just never wrote them down as succinctly as this! The issues with missed classes always comes up – here in Canada, in winter months, it becomes an issue of safe driving through life threatening snow storms to attend class. Not cancelling a whole class, but ‘going digital’ has been a solution that supports content AND skill development.

    I was surprised by the comment about group work – I find the opposite happens here, but I’ll have to be explicit in asking students about their preferences. Like you, I use lots of tech in class and rarely take time to reflect on choices and reactions to specific applications. I remember one student telling me she was not going to use Twitter, after the initial exploration time, but should have prompted her to blog about this decision.

    I’d like to talk more about your use of Slack with your students. I wrote a bit about my experiences here: http://extending.hjdewaard.ca/2018/05/just-teching-it-out/

    I’ve learned lots from this post. Thanks!
    Helen

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